"Greenland is not for sale," said Danish and Greenland government officials when real estate-tycoon-turned US President Donald Trump expressed interest in purchasing Greenland for strategic reasons. However, Trump is not the first US president to do so. So, what has inspired this new round of strategic interest?
Increasing US strategic and military supremacy in the Arctic Circle is among the top concerns of Washington's global strategy as a Cold War mentality has taken over the minds of a few policymakers.
"The region has become an arena of global power and competition," said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the Arctic Council meeting in Finland in May.
Thule Air Base, the US northernmost military post was established in Greenland decades ago. It's a vital pivot for US Arctic strategy and NATO military coordination throughout the region. The base is also used by US Air Force Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
It is not only a perfect place to monitor civilian and military aircraft crossing the arctic, but also a strategic location to monitor missile activities including intercontinental ballistic missiles and polar-orbiting satellites. Today, the base still carries a strategic mission in the US-Canada and NATO defense systems.
During the Cold War, Greenland was the frontline of US-Soviet Union confrontation. Owing to its location across the North Pole, Thule plays as a key point in US nuclear retaliation strategy.
Now that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is dead, will the US strengthen its military deployment, including intermediate-range missiles? It's hoped the US will not repeat the tragedies from the previous Cold War.
Location, Location, and location - it is a golden principle for real estate and national strategy.
Besides military values, Greenland is also the world's largest island (excluding Australia, which is considered a continent), as 85 percent of it is covered by ice sheets that contain 10 percent of the world's fresh water.
Greenland's natural condition is severe, but for the past 140 years, the US has had a desire to incorporate it. In 1868, the US State Department concluded a report assessing the feasibility of annexing the Arctic territory along with Iceland due to the strategic location.
In 1946, then US president Harry S. Truman offered $100 million in gold to purchase Greenland. The Danish government rejected it. Even though Denmark's 1953 constitution incorporated Greenland, the US has remained interested in investing and tapping hydrocarbons off of its coast.
"Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama canals," said Pompeo, at the Arctic Council meeting in May. Climate change and global warming have reshaped Greenland's strategic value. The emerging sea routes have also caused the region to move up on its foreign agenda.
When the Arctic sea ice recedes, Greenland will become the hub connecting Asia, Europe, and North America via new shipping routes. What's more, Greenland, Iceland, and the UK (GIUK) gap will strengthen its strategic frontline between the US and Russia due to its unique military value.
The pro-independence trend in Greenland has attracted the attention of major powers in recent years. The region's development has been carefully monitored by Washington.
Although Greenland is largely self-governed, its economy relies on $700 million in annual subsidies from Denmark. The island's parliament works in conjunction with Denmark which presides over foreign affairs and defense policies, and also supervises exploration of strategic resources including rare earth minerals, an integral part of future high-tech development. As a result, Greenland has emerged as Denmark's "trump card" to strengthen economic and military presence in the Arctic.
Economically speaking, it is too risky for Greenland to seek quick and full independence. But what if external forces became more active in supporting Greenland independence?
Should that happen, an independent Greenland with its weak economy would not only change rivalry patterns over the territory but also ignite a geopolitical race among major powers over the Arctic region.
As more players join the Arctic race, will Trump's Greenland ambition create further instability?
Copy Editor/Kang Sijun
Author: Shen Shiwei is an Adjunct Fellow at Charhar Institute and former government relations and business consultant for Chinese enterprises in Africa.
Source: Global Times, 2019-08-26
Original Link: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1162721.shtml