Foreign Relations & International Law

Take Greenland Seriously and Literally as a Vital National Security Issue

David Priess, Martijn Rasser
Thursday, February 20, 2020, 9:00 AM

Mentioning Greenland may invite laughs about President Trump’s rash interest in purchasing the island. Joking, however, overlooks the significant impact that Greenland will have on U.S. interests within the next decade.

An LC-130 “Skibird” lands at Camp Raven, Greenland on June 28, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Benjamin German,

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It is tempting to dismiss talk of Greenland’s significance for defense and foreign policy simply because President Trump infamously made it a punch line last year.

The world’s largest island, after all, had generally stayed off the public’s radar—and even that of most national security analysts—until the Wall Street Journal reported in August 2019 that the president wanted to purchase it from Denmark. His wishes hit headlines just ahead of his trip to Copenhagen to meet with Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredericksen and Kim Kielsen, prime minister of autonomous Greenland. Fredericksen responded that she had no interest in speaking with Trump about the island’s status, which prompted the president on Aug. 20 to postpone that meeting—by tweet, naturally:

David Priess is Director of Intelligence at Bedrock Learning, Inc. and a Senior Fellow at the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security. He served during the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations as a CIA officer and has written two books: “The President’s Book of Secrets,” about the top-secret President’s Daily Brief, and "How To Get Rid of a President," describing the ways American presidents have left office.
Martijn Rasser is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a bipartisan think tank. He is a former CIA officer. He also was director of analysis at Kyndi, an artificial intelligence startup, and chief of staff at Muddy Waters Capital. He is a writer and commentator on technology policy and the national security implications of technology, and is regularly quoted in outlets such as Axios, Bloomberg, Fortune, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and WIRED.

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