The US president has “expressed interest” in buying the icy territory – the world’s largest island – and has asked his aides to explore the possibility. He has even sought the view of the White House counsel, though the newspaper noted his inquiries came “with varying degrees of seriousness”.
News that Trump had set his sights on acquiring a meaty chunk of the Kingdom of Denmark set Twitter aflutter on Thursday night. Pundits tried in vain to find a real estate valuation for the 811,000 square miles on Zillow, while others attempted to calculate Greenland’s worth in pickled herring.
Despite the levity the idea has provoked, it is not entirely in the realm of fantasy. In 1946, US President Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland from Denmark for US$100m but was rebuffed. There was a more successful precedent dating back to 1917 when the US acquired the Danish West Indies, rebranding them the US Virgin Islands.
The US military already has a major airbase on Greenland, on the north-west of the island. The base has 600 personnel and is important in the country’s global radar system.
Trump travels to Denmark next month in his first official visit to the kingdom, though Greenland is not thought to be on the agenda. The Wall Street Journal reported that the president raised the issue at a dinner last year in which he said he had heard Denmark was finding its financial support to the self-governing territory burdensome.
Floating the thought of the US buying the island, he asked the other guests: “What do you guys think about that?”
What Denmark thinks about that is in itself not at all clear. When asked for a comment, the Danish embassy in Washington did not immediately respond.
The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.