In 2019 Donald Trump offered to buy Greenland, the world’s largest island. Denmark, its colonial master, politely declined. At home in the United States, there were howls of laughter from the progressive side.
If that was so funny, why has Russia been interested in Greenland, even supporting a secessionist movement there? According to my colleague Paul Goble, President Vladimir Putin is a champion of the island’s independence.
Moscow has been involved in the Arctic for centuries. The Russians were some of the first explorers there. Their drive to the north continues now.
In 2007, a Russian submarine planted a flag on the sea bed under the North Pole. Thus, the Kremlin claimed sovereignty there.
Imagine only if America did the same after having hoisted the Old Glory on the moon. Neither the Chinese nor anyone else would be laying any claims to it.
But it is not going to be as easy for the Russians with the Arctic, as it would have been for the U.S. on the moon back in the day.
Thus, the Kremlin proceeds incrementally. The prize is worth Putin’s baby steps.
Greenland is not only rich in fisheries and mineral resources, energy in particular, but it also commands a strategic location in the Arctic.
It is crucial for America’s interests; and because the U.S. is a top ally and also on the account of the Danish connection the island, it is also of immediate concern for the Intermarium, lands between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas.
In the 1960s, we pulled our nukes out of Greenland, but the scheme has left nuclear waste behind buried in the ice. Global warming has threatened to expose it.
Nonetheless, Greenland remains a perfect spot for an early warning anti-nuclear system to protect the United States.
According to one of my students, who is an expert on the topic, up north the gravity and ballistics favor Russia and disadvantage the United States. A surprise nuclear salvo from northern Russian Federation over the Arctic would be lethal for North America.
Neither Canada nor the U.S. have any substantial or even sufficient anti-ballistic missile defense in place from the northern side. And that is a serious threat to our national security. We are not prepared for the worst-case scenario.
We should be concerned even if relations with Moscow were cordial. They are not.
The Russian military has been carrying on provocatively and aggressively vis-à-vis America and our allies around there. Military maneuvers are a frequent occurrence.
Since 2013, in fact, Moscow has returned in full force to its hitherto abandoned bases and refitted them. For example, the Russians also have seriously expanded a forward operating air base, Nagurskoye, on Franz Josef Land, which is just 600 miles away from the North Pole.
Further, the Arctic is the world’s largest depository of untapped energy resources. Because of the global increase of temperatures, the icebergs have been melting, not only as far as Greenland, but also on the Canadian coast.
As a result, first, the Northern Passage has been increasingly navigable; and, second, Americans and Canadians have been able to exploit gas and oil deposits hitherto inaccessible.
Russia wants to control the Northern Passage and grab the energy resources as well. China is interested, too, of course.
The U.S. should engage closer with Canada and Denmark to set up a serious missile defense system protecting us from the north. We should also encourage Japan to continue its involvement in the Antarctic so that worries Russia and forces it to devote its scarce resources to the South Pole.
Also, we should work with the native Greenlanders, including the Inuit. So far they have enjoyed much higher levels of government subsidies and social assistance than the Danes back in the home country.
More largesse may lessen the sway of the secessionists. But given Greenlanders’ hopes about the energy bonanza, that may just be a stopgap measure. Russia is sure to try to exploit it.
As a counter, we can try emboldening the Samoyed and other native freedom fighters in Siberia.
We also should include in our Greenland/Arctic strategy the fact that that Russia’s permafrost has been melting in the Far North, which necessitates devoting enormous financial resources to shore up the infrastructure and buildings there, or there will be no more energy for export.
Optimists talk diplomacy as a solution. Realists say: Si vis pacem, para bellum. (If you want peace, prepare for war.)
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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