The Wall Street Journal broke the news Thursday evening that President Trump was interested in acquiring Greenland — a remote, semiautonomous territory that is officially part of Denmark.
Trump has reportedly asked the White House counsel to look into the idea, which has caused bafflement among Danish politicians and Greenland residents.
“We’re open for business, not for sale,” a tweet from the Greenland Ministry of Foreign Affairs read.
Denmark’s former prime minister tweeted that it “must be an April Fool’s Day joke” out of season.
“We are talking about real people and you can’t just sell Greenland like an old colonial power,” a Danish lawmaker told Reuters.
Indeed, while the idea seems like it came out of left field, a number of analysts have sought to discern the logic behind it. So, why Greenland?
According to multiple reports, Trump is interested in the “natural resources” of Greenland. Though its surface is 80 percent covered by ice and snow, studies have shown that as the earth warms because of climate change, a number of valuable resources will become accessible to mining.
According to the Brookings Institution, that includes “iron ore, lead, zinc, diamonds, gold, rare earth elements, uranium, and oil.”
For a president who has repeatedly claimed climate change is a hoax, interest in the natural resources of Greenland is a highly unexpected position.
But members of Trump’s administration have already been discussing the fallout of melting Arctic ice without acknowledging its cause. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo predicted in May “a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic” and discussed in that speech the potential of new shipping routes akin to the Panama Canal. It was a speech he delivered without ever mentioning climate change.
There are also strategic issues at play as China continues to flex its muscle as a world superpower. The United States’ only military base in the Arctic Circle is located in Greenland and is responsible for missile and space surveillance, according to the trade publication Defense News.
Just last year, China made attempts to finance three airports in Greenland with the condition that they be constructed by Chinese companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Pentagon reportedly pressured Denmark to squash the deal and pay for the airports itself.
Of course, there’s another factor at play: ego.
For a real estate developer with a penchant for putting his name on buildings, the idea of acquiring the world’s largest island is an attractive one for Trump.
“People outside the White House have described purchasing Greenland as an Alaska-type acquisition for Mr. Trump’s legacy,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Or, as New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Michael D. Shear put it, Trump “tends to view his presidency through the lens of acquisitions.”