Trump’s Greenland sideshow needs to be shelved

Trump's notion of buying Greenland is ill-advised — but it's also distracting from serious discussion on important Arctic issues.

By Dermot Cole - August 26, 2019
A general view of a beach in Nuuk, Greenland in a June 1, 2016 file photo. (Alister Doyle / Reuters file photo)

Forget the gibberish from President Donald Trump; the United States is not interested in buying Greenland.

It’s not a “real estate deal.” It’s an absurd idea.

But if we’ve learned anything from Trump, it’s that he often makes statements that are divorced from reality.

What is particularly disturbing is that Trump had the White House counsel waste time looking into this, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Some of his advisers have supported the concept, saying it would be a good economic play, two of the people said, while others dismissed it as a fleeting fascination,” the Journal reported Aug. 16.

The truth is that some Trump advisers will say anything to keep their jobs, praising their boss for his brilliance, even when he is speaking nonsense.

“The president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look” at buying Greenland, said White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, one of the most obsequious of Trump’s inner circle.

The idea of buying a nation is not only offensive to the people who live in Greenland, but also to the values of self-determination professed by most Americans.

Trump has once again embarrassed the U.S. on a world stage, failing to show any recognition of Greenland’s colonial past.

This is all about Trump’s endless need for self-aggrandizement, the chief trait of his administration.
Trump brought up buying Greenland at a dinner last spring and claimed that someone told him Denmark was having financial troubles and he should try to buy Greenland, the Journal said.

He asked people in the room what they thought of this, according to a Journal source at the dinner.

“The person believed the president was interested in the idea because of the island’s natural resources and because it would give him a legacy akin to President Dwight Eisenhower’s admission of Alaska into the U.S. as a state,” the newspaper said.

It is doubtful that Trump knows much about Eisenhower and Alaska statehood or that Eisenhower was a reluctant convert to the admission of the 49th state.

He appears to know even less about Denmark and Greenland. After the Journal article appeared, Trump claimed that “strategically, for the United States, it would be nice” to acquire Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory.

The Trump blather about Greenland drew a rational response from leaders in Denmark and Greenland.

They said Greenland is not for sale. Big surprise.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called it an “absurd discussion.”

“Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland,” she said.

After Trump Tweeted a doctored photo of a Trump-branded building in Greenland and said, “I promise not to do this to Greenland,” Greenland Premier Ken Kielsen said the future of the territory is not a joke.

Trump responded in a childish fashion, saying that he cancelled his trip because Frederiksen won’t talk about selling the island.

This entire episode reflects poorly on Trump and the nation that he leads, though the president will be the last to know. Those who surround him refuse to say that the emperor has no clothes.

While Trump’s mind wanders, real issues about the Arctic fail to grab his attention.

Alaska leaders have long struggled with the federal government to get it to pay more attention to obvious strategic challenges — such as the need for more investment in icebreakers and port facilities to handle increased traffic.

Trump’s Greenland sideshow should be shelved as soon as possible.

Dermot Cole can be reached at [email protected].

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