Denmark Reels After Trump Cancels Visit Over Rebuffed Greenland Purchase Idea

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By Patrick Goodenough | August 21, 2019 | 4:32 AM EDT

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. (Photo by Philip Davali/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – President Donald Trump sparked an uproar in Denmark with a Tuesday night tweet saying he is canceling a scheduled visit to the country, given the prime minister’s lack of “interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland.”

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time ...” the president tweeted.

“... The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!” he added.

The astonishing message came just hours after the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, tweeted, “Denmark is ready for the visit of the President of the United States. Partner, ally, friend.”

Below those words Sands posted a photo of a landmark building across from Copenhagen’s City Hall Square, topped with large billboards featuring the word TRUMP.

A photo posted on Twitter by U.S. Ambassador Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands shows a building in central Copenhagen featuring billboards bearing the word TRUMP. (Photo: Twitter/USAmbDenmark)

The invitation to visit in early September came from Denmark’s head of state, Queen Margrethe II. Reacting to Trump’s announcement, the head of communications for the palace, Lene Balleby, told Denmark’s TV2 that the news was “a surprise,” but declined to say anything further.

TV2 reported that the cancelation was unprecedented, and quoted a historian and expert on the Danish royal house as saying another invitation was unlikely to be offered.

Other reactions from Denmark were critical, from politicians across the spectrum.

Søren Espersen, deputy leader of the euroskeptic Danish People’s Party, tweeted, “So Mr. Trump – you have now decided to postpone your visit to Denmark. Why not just cancel? We are so busy here with other things ...”

Morten Østergaard, head of the center-left Social Liberal Party, called Trump “unpredictable,” and said the episode shows why Denmark should look to its European Union partners as its closest allies.

Rasmus Jarlov, a member of the center-right Conservative People’s Party, tweeted, “As a Dane (and a conservative) it is very hard to believe. For no reason Trump assumes that (an autonomous) part of our country is for sale. Then insultingly cancels visit that everybody was preparing for. Are parts of the US for sale? Alaska? Please show more respect.”

Søren Pind, a former justice minister and a member of a center-right party, took a lighter approach, tweeting, “But mr. President … you might buy Sweden?” (He added the Twitter handle of Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister who has been critical of Trump’s policies.)

‘A large real estate deal’

The White House first announced the visit on July 31, saying Trump and First Lady Melania Trump would travel to Denmark after a visit to Poland at the beginning of September, having “accepted an invitation to visit Her Majesty Margrethe II.”

In her own statement on the trip, Frederiksen described the United States as “Denmark’s most important and strongest ally in NATO,” noting that soldiers from the two allies “stand shoulder to shoulder in the world’s hotspots and in defense of Europe’s security.”

The front page of Greenland’s Atuagagdliutit/Grønlandsposten newspaper. The headline at the bottom reads ‘The whole world is talking about Greenland.’ (Image: AG)

Late last week the Wall Street Journal was first to report Trump’s interest in discussing the acquisition of Greenland from the Danes.

On Sunday Trump confirmed the report was true, telling reporters in Morristown, N.J. that the idea was essentially “a large real estate deal,” that the territory was costing Denmark $700 million a year, and that “strategically, for the United States, it would be nice.”

Once the news of his Greenland ambitions was out, Trump posted a light-hearted tweet on Monday night pledging not to build a Trump tower in the middle of what appeared to be a rustic seaside village.

Earlier, Frederiksen seemed less inclined to joke about the issue, telling a newspaper in Greenland – which she happened to be visiting – that the territory was “not for sale,” adding, “I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”

Greenland’s premier, Kim Kielsen, made similar comments.

Greenland has been part of the kingdom of Denmark since 1814. Denmark granted home rule in 1979, and from 2009 the island has exercised increased autonomy in most areas, with foreign affairs and defense and main exceptions.

The United States has expanded its territory in the past, although not for more than a century.

Its most recent territorial purchase was in fact a deal with Denmark – President Woodrow Wilson’s purchase in 1917 of the Danish West Indies in the Caribbean.

The U.S. paid $25 million “in gold coin” for the islands, subsequently renamed the U.S. Virgin Islands, which cover just 133 square miles and have a population of around 107,000.

By contrast Greenland is the world’s largest island, some 836,330 square miles in area, although with a population of fewer than 56,000 people.

Earlier major U.S. land acquisitions were the purchase of Alaska (586,412 square miles) from Russia in 1867, at a cost of $7.2 million, and the purchase of Louisiana (828,000 square miles) from France in 1803, at a cost of $15 million.

 

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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