The REAL Reason Trump Wants Greenland
Buy Greenland? The usual suspects in the media are laughing at President Trump.
Just like they laughed at him when he announced that he was running for President.
Just like they laughed at the idea of a “Wall,” and “controlling the border.”
Just like they laughed at the idea of Trump talking with the North Korea and de-escalating a nuclear arms race.
Now, they laugh about Greenland. That place where Santa Claus lives, or something.
In U.S. media, initial accounts of Trump discussing Greenland were along the lines of crazy-man being crazy. Just another real estate deal from the New York tycoon, right? Warm up the 25th Amendment arguments, eh?
Typical U.S. media, though. And typical that they missed the real story. Here’s the point…
Greenland is far more than a Trumpian-style real estate deal. In fact, Trump discussing Greenland marks a new chapter in American geopolitics and grand strategy.
Basically, President Trump just announced that the U.S. will begin to assert long-term national interests in the Arctic region. It’s an important milestone for U.S. and global affairs. Let’s discuss what’s going on.
To most Americans, Greenland is a geographic curiosity; a far-distant place that perhaps offers up a few Trivial Pursuit questions.
In some respects, there’s not all that much for the average person to know about Greenland. Geographically, Greenland is the world’s largest “island.” It’s way up north – further north than most of Canada! – and surrounded by water, but not truly a continent.
Greenland is an ice-covered locale with a population of about 56,000 mostly “older” people, with not too many young people. The primary occupation is fishing, with most export markets in Europe.
Meanwhile, about 84% of Greenland is covered by ice sheets. Hence, people live in a few, smallish towns located on the southwestern coastline.
But aside from President Trump, who else thinks Greenland is strategic? A lot of smart Russians, that’s who…
For example, “If Greenland gets handed over to the U.S., the (Americans) will have an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Arctic.”
So said Russian military correspondent Igor Korotchenko during a recent news and analysis broadcast on Rossiya 1, one of Russia’s main television channels.
“I don’t find (it) funny,” Korotchenko noted of President Trump’s recent trial proposal for the U.S. to acquire Greenland from Denmark.1
Of course, it’s not “funny” if you’re a Russian! There’s already a long-term U.S. military base in the far northwest of Greenland, at Thule.
Plus, Greenland hosts many U.S. “listening” posts for electronic intercepts of Russian communications. The Russians are pretty much used to this. It’s well-factored into the Russian military equation for what they call “correlation of forces.”
But now, Trump just raised the idea of Greenland under tighter U.S. control, if not sovereignty. Trump is talking about something that could dramatically change the military equation.
Currently, Russia looks across the Arctic Ocean and sees Greenland in a manner that has evolved over the past 75 years or so of U.S.-Soviet/Russian relations.
That is, Greenland holds a certain kind of strategic importance to Russia. In general, the Arctic region is an “attack corridor” straight into the heart of Russia; a dagger that can slice from north to south. During the Cold War, the Arctic was a key route for U.S. bombers; and Russia has not forgotten about it.
Meanwhile, Russian ballistic missile submarines have long used the Arctic Ocean as a “bastion” for secure deterrence operations. That is, Russian submarines sail quietly beneath Arctic ice, with crews conducting drills and commanders watching their communications equipment. In the event of use, Russian submarines can surface through ice-packs and launch missiles.
Yes, the missile scenario is apocalyptic. But it’s also a scenario that has long kept a balance of power within global relations.
Now, there’s serious talk of changing the overall situation, should Greenland move closer to the U.S. To Russia, the very idea of “more” U.S. military operations in or on Greenland, close to their Arctic bastion, is disconcerting. It puts their submarines at higher risk.
Or consider the possibility of more U.S. “offensive” systems in Greenland. It’s telling that the U.S. just withdrew from a Reagan-era treaty with Russia that limited “Intermediate Nuclear Forces” (INF treaty). In essence, INF stopped development and deployment of medium-range missiles, such as the former U.S. Pershing II systems, as well as former Soviet SS-20s.
Now, without INF, the pathway is open for the U.S. (and Russia as well) to deploy more kinds of missiles, closer to each other’s territory. Potential launch sites in Greenland? That’s destabilizing, to be sure.
Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice is melting. More and more “blue water” is opening up to surface navigation in the north polar region. And one of the key “northern” transit routes is along the coast of Russia.
To enable movement along its northern coastal region, Russia has constructed a fleet of over 40 icebreakers; many of them nuclear-powered. Russia has at least 14 other icebreakers under construction. It’s a major industrial effort.
The U.S., by contrast has but one (sometimes) working icebreaker, dating from the mid-1970s. Frankly, it’s a political, operational and strategic disgrace that the U.S. has neglected its icebreaker fleet, and utterly disdained Polar research for over 40 years. (Another story; another time.)
In other words, just with icebreakers, Russia has made a long-term commitment of funds, equipment and people to develop and control its Arctic regions. And now the U.S. is discussing ramping-up its effort via Greenland. It worries the Russians.
The U.S. interest in Greenland did not come out of the blue, to be sure. Beyond its icebreaker buildout, Russia has reactivated several dozen Soviet-era military posts along its northern/Arctic boundaries. Plus, Russia is developing space systems, drones and other military systems to operate in the Arctic year-round. Basically, Russia has increasingly militarized its section of the Arctic region.
All this while the U.S. has only “paper icebreakers” that are still under design. No cut steel or bent metal yet. The U.S. is literally decades behind the curve with all of this.
To his credit, Trump is making up for lost time during which previous U.S. Presidents failed to act on any semblance of Arctic strategy. That is, by raising even the idea of “buying” Greenland from Denmark, Trump is making a strategic point about U.S. interests in the Arctic.
There’s a deeper story here, too. It’s one that deals with the vast resources available on the massive ice-covered island.
In the 1970s, when I studied geology at Harvard, one of my professors was a great scholar of Greenland. He had done extensive field research up there in the 1950s, and used all manner of examples from Greenland for structural geology lectures. That was the late John Haller, who literally “wrote the book” on Greenland; Geology of the East Greenland Caledonides.
More recently, Greenland has come into scientific scrutiny due to the rapid melting of ice sheets. There’s quite a bit going on, simply on that one front.
Meanwhile, with all the exploration and now melting ice, more and more of Greenland’s mineral wealth is becoming apparent. There’s offshore oil, and onshore minerals, including rare earths, copper, gold, uranium and much more.
Even the Chinese are looking at Greenland for these reasons. Chinese firms have offered to build airports and ports there. Chinese mining firms want to dig up the minerals. They’re even “offering” to send tens of thousands of Chinese workers there to do the jobs. Kind of makes you say, “Hmm…”
You see, Trump’s proposal to buy Greenland is much more than just another real estate deal from the New York tycoon. In reality, Greenland is no joking matter. The place is already in play.
We have a large island with a small number of people… A strategic “attack corridor” into the heart of Russia… And a treasure chest full of minerals and energy resources.
Who wouldn’t want to control the place?
On that note, I rest my case.
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Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder