President Donald Trump cancelled a state visit to Denmark after his offer to buy Greenland was met first with bemusement, then flat refusal. Anger followed, and even Queen Margrethe II was drawn into the fray.
Trump had been due to make his first visit to Denmark, a founding member of NATO and a US ally in the Iraq war, on September 2-3. A series of reports indicated he wanted to purchase Greenland, the world’s biggest island and site of a strategic American base. The island is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, though it has extensive home rule.
A leading member of the Danish government bloc called Trump’s behaviour “hopeless,” while a former prime minister said the decision was “deeply insulting” to the people of Denmark and asked whether the whole exercise had been a joke. The queen weighed in, noting through a spokeswoman that the US president’s decision to snub her invitation in a tweet came as a surprise.
Formal US discussions with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen were to focus on the strategic importance of Greenland. It’s where the US has its northernmost base, Thule, and the island’s location close to the natural resources in the Arctic has made it attractive to both Russia and China. Frederiksen’s predecessor, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, tweeted that the
debacle will require “enormous” work to repair trans-Atlantic relations.
Frederiksen is due to brief reporters in Copenhagen on the Danish government’s response to Trump’s decision, her office said in a tweet.
The cancellation of the trip marks a “diplomatic crisis,” according to Kristian Jensen, a leading member of the opposition and a former finance
minister. He hinted at the damage done to the post-World War II relationship with Denmark, which was among a handful of countries to follow the US into the Iraq war.
Frederiksen, the prime minister, had called the idea of buying Greenland “absurd” and said she hoped it was a joke. She made clear the island wasn’t for sale and that Denmark doesn’t have the authority to sell it in any case. Trump saved his response for Twitter.
“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,” Trump said in a Twitter post.
Trump still plans to go to Poland from August 31 to September 2 for commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. The US leader has praised Poland
for meeting the target of NATO member nations for defense spending, added 1,000 US troops on the ground there and touted a possible new military base for US Forces, known as “Fort Trump.”
President Trump’s postponement of his visit to Denmark is a setback for our countries’ diplomatic relations, but it may be for the best.