February 20, 2020

Take Greenland Seriously and Literally as a Vital National Security Issue

By David Priess and Martijn Rasser

It is tempting to dismiss talk of Greenland’s significance for defense and foreign policy simply because President Trump infamously made it a punch line last year.

The world’s largest island, after all, had generally stayed off the public’s radar—and even that of most national security analysts—until the Wall Street Journal reported in August 2019 that the president wanted to purchase it from Denmark. His wishes hit headlines just ahead of his trip to Copenhagen to meet with Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredericksen and Kim Kielsen, prime minister of autonomous Greenland. Fredericksen responded that she had no interest in speaking with Trump about the island’s status, which prompted the president on Aug. 20 to postpone that meeting—by tweet, naturally.

Ever since, mentioning Greenland in conversation brings more chuckles and snarky one-liners than thoughtful commentary. Joking about the island, however, overlooks the significant impact that it will have on U.S. interests within the next decade. In fact, the intersection of geopolitics, climate change and resource economics places Greenland at the heart of 21st century national security because sea lanes around the island are opening up—providing new and cheaper shipping and military routes—and because Greenland’s mineral wealth is drawing foreigners to the island.

Read the full article in Lawfare.

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