From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Greenland and its geographical features
Mains level : Neo-imperialism and its re-emergence
- The US had last year sent a proposal to “purchase” Greenland from the Nordic nation.
- This proposal follows plans by the US government to open a consulate in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital.
- This move is being considered to be “extremely provocative” interference by the US.
Go for a detailed map reading of the Arctic region. It has been in news for several times this year.
Why is the US opening a consulate in Greenland?
- The US is opening a consulate in Greenland after nearly seven decades of closing its first consulate after the Second World War.
- Russia has been steadily expanding its military presence in the Arctic and China has done its bit on the economic front.
US’s interests in Greenland
1) Domestic interest
- The US claims that its aid is to ensure “sustainable growth” in the autonomous island.
- It also cited Russia’s “aggressive behavior and increased militarisation in the Arctic” and China’s “predatory economic interests” as reasons for the decision.
- The US acquiring new territory under Trump would appeal to the nationalistic and imperialistic views of Americans.
- Acquiring Greenland would also secure Trump’s position in US history of having been the third president to add land to the country’s territory.
2) Strategic interest
- Due to climate change, the Arctic ice is melting at an accelerated rate, opening up water routes for military and maritime trade.
- This is in addition to global superpowers and regional players vying for control over Greeland’s vast untapped natural resources.
3) Economic interest
- Greenland is also a resource-rich landmass, strategically located between the Arctic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with some of the largest deposits of rare-earth metals, including iron-ore, uranium, and by-products of zinc, neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.
- These rare-earth metals are used in the production of electric cars, mobile phones and computers.
- For the longest time, China has been the world’s largest supplier of these rare-earth metals and has expanded its acquisitory plans by excavating mines across the African continent.
- An acquisition of Greenland would make the US less reliant on China for these rare-earth metals.
- Greenland, as a part of the Arctic region, also has large deposits of undiscovered oil and gas, resources that the US always wants more of.
The US obsession
- Trump’s interest in Greenland is almost an extension of his world view and US foreign policy in his administration.
- Purchasing another country or territory is unusual, but the US government has done this twice before.
- Erstwhile President Thomas Jefferson acquired Louisiana from the French in 1803 and the second time when President Andrew Johnson purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.
- Greenland is the world’s largest island located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
- It is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark.
- Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe
- The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors migrated from Alaska through Northern Canada, gradually settling across the island by the 13th century.