This time it is not just another controversy raised by an American president who is not inclined to international diplomatic language. Behind the crisis between the United States and Denmark lies a strategic war over who will control future Arctic routes and get their hands on large deposits of raw materials. A battle in which the specter of China appears, determined to extend its influence.
Greenland at the center of the Denmark / USA crisis The news on remote Greenland does not often enjoy the favor of international media. Unless an “eclectic” president like Donald Trump announces an unlikely purchase of the largest island in the world by labeling it as a big real estate deal. Greenland has been a federated state since 2009. Unlike Denmark, of which it was a colony until 1953, it is not part of the European Union. Although it therefore enjoys strong autonomy, it remains under Danish jurisdiction over foreign and security policy.
After confirming his intentions in person, and after obtaining the dry refusal from the Danish authorities – “Greenland is not for sale”, said the Danish premier Mette Frederiksen -Trump canceled the visit organized on 2-3 September right in Denmark. A resentment to which the Danish premier Mette Frederiksen responded with grace and firmness; saying he was “disappointed and surprised” by Trump’s decision, pointing out however that “the call for stronger strategic cooperation with the US in the Arctic is still open”. For his part, Trump reacted with his colorful language.
The strategic battle between China and the US in the Arctic How could Trump think of buying such an extensive sovereign territory, with the indigenous population attached? What hides behind such a provocation? Why should this freezing land, 80% covered by ice, without infrastructure, with just 55,000 inhabitants, should be so attractive?
It has been a battle for several years now over who will be able to extend its influence over the Arctic territories. Also because the progressive melting of the ice is making these territories less inaccessible. The stakes are very high. Great resources of raw materials, including uranium and the highly sought-after rare earth (in addition to one of the most abundant seas in the world), a faster trade route (thanks to the withdrawal of ice), a strategic military position of very high value, close to Europe and the United States.
Airports made in China among the ice Let’s go back two years, to November 2017. The prime minister of the autonomous region with the lowest density in the world, Kim Kielsen, flew to Beijing to hold confidential talks with top-level executives from the most important Chinese banks, including the China development bank and the Export Import Bank of China. The Greenlandic premier was aware that Greenland, the 12th largest territory in the world, was perhaps the one with the least infrastructure.
On the other hand, the only connection between the various towns, mostly built on small islands, is a series of small aircraft and helicopters. There are no roads. Extremely valuable mineral resources instead do. especially those rare earths that never seem to ever be enough to the digital market, of which China has almost the monopoly of production. In the eyes of the Greenland premier all this represented a great opportunity for redemption for a poor territory, which lives on fishing and economic aid, with a very high unemployment but without practically welfare. Here, the following year, the construction giant, the Chinese Communication Construction Company (CCCC), comes out into the open and offers to carry out large expansion projects for small airports in Illullisat and the capital Nuuk, and the construction of an airport new in Qaqortoq.
As soon as the CCCC is selected among the potential contractors, the Danish Government immediately takes the field. Offering 700 million Danish crowns and a further 450 million crown loan to finance the airports. And here, a few months ago, last June, the CCCC withdraws its offer for projects on Greenland airports. The explanation that appeared in the local media is really unconvincing: the Chinese engineers would have had great difficulties in obtaining visas from the Danish government.