Greenland is gaining attention as global superpowers including China, Russia and the United States look toward the Arctic region for mineral resources and strategic waterways.
That said, it probably does not surprise you that US senator Lisa Murkowski was confronted with President Trumps offer to buy Greenland when she met Ane Lone Bagger, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Greenland, during the Arctic Circle in Reykjavik Friday.
Although she was quite frank when asked how the President could actually think that there would be a market for buying or selling countries. “Obviously I cannot speak for the President, but I can assure you that we are not in the business of buying or selling countries. The US is not like that.”
“While the president can make that statement on Twitter, I can assure you Congress would make damn sure we would not be buying Greenland,” she added.
The Republican senator underlined the fact that Greenland is in the front and center of the North American continent and that Trump, being the business man that he is, sees Greenland as “location location location”, to use real estate language.
No matter how you feel about the Trump-Greenland affair, “it is about time the Arctic caught the attention of the US administration,” the Republican senator added. “They are coming to the party a little bit late, but at least they are coming. I am glad to see that my country is finally paying a bit more attention.”
MFA Bagger, on the other hand, is quite satisfied with the new attention the “real estate deal” has brought to Greenland. And she is not concerned about being caught in the middle of strategic geopolitical interest from the world's superpowers.
“We are making an effort to develop the economy and become independent. We want to develop as a nation and this increased attention can benefit this effort” she said.
The relationship between the USA and Greenland goes way back. “And the opening of a US Consulate in Nuuk has been very important for the Greenlanders,” Bagger said.
However, she emphasizes that that big questions and decisions related to economic development, the challenges with infrastructure, housing and energy, should be taken together with the people living there.
The elephant in the room
As mentioned, Greenland has a geostrategic location that makes the country important for the superpowers, and it also lies in the USA’s backyard. We know from the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi in May that the Americans are very concerned about China's rising interest in the Arctic.
Greenland, eager to benefit from growing activity in the Arctic, plans to expand the airports to cater for direct flights from Europe and North America. Earlier this year, China offered to build two airport projects in Greenland.
Shortly after, Trumps former national security advisor John Bolton, tweeted a photo with Ambassador Carla Sands at the White House saying the two discussed "Arctic and energy security, trade, and boosting US economic ties with Greenland, including investments in mineral exploration projects and airport upgrades.”
“We do not want to deny Greenland the upgrade. But there are concerns from the administration about letting China invest in infrastructure in Greenland. In my opinion, though, the US should invest in road upgrades in Alaska before they pay for a runway in Greenland,” Murkowski says.
MFA Bagger says Greenland is open for business and investments from all over the world. Including China. “We already export fish to China worth USD 200 million every year,” she concludes.