The president’s impromptu plan to buy Greenland, revealed last week, appeared to be one of those ideas — like substantive health-care reform or bombing Iran — that he lobs out one moment and forgets about the next. Already the scheme seemed like a joke (Greenland is an autonomous country within the kingdom of Denmark), and Danish politicians treated it as such, calling it “an absurd discussion” and “completely ridiculous.” Trump himself provided further evidence for the argument that the scheme wasn’t all too serious when he tweeted a picture of his Las Vegas hotel slapped in the middle of a pastoral fishing village, promising “not to do this to Greenland.” But the decision to postpone a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen following the ridicule made it seem as if this were not one of the president’s fleeting ideas. Or, that he’s still getting used to not getting what he wants.
A report from the Washington Post on Tuesday suggests that the Trump administration was also considering the Greenland plan in a somewhat serious fashion; they were committed enough to develop a rough outline for how the exchange of the world’s biggest island would go down. The Post reports:
People familiar with the president’s interest in Greenland said he had been talking about the potential purchase for weeks. Senior administration officials had discussed the possibility of offering Denmark a deal in which the United States would take over its annual $600 million subsidy to Greenland in perpetuity, said two people familiar with the talks who were not authorized to reveal the internal deliberations.
They also discussed giving Denmark a large one-time payment as well to incentivize the transfer, the people said.
Trump’s focus on Greenland appears to be a misbegotten version of the United States’ very real geopolitical need to focus on the Arctic as its waters open up and Russia and China rush to expand their influence in the region. One U.S. official involved in Arctic issues who spoke with the Post said he was surprised by Trump’s interest in Greenland, considering that Alaska — a vast state already incorporated into the union — has been trying “to get the Pentagon to spend more money on operations in the Alaskan Arctic, and that they likely would be concerned that a Greenland deal could jeopardize that.”
Discussing the move on Sunday, Trump said of the U.S. buying Greenland, “essentially, it’s a large real-estate deal.” But the developer-in-chief, never one for foreign affairs, doesn’t appear to realize that the days in which the United States could strip autonomy from an island expired some time shortly after his birth — even if the trappings of colonialism are still lying around the Trump family closet.