Donald Trump must have thought he had walked into the TV studio where they shoot “The Price Is Right” when he got up last week and decided he wanted Greenland. The American game show is possibly the longest-running broadcast since 1956: four contestants vie to win big prizes by guessing the price of the items on display, from holidays to cars and dishwashers. The presidential version could include guessing how much other countries that look tempting would go for on the open market. Putin could bid for Ukraine and the Baltic states, while China could buy up most of its neighbours. Trump just wants Greenland.
Now an autonomous region of Denmark, Greenland has pretty much been out of the headlines since Leif Erikson and his Vikings landed there en route to America almost a millennium ago. The world’s largest island, 80 per cent covered in ice, is of great interest to Russia, China and the US, all of whom are sniffing around. Suspecting that all three have an unhealthy interest in acquiring their territory, the Danes have said in no uncertain terms that Greenland is not for sale, a sentiment echoed by the Greenlanders themselves. But this has not deterred the vultures circling overhead.
Two US Presidents before Trump have had their offers rebuffed, but the Americans do have a military foothold there. The Chinese, who are as keen as the Americans to buy the place up, were refused permission to finance an airport. Their attempt made the Americans jumpy. China is still run by the Communist Party and Russia is a kleptocracy with a dictator at the helm. Both have a worse environmental track record than the Americans and can’t wait to pick up the mineral wealth. Meanwhile there is a struggle for control of the emerging Northwest and Northeast Passage shipping routes as the Arctic ice melts.
Thule is the Americans’ northernmost air base, home to the 21st Space Wing’s global network of sensors providing warning against incoming enemy missiles. But that’s not the only thing that’s ballistic. Trump had an epic tantrum when his idea of buying Greenland was rejected out of hand. He cancelled his long-planned state visit to Denmark and accused the Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, of saying “nasty” things about him. The 56,000 people of Greenland, not to mention the Danes, must have felt they were unwilling participants, not only in “The Price Is Right” geopolitical special edition, but also in Trump’s version of “The Apprentice”. If he could have fired Ms Frederiksen, he would have done so.
Trump’s got it all wrong, anyway. Instead of stomping around the world as if he owns it, he should take a leaf out of Bob Denard’s coup manual. The Frenchman and a bunch of his merry mercenaries invaded the most coup-prone Indian Ocean island, the Comoros, with inflatable dinghies in September 1995. The putsch was unsuccessful. However, in my own Trumpian way, ever since then, I have wanted to be Queen of the Comoros. My regal attire would be a favourite t-shirt that has “Princess In Search of a Country” blazoned on it.
The Greenlanders are too few to defend themselves, and Denmark is neither able nor willing to do so. They need a more powerful protector. I am a Canadian and we have no imperial designs on anywhere. If Greenland came under the joint protection of Denmark and Canada, we could guarantee its independence. We know a thing or two about Arctic ice, about our noisy neighbours to the south, and the pesky Russians planting flags underwater in the North Pole. In these apocalyptic days, it’s not such a strange idea. Maybe Justin Trudeau should offer to take Trump’s place and visit Copenhagen.