Donald Trump is considering buying Greenland from Denmark

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President Trump is showing strong interest in buying the island of Greenland.

Two sources tell the Wall Street Journal that Donald Trump has repeatedly asked his advisers with ‘varying degrees of seriousness’ if it would be possible for the U.S. to acquire the autonomous Danish territory for its resources and geopolitical significance. 

‘What do you guys think about that?’ Trump asked a table of associates last spring when the idea of buying the island first came to be, a source told the Wall Street Journal. ‘Do you think it would work?’ 

However, it’s unclear how exactly the U.S. would go about buying the largest island in the world after the U.S.’s two failed attempts by President Truman to buy it for $100million in 1946 and before that by the State Department in 1867. 

President Trump is showing strong interest in buying the island of Greenland as sources reveal he has repeatedly asked his advisers if it would be possible

President Trump is showing strong interest in buying the island of Greenland as sources reveal he has repeatedly asked his advisers if it would be possible

The 811,000-square-mile island of icy terrain in the Atlantic inhabits about 56,000 people and is an autonomous Danish territory

The 811,000-square-mile island of icy terrain in the Atlantic inhabits about 56,000 people and is an autonomous Danish territory

Greenland: The largest island in the world 

Greenland is 811,000-square-miles – roughly the size of Western Europe and the largest island in the world 

The Danish autonomous territory is located between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans

Around 80% of the land is permanently covered by one huge ice caps – the Inland Ice/The Greenland Ice sheet 

This icy terrain in inhabits about 56,000, with 90% living in 16 towns and the rest in small settlement. The majority live in the lower part of West Greenland, while a small portion lives in the northern Thule area 

The official language is Greenlandic – closely related to languages spoken by Inuit in Canada and Alaska. Danish and English are spoken as second languages 

The 811,000-square-mile island of icy terrain in the Atlantic inhabits about 56,000 people, and though it is technically in North American waters, the self-governing land is culturally European. 

Its foreign and security policy is handled by Copenhagen.  

During last spring’s exchange with advisers, Trump got the idea after he’d heard that Denmark was having financial problems because of the subsidies it pays to Greenland. 

According to the Journal, Greenland relies on $591 million of subsidies from Denmark annually, which make up about 60% of its annual budget. 

The U.S. already has an airbase in Greenland, which is part of a state-of-the-art ballistic missile early warning system and satellite tracking system. 

It has also, in the past sought to derail China’s efforts to make its mark on the independent territory. 

In 2018, the Pentagon, alarmed at the news China was looking to finance the building of three airports on the ice-covered land, managed to block the move. 

The US, along with its allies offered alternative funding options to Greenland in an effort to dissuade it from an expensive deal with China. 

Concerns were centered around whether the aid-dependent government could afford a large loan from China, and if it failed in its efforts to repay it, could lead to China taking control of the runways, bring in warplanes, create new shipping lanes and gain access to resources in the Arctic. 

This would undoubtedly post concerns in a nation, such as the United States, which as is frequently noted, is concerned with maintaining its military might – in particular against the two other great military powers, China and Russia. 

As the Foreign Policy journal writes, ‘Russia and especially China are the only two countries that could plausibly take over and hold the territory of Washington’s allies and partners in the face of U.S. resistance’.

If either of the other two global powers ever gained the upper hand it could see the balance of power shift, giving China greater control over the economically dynamic area of the Western Pacific and could open Eastern Europe up to Russian control.

Trump is scheduled to make his first visit to Denmark early next month, although the visit appears to be unrelated to any desire he may have around the purchase of the Danish autonomous territory

Trump is scheduled to make his first visit to Denmark early next month, although the visit appears to be unrelated to any desire he may have around the purchase of the Danish autonomous territory

While it remains unclear if Trump’s comments around buying Greenland are more than a show of power for the other global giants, there are a number of reasons the territory could be proving attractive to the US President. 

It could, it has been speculated, give him a legacy that echoes that of the one a former president, Dwight Eisenhower, earned when Alaska was bought from Russia in 1867. 

And the island’s natural resources, spread across 811,000 square miles, could also be one of the key attractions to a president.

Trump is scheduled to make his first visit to Denmark early next month, although the visit appears to be unrelated. 

