The US has gifted a $12.1 million aid package to Greenland and will build a consulate there for the first time in over 50 years – an admitted move against Russian and Chinese Arctic supremacy that has angered Denmark.
The Trump administration’s offer to buy the Danish-administered territory may have been laughed off last year, but Washington has put its money where its mouth is and offered up an economic development package to the massive island, a State Department official revealed on Thursday. The official stressed that the money was for “sustainable” economic development rather than a down payment.
“There is no plan or interagency process underway involving the purchase of Greenland,” they reassured reporters.
However, the money – coming from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – will be accompanied by the establishment of a US consulate in the territory’s capital city of Nuuk, which the anonymous official called the “rebirth of our engagement in Greenland.” The US has not had a diplomatic presence on the island since 1953.
While plans are underway for a permanent facility, the temporary consulate will be hosted by a Danish military base, the official revealed. One US diplomat currently located in Copenhagen is expected to move to Nuuk in late May or early June to take up the leading role, to be joined later this year by another American. Five locals will be employed as staff.
The official insisted the move was nothing more than “good old-fashioned diplomatic tradecraft,” but acknowledged it was a response to what they called “the desire of Russia and the People’s Republic of China to challenge the United States and the West” in the Arctic region, waxing poetic about Washington’s own desire for a “secure and stable Arctic.”
They did not seem to have an answer as to why the US hadn’t simply given the funds to the government of Denmark, instead insisting the $12.1 million would be administered under USAID with assistance from the Departments of State, Interior and Commerce.
Denmark was not amused. “They have clearly crossed the line,” Karsten Honge, a member of the Socialist People’s Party’s foreign affairs committee told Reuters after the official’s words were made public.
It’s completely unheard of that a close ally tries to create division between Greenland and Denmark this way.
Opposition party member Soeren Espersen concurred, pointing out in an interview with Danish broadcaster DR that financial aid was “something you say about third-world countries when you provide development aid. But Greenland is not a developing country. It is a Western democracy. I think it’s reprehensible.”
Greenland’s government said the funding would go to civilian projects – including tourism, education, and the mineral industry – in a statement on Thursday, revealing it would be implemented “primarily as consultancy and advisory assistance from US experts.”
It’s worth noting that the last time the US had a strong presence on Greenland, they left behind upwards of 30 abandoned military bases – some of which have been leaking toxic waste into the land and ocean ever since. As the ice sheets melt, researchers have warned that a significant amount of toxic waste stored at those bases could be released into the environment.
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