In mid-August, the Wall Street Journal revealed an exclusive report that the Trump administration was “looking into” purchasing Greenland, the 836,300-square-mile expanse of ice, rock and treacherous Arctic wilderness to our northeast.
To casual observers (including me), this is certainly an amusing meme. “Sure, why the heck not buy a land mass one-fifth the size of the United States! Certainly, this won’t actually happen.” To the president of the United States, it serves as a healthy distraction from all the other problems currently plaguing our country: gun violence, trade wars and the immigration crisis.
However, the more journalists and pundits look into the government motivations behind this bizarre move, the more non-benign it seems.
For one, the Trump administration seems to be actually serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory. When Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the idea “absurd,” she found herself on the receiving end of an American media news cycle, with President Donald Trump promptly canceling meetings he had with the prime minister.
Much more worryingly, the war hawks and military-industrial complex in Washington started to come out of the woodwork in favor of purchasing Greenland — as a way to put pressure on China and Russia with increased military presence.
America’s foremost neoconservative war hawk, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, came out with an op-ed in the New York Times stating that America should buy Greenland and that we are not alone in recognizing Greenland’s militarily strategic value — China sees it, too.
Politico had many “anonymous sources” within the State Department and national security adviser John Bolton’s office practically begging that we buy Greenland so that we could be that much closer to China and Russia in the Arctic.
A counterproductive sort of “if we don’t do it, they will” attitude currently thrives within the foreign-policy community in Washington — the same acrimonious attitude that put us on war-footing with the Soviet Union in the Cold War and nearly brought about the nuclear destruction of the entire globe.
The Soviet Union no longer exists, but its weaker and more economically unstable daughter, Russia, still views the U.S. suspiciously, although its efforts to antagonize the U.S. are much more halfhearted than they used to be.
No, the chief concern (and rightfully so) of the U.S. is China, a relatively recent addition to the global superpowers list. For the last three years, China has been courting the Greenlandic government, offering sizable grants to build three airports, as well as various mines and harvesting of fresh water on the vast island. Ultimately, the friendly relationship between the two countries could mean nothing good for America.
While the U.S. has every right to be concerned about China’s economic and military imperialism, the way to make sure the Chinese don’t pose a threat vis-à-vis Greenland is not by militarily colonizing Greenland before they do.
The answer to our problems in the Arctic is increased economic cooperation, as well as free flow of goods, movement of people and exchange of ideas with the Greenlandic people — as the American ideal has always been.
Imagine a Marshall Plan for the Arctic, wherein the U.S. assists Greenlanders, Icelanders, Faroese and Norwegians to adapt to our ever-changing climate, the increased interconnectedness of our world, and assistance in building infrastructure north of the Arctic Circle that will not require the economic imperialism of a totalitarian state to build.
The way we ensure Arctic freedom from interference by global powers is to remain steadfast allies of the common people in the Arctic, refusing to give in to the darker desires of our government to colonize and imperialize, and allow freedom to ring through the nations and territories to our north.
The path to a freer and fairer Arctic for all people is:
1) A free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Greenland.
2) A Compact of Free Association (free movement of people) between the U.S. and Greenland.
3) Encouragement from the free global community on Greenland holding a national referendum about its independence from Denmark.
Nick Solheim is the director of business development and runs the D.C. office of Nativ3, a full-service web development and digital marketing agency based in Minneapolis. On Twitter: @NickSSolheim.