As It Happens

Trump's bid to buy Greenland is 'absurd theatre,' says Danish MP

Danish MP Michael Aastrup Jensen says its a "grave insult" for U.S. President Donald Trump to cancel his state visit to Denmark after the prime minister rebuffed his proposal to buy Greenland.

U.S. president cancelled state visit to Denmark after PM rebuffed his offer to buy the autonomous territory

Greenland is an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark with self-governance and a majority-Inuit population. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)


Danish MP Michael Aastrup Jensen says it's a "grave insult" for U.S. President Donald Trump to cancel his state visit to Denmark after the prime minister rebuffed his proposal to buy Greenland.

Trump cancelled the Sept. 2-3 trip after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the idea of the United States buying the autonomous territory "absurd."

Jensen, foreign affairs spokesperson for Denmark's centre-right Venstre opposition party, spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about the latest developments. Here is part of their conversation. 

The initial reports that Donald Trump was interested in purchasing Greenland were kind of perceived as a joke. Are you laughing now? 

No, we are not. But we must admit that it has been a couple of surreal days for us — first starting with the leaks about his intention to buy Greenland, then the official statement, and now the cancellation of his state visit to Denmark.

Do you remember your initial response when you first heard the president's visit was postponed?

Yeah, I do, absolutely. And I think it was grave insult, both to our royal family who officially are the hosts for his visit to Denmark, but also in general to our country.

Let's remember that Denmark and the U.S. [are] actually strong allies and we see ourselves as a strong friends as well. And we are, you know, involved in any every military operation that the U.S. has participated in as many years.

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, left, called a proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump, right, 'absurd.' (Tobias Schwarz, Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Were you told initially by the U.S. why the president wanted to come to Denmark?

Yeah, but there was no mentioning whatsoever about any sale of Greenland. It was that he wanted to discuss strengthening ties regarding the Arctic, it was trade relations — you know, normal decision points that we would will talk with any American president about.

So it's fair to say that you were pretty taken aback when this whole issue of Greenland came up?

First we really did perceive it as a joke. And then when we found out it wasn't, it was like an absurd theatre show just continuing on.

We tried to be very polite, but also frank, in stating that, of course, Greenland is not for sale and never will be.

What is your understanding now of why Donald Trump wants to buy it?

Apparently he wants to buy because of the minerals. He also wants to buy it because of its strategic value, of course. And we all agree with that.

But I don't understand, actually, why Donald Trump would ever see Denmark in a position to even sell it. 

And that's because it is an autonomous region, right?

Exactly. So the 55,000 people living in Greenland can decide for themselves if they want to become independent and however they want to live. So it is not up to us, even if we want to sell it or not — which we don't.

Danish MP Michael Aastrup Jensen is the foreign affairs spokesperson for the centre-right Venstre opposition party. (Submitted by Michael Aastrup Jensen )

But you mentioned mineral wealth as an example. Is Greenland seen as a rising economy? Is there some bottom line as to why Trump has his eye on it?

No, the Greenlandic economy is still very small, and so they get quite big subsidies from the Danish government.

But the strategic value for Greenland is, of course, increasing a lot. And the superpowers of China, Russia and, of course, the U.S. are looking more and more to how they can position themselves in the future.

Your prime minister was very gracious today. She said Denmark will do its utmost to maintain relations with the United States despite this snub. Do you think that's problematic going forward?

It would be problematic if we only saw the U.S. as President Trump. But we have had strong ties with the U.S. before President Trump, and we will have it also after President Trump leaves office.

So now we have to admit that direct relations with President Trump will be an uphill battle. We will still try, but it will be an uphill battle. But then we'll try to get even stronger ties with, you know, other parts of the U.S. For example, Congress, the administration in general, secretary of state and so on.

We also now see that President Trump apparently lacks any basic knowledge about diplomacy. 

What has this whole episode done in terms of the relationship between Denmark and Greenland?

The only positive outcome of all this circus is actually that the ties between Greenland and Denmark [are] actually getting stronger and stronger. Because now the Greenlandic people are seeing that they can very fast become a pawn in the superpowers' play of the Arctic territories.

So now today, the connection has never been stronger.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.


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