Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Why US’s offer of financial aid to Greenland has angered Denmark?


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.

Back2Basics: Greenland

  • 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.

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