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A frigid strategy

A frigid strategy

When Donald Trump expressed his interest in purchasing Greenland, it was not, in fact, the first time for such a proposal to come up. The autonomous Danish territory sits in a strategic spot in the North Atlantic Ocean between Europe and America, at the nexus of geopolitical tensions that have long existed between the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway, all of which have sought ownership of the natural resources in the North Pole. Seventh US President, Andrew Jackson's administration (1829-1837) floated the idea of buying the island and the 33rd President Harry Truman went on to offer Denmark $100 million for Greenland in 1946, though the proposal never materialised. As per a BBC documentation, the US had built numerous military sites on Greenland during the Cold War but as the island melts away, these sites are being exposed for the leftover toxic nuclear waste contained there. In 1968, a B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons crashed near the Thule airbase in northwestern Greenland and caused radioactive contamination. Greenland has home rule but defence and foreign affairs are under Danish governance. The world's largest island receives an annual subsidy of about $500 million from Denmark. Greenland happens to be rich in minerals like iron ore, lead, zinc, diamonds, gold, and rare earth elements like uranium and oil. And with climate change and global warming, as Greenland is emerging from its ice cover, more such resources and benefits are surfacing. However, extraction of these resources remains a challenge given the island's severe climate and terrain. In spite of the presence of oil, its production is said to be difficult to undertake for at least a decade (according to a Brookings Institution report) owing to the very harsh and technically demanding conditions in Greenland and the costs of extraction being very high. Mining projects, however, appear more promising. The government of Greenland has attempted to lay down environmental and regulatory safeguards while also attracting investors. AEX Gold, a Canadian company is already mining the precious metal in the Nanortalik Gold Belt in southern Greenland, and New York-based Greenland Ruby A/S opened its ruby and pink-sapphire mining operation in Aappaluttoq, in southwest Greenland, in 2017.

Besides the scope and benefits of resources from Greenland, the very purchase of the island is bound to come with a hefty price. The landmass houses over 57,000 people concentrated around its coastlines and relies on Denmark for two-thirds of its budget revenue. The economic aspects apart, Greenland has high rates of suicide, alcoholism, and unemployment. The benefits from investments are with the purpose to address these social maladies in Greenland. More than 80 per cent of Greenland's 2.2 million sq. km are covered in ice, and the island has attracted considerable attention recently amid concerns that climate change is causing that ice to melt at a record pace. Moreover, the politicos of both Greenland and Denmark are not inclined to sell the island. Greenland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed through a tweet that, "#Greenland is rich in valuable resources such as minerals, the purest water and ice, fish stocks, seafood, renewable energy and is a new frontier for adventure tourism. We're open for business, not for sale." Trump's proposal, however, is not taken very seriously either by Denmark or by Greenland. The Danes, in fact, are rather bewildered over the former property developer's interest in striking a deal with the European nation. A prominent member of the Danish opposition said the report indicates that Trump is "insane", while another of the government called it a "terrible idea". A former prime minister tweeted that Trump's suggestion "must be an April Fool's Day joke," albeit out of season. But such is not the case in the power corridors of the USA where this idea is seriously under consideration in some corners. The US President has reportedly asked his White House counsel to explore the idea of buying the island. Republican Representative Mike Gallagher responded through a tweet that the suggestion isn't "crazy", and that the US "has a compelling strategic interest in Greenland, and this should absolutely be on the table". The strategic interest in Greenland is, in fact, the crucial reason the USA has been interested in it since historical times and why it is preserved from the prying eyes for the exploitative superpowers. Democrats appeared less enthusiastic about this proposition. Representative Steve Cohen even tweeted that the idea was one for the "cryonic memorial". This matter makes news ahead of Trump's first formal visit to Denmark where he will meet Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and attend a state dinner hosted by Queen Margrethe II in early September. The meeting will also focus on Greenland, where the US has built several military bases and weather stations since World War II. It is unclear how Trump would go about acquiring the Danish territory as neither the White House nor the State Department responded to a request for comment. In 2014, Denmark staked a claim to roughly 900,000 sq. km of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean based on its geological link to Greenland. More recently, China has joined the land rush by bidding on two airport construction jobs in Greenland. But last year, Denmark opted for joint funding with Greenland to prevent China from getting control. Greenland gets most of its income from fishing and related industries and had a gross domestic product of just over $2.7 billion in 2017. This rather peaceful island is swiftly falling in the hands of politics that prioritises power, dominance, and control over everything else.

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