Trump confirmed his attempt to buy Greenland, which he is considering for strategic reasons; however, according to him, the idea is “not No1 on the burner.”
The semi-autonomous Danish territory government insisted that it was not for sale and that any discussion of a deal is “absurd” to the Danish prime minister.
Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser, first confirmed the story in an interview on Sunday. It was before Trump spoke to reporters while returning from New Jersey to Washington after vacation.
Saying the “concept came up,” and he was “looking at it,” the man who runs a notoriously leaky White House also questioned how the idea found its way to the press.
Trump said it would be “essentially a large real estate deal” connecting the idea of a US purchase of the largest island of the world, except the continent of Australia to his area of professional expertise.
“Denmark essentially owns it,” he said. “We’re very good allies with Denmark, we protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, ‘Certainly I’d be.’ Strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested but we’ll talk to them a little bit. It’s not No1 on the burner, I can tell you that.”
Denmark is a member of NATO, a mutual defense organization frequently criticized by the US president. As per Trump, member nations pay less for the privilege of membership alongside the mighty US military.
For decades such US forces have operated from Greenland’s Thule Air Base, the US base in extreme north which is part of a global network of sensors and radars for missile warnings and space surveillance.
“Well a lot of things can be done,” Trump said on Sunday. “Essentially it’s a large real estate deal. A lot of things can be done.”
He then claimed that ownership of Greenland was “hurting Denmark very badly because they’re losing almost $700m a year carrying it. So they carry it at a great loss and strategically for the United States it would be very nice and we’re a big ally of Denmark, we protect Denmark and we help Denmark and we will,” but without offering evidence.
Denmark Visit of Trump is scheduled in September, as part of a Europe trip.
“I’m supposed to be going there,” he said. “We may be going to Denmark but not for this reason at all.”
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told the newspaper Sermitsiaq, during a visit to Greenland, on Sunday: “Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”
In remarks to the Danish broadcaster DR, Frederiksen said: “It’s an absurd discussion, and [Greenland prime minister] Kim Kielsen has of course made it clear that Greenland is not for sale. That’s where the conversation ends.”
US presidents have paid for territory before. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson bought vast tracts of land from France for $15m in the Louisiana Purchase. In 1867, Andrew Johnson paid $7.2m for Alaska from Russia. The territory has also been purchased from Denmark. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson bought the Danish West Indies for $25m, renaming them the US Virgin Islands.
On Sunday, Kudlow appeared on Fox News for an interview mostly given over to rejecting fears of looming recession while defending the policy on trade with China. In the end, host Dana Perino asked: “If you get asked to go do a site survey about purchasing Greenland, can I go with you?”
“Well,” said Kudlow, laughing, “maybe I’ll run the central bank.”
He continued: “Look, it’s an interesting story. It’s developing. We’re looking at it. We don’t know. Years ago, Harry Truman wanted to buy Greenland.”
The fact is that the Democrat even offered Denmark $100m in 1946. However, the offer was turned down.
“Denmark owns Greenland,” Kudlow said. “Denmark is an ally.” However, he also said, “Greenland is a strategic place up there” and added something which was not discussed by Trump: “They’ve got a lot of valuable minerals.”
“I don’t want to predict it now,” Kudlow said. “I’m just saying the president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look at a potential Greenland purchase.”
On the other hand, Greenlanders have expressed horror on hearing such a proposal making the rounds. One, Else Mathiesen, told local media: “You can’t just buy an island or a people. This sounds like something from the era of slavery and colonial power.”
However, Fox host Perino seemed quite attracted to the idea, as she inquired again whether Kudlow would take her on an official visit.
“You know,” said Kudlow, “I could make that happen.”