Danes indignant over story of Trump mulling Greenland purchase, but nobody is asking the Greenlanders...yet

When the Wall Street Journal broke the story late last week that President Trump was interested in the concept of the U.S. purchasing Greenland, the immediate negative response from Danish officials and media was utterly predictable, since the story came as a bolt out of the blue.  Nobody like to learn of "secret" plans over their own national fate being mulled by the most powerful country in the world.  Denmark, after all, was invaded and occupied by the Nazis and has had its fill of being abused by more powerful nations.

But I suspect that the story was leaked precisely to engender negative reactions from the Danes and from our own media.  If the idea had been allowed to percolate in private, then it is possible that discussions could have been advanced in a manner sensitive to Danish concerns, rather than coming as a media shock.  After all, about a century ago, the United States carried out a similar purchase of colonial territory from Denmark, when the Danish West Indies became the U.S. Virgin Islands, following a $25-million transfer from the U.S. Treasury to the government of Denmark.

But once the Danes get over the shock, they may wish to consider their relationship with Greenland in another light, one that takes into consideration their role as colonial masters to an impoverished people who have been unable to develop sources of wealth that could lift them out of misery.  James Pinkerton, writing for Breitbart, notes:

[T]he Danes have chosen to treat the territory, for the most part, like a giant nature preserve. And that's why the native population of Greenland mostly lives in relative poverty as poor dependents of the masters in Copenhagen. Yes, it's an odd kind of neocolonialism there in the North Atlantic as the politically correct Danes pat themselves on the back for their "enlightened eco-consciousness," even as Greenlanders stay poor.

As the WSJ notes, Greenland is an expensive burden for the Danes, costing $591 million annually in subsidies.  In proportion to population, that is equivalent to a burden in U.S. taxpayers of over $33 billion a year.  I suppose pride is part of what keeps the money flowing, but when that pride is re-cast as "neocolonialism," perhaps the expense becomes a burden to the national psyche as well as to the royal fisc.

On the other hand, Leonid Bershidsky, writing in Bloomberg, sees the Greenlanders as unlikely to want any "liberation" from their colonial masters and the Danes unlikely to want to be relieved of the burden:

Greenland, of course, won't be sold to the U.S. On the one hand, Denmark has no reason to sell it. It's a wealthy country that runs a budget surplus. It can easily afford the annual subsidy of about $500 million that it pays to Greenland, and it sees itself as the island's sensible steward rather than the unwilling owner of a vast, largely uninhabited territory.

Besides, the 56,000 Greenlanders likely wouldn't want to switch their allegiance to the U.S. The island's Home Rule Act, approved by the Danish parliament, gives its autonomous government "fundamental rights in respect of Greenland's natural resources." Many locals hope control over these resources eventually will form the basis of Greenland's independence, and they have no problem waiting for that opportunity under Denmark's benevolent rule.

They would be unlikely to give up their current security and the prospect of independence in exchange for U.S. passports. Alaska, with its recent crippling budget cuts, can hardly serve as an attractive example to another sparsely populated northern territory cut off from the continental U.S.

No matter how the idea develops, I hope we can recover our slightly scuffed friendly relationship with Denmark.  I love the Danes and their country.  I spent a happy month there long ago and appreciate their culture — especially the sense of irony that pervades their humor.  They have more and better restaurants than their Scandinavian neighbors and have been by far the most realistic about dealing with the wave of Muslim immigrants, in part because their sense of irony gives them better perspective on political correctness than the Norwegians and Swedes, for whom posturing as virtuous seems a national obsession.

Graphic credit.

Hat tip: Roger Luchs.

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