Trump budget includes half a million dollars for a new Greenland consulate

The budget request is intended to fund a Nuuk outpost with two diplomats and five local staff.

By Krestia DeGeorge - February 21, 2020
The central business district of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, Oct. 16, 2019. (Krestia DeGeorge)

The United States moved a step closer to establishing a consulate in Greenland’s capital Nuuk with the federal budget proposal released last week by the Trump administration.

That budget includes $587,000 that the State Department’s Congressional Budget Justification document says “will establish a permanent diplomatic presence in Greenland.”

The move to establish a diplomatic outpost in Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, is not new.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was an early champion of the idea, proposing it as far back as 2017. Last May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans for a consulate on the heels of his trip to the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland.

That was before news broke that President Donald Trump had become interested in purchasing the island from Denmark.

While Greenland quickly and firmly rejected the idea that it was for sale, the country’s leaders — who are working toward eventual independence from Denmarkused the attention to court foreign investment and engagement, including from the U.S., with the mantra “We are open for business, but we’re not for sale.”

Meanwhile, as bluster surrounding the idea of a purchase continued to grab headlines, the U.S. quietly moved forward with plans for the new consulate, beginning the hiring process for about five local staff in November, and securing approval from Copenhagen in December.

Greenland is particularly important for the U.S. because of security considerations.

The island is a cornerstone of the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap, a Cold War-era chokepoint that’s received renewed attention as Russia rebuilds its Arctic military capabilities. The U.S. also maintains a significant military presence at Thule Air Base in the country’s far north. And some analysts have conjectured that a presence in Greenland could help the U.S. counter new Russian hypersonic missiles.

A consulate in Nuuk will help the U.S. keep and grow its foothold in the country as it moves toward independence, Sherri Goodman, a senior strategist at the Center for Climate and Security, told Politico.

Besides military concerns, the U.S. has also shown interest in Greenland’s mineral potential, partnering with it to map those potential resources last fall.