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Some journalists would say that Donald Trump’s time as president has resulted in some borderline unbelievable headlines. Thus, last week, when the internet found itself ablaze with rumors that Trump is considering buying Greenland, some people reacted less with confusion and consternation than with plain old laughter.
These rumors, though, are no joke. President Trump does indeed want to purchase Greenland from Denmark, the arctic island’s current owner.
According to initial reports about Trump’s interest, the president at first stated his desire to buy Greenland with “varying degrees of seriousness.” Nevertheless, Trump has instructed his aides to find out whether purchasing Greenland would indeed be possible. The U.S. already has 600 military personnel stationed on a base in Greenland, from which the U.S. operates a major portion of its global radar system.
Trump would not be the first U.S. president with an interest in acquiring Greenland. President Harry S. Truman attempted to do so in 1946, offering Denmark $100 million (equivalent to $1.3 billion when adjusted for inflation) to purchase Greenland, a move that Denmark soundly rejected. However, three decades earlier, Denmark sold the Danish West Indies, now the U.S. Virgin Islands, to the U.S.
This time around, Denmark is not willing to sell to the U.S. Last Friday, Greenland’s foreign minister, Ane Long Bagger, insisted that the autonomous territory is not for sale, though Bagger did say that the country is willing to partake in trade with the U.S. and other countries. While visiting Greenland on Sunday, Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen similarly shot down the idea that Denmark would ever sell Greenland.
That same day, Trump reaffirmed his interest in buying the territory, comparing such a purchase to a large real estate deal. Prior to Trump’s time as president, he amassed a fortune making high-value real estate deals, as Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow reminded reporters when discussing a potential Greenland purchase. Trump also described acquiring the massive island nation as potentially important for U.S. strategy.
Greenland is also abundant in natural resources, access to which would likely bolster the economy of any country that uses them. Prime Minister Frederiksen noted that Greenland already faces exploitation from Russia for the island nation’s ample resources. Frederiksen also suggested that the era of countries buying and selling nations and their populations is long in the past.
Frederiksen will meet President Trump in person next month when the president makes his first official trip to Denmark. Officials from the Trump administration say that the president’s visit has no relation to his interest in buying Greenland. Trump’s visit to Greenland is just one stop on a much larger tour of European countries.
Currently, Greenland is home to merely 56,000 people. This number is about 10 percent of the population of Wyoming, which is the least populous state in the U.S. About one-third of Greenland’s 56,000 residents live in the country’s capital, Nuuk. Of the island nation’s 836,300 square miles of land, only 20 percent is occupied by people.