He is not the first president to look into such a possibility

By Adam Carlson
August 20, 2019 11:52 AM
President Donald Trump
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty

In the language of the braggadocious real estate developer that made him a reality TV celebrity, President Donald Trump on Sunday confirmed he’d been thinking about how the United States might acquire the Arctic island of Greenland.

Not so fast, Greenland responded: We’re not for sale.

Trump, 73, discussed his thinking with reporters while returning to Washington, D.C., following his New Jersey vacation.

“A lot of things can be done. I mean, essentially, it’s a large real estate deal,” he said.

On Monday, continuing his fondness for trolling others on Twitter, he shared a tongue-in-cheek meme imagining a gaudily gold Trump tower on the island. The punchline? “I promise not to do this to Greenland!” he wrote.

Trump’s interest in Greenland was widely reported last week according to sources in his orbit, and it was treated with a mixture of confusion, curiosity and skepticism about how serious he actually was. (He is not the first president to look into such a possibility, however.)

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“It’s just something we talked about,” Trump told reporters on Sunday. “Denmark essentially owns it. 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 No. 1 on the burner, I can tell you that.”

“Of course, Greenland is not for sale,” the island’s government said in a statement last week, according to Associated Press, noting diplomatically: “We see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer.”

Denmark’s prime minister called it an “absurd discussion.”

“[Trump] has nothing to do with Greenland,” one Greenland native, Martina M.D.D. Tay, told the AP. “I think it’s a ridiculous idea. I think it sounds stupid.”

President Donald Trump

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“I thought it was a joke,” Tina Joergensen, a Dane who relocated to Greenland for a job, told the AP. “He  [Trump] can buy anything I guess, or this is what he thinks he can. But you can’t — sorry. In my view, you can’t buy a country. It’s very respectless.”

A resource-rich island of some 57,000 people, Greenland has reportedly interested Trump in part because of its stores of coal and uranium. The island is largely covered in thick ice and regularly frozen by sub-zero temperatures which make exploration (and further development) difficult, though it is threatened by climate change.

Greenland offers geopolitical advantages as well, thanks to its positioning between the U.S. and Russia and in the Arctic, where China has set its sights.

Trump is not the first president to express interest: According to the Washington Post, President Harry Truman’s government offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100 million amid the early stages of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Greenland has its own government and semi-autonomy from the Kingdom of Denmark, of which it remains a part.

Trump is set to visit Denmark in September.

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