This June, my heart soared as our new Consul Sung Choi raised the American flag outside our Consulate in Nuuk, Greenland, as it reopened after 67 years. Through our increased diplomatic presence, we hope to deepen our relationship with Greenlanders, including young people, better understand the issues that matter to them, and facilitate the expected increase in American tourism.
As Secretary Pompeo visits Denmark this week to celebrate our work together as allies, we are pleased to highlight our partnership with Greenland and the entire Kingdom.
Greenland matters to the Trump Administration because we share an interest with our allies and partners in protecting the Arctic and helping this unique region reach its potential in economic growth and sustainable development.
Some examples of how we cooperate with the Kingdom of Denmark and other Arctic Council members are through agreements to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the Arctic Ocean and by sharing best practices for eco-tourism and cruise ships. This collaborative spirit runs counter to the harmful actions in the region by Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), who want to expand their influence through aggression and unfair trading practices.
Russia’s aggressive approach in the Arctic was evident in 2007, when the leader of the Mir-1 submarine mission planted a Russian flag on the North Pole seabed and declared, “The Arctic is Russian.”
In this photo taken late Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, homes are illuminated after the sunset in Tasiilaq, Greenland. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Since then, Russia has introduced new Arctic military bases with offensive capabilities, and even icebreakers armed with cruise missiles. Moscow has overstepped its rights and disregarded its obligations regarding the free navigation of maritime routes by blocking passage of other countries’ ships and seizing control of new shipping routes opened by the region’s changing climate.
Meanwhile, Beijing has poured nearly $90 billion in its vision of a “Polar Silk Road” to advance Chinese Communist Party (CCP) military and economic interests in the Arctic. The Danish and Greenlandic governments, increasingly aware that the PRC’s ambitions come at a high price, came together in 2018 to self-finance two new airports in Greenland. Denmark similarly scuttled an attempted Chinese purchase of an old American naval base in Greenland in 2016.
In my five trips to Greenland as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, I have heard repeatedly from Greenlanders what the PRC and Russia never ask: What do the people of Greenland want for themselves? The vast majority told me they want to diversify their economy, attract foreign investment, and ensure the island’s security, while preserving their cultural traditions and environment.
The United States and Denmark are working together to help Greenlanders achieve the sustainable future they want. U.S. cooperation will help Greenland increase its capabilities in mineral and energy resource sector management, sustainable tourism, and economic growth.
FILE – In this Monday, July. 31, 2017 file photo the sun sets over Nuuk, Greenland. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
The U.S. private sector is looking to expand commercial ties with Greenlandic businesses like Royal Arctic Lines, KNI, and Air Greenland. We are also working with partners in Maine and Alaska to increase trade in goods and services between the United States and Greenland, as well as investment.
U.S. diplomacy in Greenland is committed to pluralism just as American society is at home, and seeks to respect the aspirations and cultural heritage of Greenlanders. American diplomacy is vastly different from the political and ideological submission demanded by authoritarian regimes in Russia and China.
American expertise can assist Greenland as it strives to sustainably access its resource wealth. Greenland is known to house vast quantities of mineral and energy resources that, if developed with quality investment and sound regulations, could greatly benefit its people and their future. Greenland also has world-renowned fisheries and wildlife.
The United States can help ensure Greenland’s natural resource exploration occurs without damage to human health and the environment, and ensure that Greenlanders are the primary economic beneficiaries of the wealth beneath their feet.
U.S. technological breakthroughs in renewable energy, electricity storage, and carbon capture have kickstarted environmentally sustainable economic growth in our country, and Greenlanders could benefit from this technology. Existing U.S. scientific research facilities in Greenland are cutting edge. Multiple generations of American scientists conduct research on the Greenland ice sheet to better understand and preserve the Arctic environment.
Sensational headlines about renewed U.S. attention to Greenland have glossed over how shared our interests really are. As former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary-General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote in the Atlantic, “Greenland should serve to highlight how many interests the United States and Denmark have in common. I consider Trump’s interest in Greenland as a sign that his administration is taking a serious interest in the Arctic and its future.”
Mr. Rasmussen is right, Greenland is a source of natural unity for the United States and Denmark. Through this new chapter in our friendship with Greenland and the entire Kingdom of Denmark, America hopes to promote a stable and secure Arctic, based on the rule of law, environmental protection, economic growth, and a common perception of the security challenges ahead.