President Donald Trump has broached the idea of purchasing the massive and largely frozen island of Greenland from Denmark. Cue the laughter. My Montreal-raised wife tells me that in the nearly uninhabitable frozen tundra country of her youth, she and her Canadian friends grew up exclaiming, “It’s as cold as Greenland!” But POTUS, evidently, was serious.
It’s not a new idea. In 1946, the U.S. offered $100 million for Greenland, $1.3 billion in today’s dollars, or 9 billion Danish Krone, give or take. A mere pittance, even if it’s situated in the frigid Arctic wasteland.
Actually, it’s because of its location that countries are so interested. There’s a brutal competition going on between the United States, Russia and China for dominance in that Godforsaken part of the world, what with all the natural resources buried in the permafrost, which is gradually turning to mud because of global warming. It’s a strategic location, as evidenced by the American Thule Air Base, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in Greenland.
The island is an autonomous territory of Denmark, which immediately said it’s not for sale.
The last comparable transaction occurred in 1867, when the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million; that’s about 2 1/2 cents an acre. What a steal, although it was ridiculed at the time. How wrong the naysayers were.
In the case of both Alaska and Greenland, vast natural resources — meaning oil — are there for the taking, and for ravaging the planet with climate change, which is already threatening to turn both icy properties into tropical paradises.
But alas, Denmark is not interested.
What about renting? That has precedent, too. Guantanamo Bay comes to mind, which the United States leased from Cuba starting in 1903 and “in perpetuity.” Every year, the U.S. sends a check for slightly more than $4,000. Every year, the Cuban government refuses to cash it. Cuba would love to terminate the deal, but the Americans maintain a naval air station there, to say nothing of a prison where terrorists have been held and tortured … so there’s a sentimental attachment.
Cuba is grousing about Gitmo, and the Danish are uninterested in selling Greenland. What is a superpower to do about the need to expand — other than occupation or questionable alliances? Happily, you have come to the right place. Here’s the answer:
How about taking a page out of the sports book and do trades? If we want Greenland, we can offer Denmark, say, Texas and a couple of properties from the minor leagues, which in the Trump lexicon are called “sh**holes.” That’s fair. Texas would certainly be a good fit for the Danish government. Lone Star State tradition and Danish socialism would be so complementary, like Hong Kong and China.
Is that a great idea or what? If Texas were traded for Greenland, it would give new life to Shakespeare’s line “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Of course, the residents of Greenland, all 56,000 of them, might not be too happy. They would have to get accustomed to inferior health care and fewer social services, but they’d adjust.
We can waste time with bad attitudes or we can be creative. Let’s face it, President Trump had a decent idea. And that wasn’t even fake news.
(Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.)
© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.