Greenland would be a financial loss as well as a political conundrum that the US isn’t ready for.
According to a story released by the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 16, President Trump has inquired about potentially purchasing Greenland from Denmark. Following this story, Trump administration officials were forced to either double down or dismiss the article altogether; unfortunately it became apparent that the story was accurate, with the only remaining caveat being whether the president was joking. Although adding land in this way isn’t without precedent, it comes with its own unique challenges; chief among these is President Donald Trump himself. But, for the sake of argument, could Donald Trump use the art of the deal to purchase Greenland?
Historically, the United States has acquired land from other countries in this exact way; for example, purchases such as the Gadsden Purchase and the Louisiana Purchase. However, the President of the United States typically cannot unilaterally buy territory without the consent of Congress.
Although the president can negotiate an agreement to purchase territory from another nation, it must be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Additionally, all funding for U.S. government activities must be approved by the House of Representatives, so the House would have to appropriate the funds for the purchase. Nonetheless, the question still remains: why Greenland?
Due to the remote location and various other factors, Greenland is actually a net loss for Denmark’s economy; its day-to-day functions cost more than Greenland contributes to the Danish economy. The same would be true for any country that buys Greenland; Greenland would almost certainly be a financial negative to whatever country owned it because the value of its natural resources is not sufficient to offset its functional expenses. Aside from this, the island could potentially serve as a strategically valuable location in the Northern Ocean. All in all, if the United States purchased Greenland, they could justify it somehow.
When entertaining the idea of purchasing Greenland, it is important to fully flesh out the possibilities. Although Greenland only has a population of about 56,000 people — that’s less than the population of Tulsa — its addition to the U.S. would pose some complex political and logistical questions. Would they become U.S. citizens? Would they be subject to the USA’s rules on double taxation? Would they be forced to change over to U.S. passports? Would this alter the trajectory of potential Puerto Rican statehood? Would they be given representation in Congress?
Almost immediately following the story, Denmark ruined the President’s fantasy by unequivocally declaring that Greenland was, in fact, not for sale. In retaliation, President Trump came out against a planned trip to Denmark via Twitter. The White House later confirmed that the entire trip to Denmark had been surprisingly scrapped as well, including a planned meeting with the Queen of Denmark. Trump also chose to lash out at Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, arguing that the trip was pointless after Frederiksen described the entire idea as “absurd.” Trump had been expected to visit Denmark on Sept. 2–3; notably this trip was set to occur just after Trump had demanded a warm welcome from the country. The sudden cancellation is primarily because of the implication that the entire state visit was built around the potential deal.