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Buying a country: Trumps interest in Greenland

Trump recently made headlines, once again, by offering to buy Greenland from Denmark. As strange as it may seem, this is not even the first time the United States has tried to purchase Greenland.

But why would President Trump want to buy this island, receive 500 million euros in aid from the Danish mainland to develop its economy? The answer is more logical than it may seem. First a quick history lesson: the United States has always had an interest in buying pieces of land, like the Louisiana purchase in 1803, and the Alaska purchase in 1869. There was already interest in buying Greenland from Denmark by William Seward (the person who finalized the Alaska purchase) in the same year as the Alaska purchase. It, however, took until after the second world war for the United States to make its first offer: around 1.3 billion euros in today’s money. This offer was however kindly refused. The interest in Greenland at this moment was mainly for the military. Greenland is far closer to the former Soviet Union than the United States mainland, thus providing a perfect location for building a nuclear launch site.

The current interest in Greenland is however not of military significance. There are several reasons, including a great number of natural reserves like oil and rare earth metals. The amount of oil is expected to be greater than that of Saudi Arabia. In the past it was however very hard to get to these resources, but due to climate change and greater financial incentives do to higher oil prices, it is getting easier.

The change of climate is also helping the melting of the north way passage (located above Canada), which had its first commercial ship navigating through last year. The North way passage could provide great benefits to the United States, by providing an alternative shipping route to the current monopolistic shipping route: the Panama canal. Canada is currently claiming this route to be theirs, while the United States argues it is for anyone to use. The United States will have a greater position of power by purchasing Greenland. The United States would possess either side of the North way passage, thus increasing their position of power.

Denmark has realized that it has a great position of power by possessing Greenland and is not taking Trump’s offers very serious so far because of the future economic benefits far outweigh the president’s offer so far.


This article was written by Max Kloosterman

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