The U.S. is giving $12.1 million in aid to Greenland but denies the help is part of a long-term scheme to buy the island from Denmark, regardless of what President Donald Trump may have said in the past.
While the money involved is small, it’s revived a furor in Denmark over reports last year that Trump was musing about purchasing Greenland. The U.S. is seeking to counter growing assertiveness in the Arctic by Russia and China.
The $12.1 million will go toward priorities including tapping Greenland’s abundant mineral resources, promoting tourism and boosting ties with the island’s people, a senior State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity. The U.S. also plans to open a consulate in Nuuk, the capital, within several months.
Greenland’s government said Thursday that the aid package would “benefit the economic development of Greenland, including the mineral industry, tourism and education.”
“It takes time to develop closer relationships with other countries,” Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen said, according to a government statement. “But this good news confirms that our work on building a constructive relationship with the United States is fruitful.”
U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands wrote in an opinion column in Danish media outlet Altinget on Wednesday that it was meant in part to counter Russia’s “aggressive behavior and increased militarization in the Arctic” and China’s “predatory economic interests” in the region.
But the funding angered some officials in Denmark. Karsten Honge, a member of the foreign affairs committee with the Socialist People’s Party, said the move “clearly crossed the line” and was trying to sow divisions in Denmark.
Trump canceled a planned trip to Denmark last year after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen dismissed as absurd Trump’s desire to buy Greenland, which was reported by the Wall Street Journal. Trump called the prime minister’s remark “nasty” and “inappropriate.”
The senior administration official said there was no internal U.S. process underway to buy Greenland.
Nonetheless, binding Greenland closer to the U.S. has been a priority for the Trump administration for some time. A person familiar with U.S. plans, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations, said the idea was to rebuff Chinese and Russian influence and win over Greenland’s residents, with the eventual goal of buying the island if possible.
(By Nick Wadhams, with assistance from Morten Buttler)