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo was supposed to visit Greenland earlier in the year to discuss the long-term peace and sustainable economic developments on the autonomous Danish territory. 

However, escalating tensions with Iran saw that trip cancelled.  

Officials with the Denmark’s Royal House and the Danish embassy in Washington have yet to respond to the Wall street Journal’s request for comment on the matter. 

It's unclear how exactly the U.S. would go about buying the largest island in the world after two failed attempts in 1946 and 1867

It’s unclear how exactly the U.S. would go about buying the largest island in the world after two failed attempts in 1946 and 1867

This comes as it’s revealed NASA scientists are flying over the island on a mission to track melting ice. 

It may not be a wise investment for Trump, as research shows Greenland has been melting faster in the last decade and this summer, it has seen two of the biggest melts on record since 2012.

Global warming is the chief culprit, but scientists want to know how this is happening. Both warmer air and warmer water are eating away at Greenland, causing it to lose billions of tons of ice daily in the summer.

A team of scientists and engineers aboard a research plane this week are dropping probes into the ice to help figure out which is the bigger cause.

If water is playing a bigger role than scientists had thought, that could mean seas will be rising faster than expected.

The United States has a long history of acquiring territory since it was first established as an independent nation state. 

The end of the American Revolution with the 1783 Treaty of Paris and Great Britain ceding the area of its thirteen colonies saw the beginning of the United States’ territorial acquisitions. 

According to the United States Geological Survey the new nation went on for the next few decades to gradually add new territory until it reached the size it is today. 

Alongside the territory that makes up its mainland the United States has control of a number of territories in its nearby waters and a number further afield in the Pacific and Asia.

Among its key purchases, was that of Louisiana, which the Global Policy Forum said it bought in 1803 from France for $15 million, the equivalent of $193 million in 2005.

The Republic of Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845 effectively bringing in 389,000 square miles of what was once Mexican territory under its control.   

Three years later, after the Mexican-American War, all of the present-day states of California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as sections of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming were ceded to the US by Mexico. 

Mexico effectively lost about half of its national territory.   

And in 1867 the United States bought Alaska, from Russia, for $7.2 million.  

Further afield, American Samoa became a US territory under the 1899 Treaty of Berlin between Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. 

The islands to this day are under the administration of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs alongside Guam, which has been under its administration since the Spanish-American War of 1898 – barring three years during World War Two when Japan took control.  

Today, there are also a number of outlying islands, which are territories of the United States, including the Midway Atoll, (1867), Palmyra Atoll (1898, with Hawaii), Wake Atoll (1899), Baker Island and Howland Island ( 1857), Jarvis Island ( 1858), Johnston Atoll  (1858), Kingman Reef (1922), and Navassa Island (1857). 

A history of the United States’ territorial acquisitions

The United States has a long history of acquiring territory since it was first established as an independent nation state at the end of the American Revolution in 1783.  

Here are some of the key dates and purchases made by the United States in the decades since it became an independent nation. 

  • 1803: Louisiana, 23.3 per cent of United States territory was bought from France for $15 million  
  • 1818: Red River Valley was acquired at no cost as part of the declaration of the Anglo-American Convention that established the US-Canada border
  • 1819: Florida was bought from Spain. No money changed hands as the US had assumed $5 million in claims by its citizens against Spain 
  • 1845: The republic of Texas broke away from Mexico and was annexed by the United States bringing 389,000 square miles into its territory
  • 1846: The Oregon Treaty established the boundary between Canada and the United States and saw the area, which includes present-day states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and portions of Montana and Wyoming ceded from Britain
  • 1848:  Mexico lost half of its territory after the Mexican-American War as it lost land that makes up the present-day states of of California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as the portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming
  • 1853:  The Gadsden Purchase gave the United States ownership of the Mesilla Valley south of the Gila River, which today makes up land in the US states of Arizona and New Mexico 
  • 1867: Alaska was bought from Russia for $7.2 million 
  • 1898: Guam became a US territory under the 1898 Treaty of Paris and today remains under US administration. The Philippines was also bought from Spain for $20 million this year and was eventually granted complete independence in 1946 
  • 1899: American Samoa was acquired under the 1899 Treaty of Berlin and is today under US administration  

Sources:  United States Geological Survey and Global Policy Forum

 



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