September 1, 2019
The UK Telegraph reports that billions of tons of ice in Greenland are melting 50 years ahead of climate change schedules, leading to the surreal spectacle of children playing in the arctic sea due to rising temperatures. Earlier this month, the story says, in the town of Qaanaaq in northwestern Greenland, children were seen splashing around in the sea and wearing t-shirts, which would have been unheard of ten years ago.
Sounds great. Who doesn’t like splashing around in the sea and wearing t-shirts? Maybe we should buy the place.
“Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.” These are the words of Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during a visit to Greenland upon hearing that US President Donald Trump was considering purchasing the island nation.
That’s Denmark’s opinion, but the Island is sovereign territory and the decision to sell doesn’t rest on the shoulders of Ms. Frederiksen or her government.
Denmark’s Margrethe the Second, “by God’s Grace Queen of Denmark” signed papers to that effect in 2009, making Greenland’s disposition in this matter entirely Greenland’s to determine.
For its part, Greenland is playing hard to get, and has replied with the following official statement:
“We have a good cooperation with USA, and we see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer. Of course, Greenland is not for sale. Because of the unofficial nature of the news, the Government of Greenland has no further comments.”
Premier of Greenland, Kim Kielsen, elaborated. “The arctic has long been under great focus, and following the climate changes, the interest for the arctic is also increasing,” he said. “The focus is now on Greenland, and we will take advantage of this. It opens up new opportunities for cooperation in trade and other areas.”
In related news, Russia launched the world’s first floating nuclear power plant last month.
The Akademik Lomonosov, is a 140-meter vessel carrying two nuclear reactors capable of providing enough energy for a town of 100,000 people, and destined for the town of Pevek in Siberia.
Russian officials have said the Akademik Lomonosov will serve as a key infrastructure element in the Northeast Passage connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific. The platform can also be used to desalinate sea water and turn it into drinking water.
China is also interested in the arctic, most recently with a bid to build three new airports in Greenland in 2018. China has been aggressively investing in infrastructure projects around the world, notably transportation projects. According to the International Transport Forum, Chinese companies control as much as 10 percent of port operations in Europe.
While China has been busy building military bases and transport hubs on artificial islands in the South China sea, the country, as part of its “13th Five-Year Plan,” also intends to have a fleet of floating nuclear power plants available to provide energy for remote islands and oil rigs by 2020.
A US joint venture between Westinghouse and Newport News Shipyard was formed in the 1970s to build floating nuclear plants, but the project unraveled because of declining interest in nuclear power following the 1973 oil embargo.
So, Russia is developing a massive arctic power, with military bases, nuclear icebreakers, thousands of cold-weather-trained troops and floating nuclear power. The Chinese are building icebreakers, buying up infrastructure, building their own floating nuclear plants and building bases in the middle of the ocean. While the US is finally building icebreakers, they won’t be ready for several years and our current 43-year-old heavy icebreaker is held together with duct tape and good wishes. It sure would be nice to have a domestic base of operations within the arctic Circle to safeguard our shipping and security interests.
For the record, the US offered Denmark $100 million for Greenland in 1946, which is about $1 billion in today’s dollars, and which Denmark declined. Back then it was Denmark’s to sell. We should have raised our offer.
Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org