U.S. Pursues Strategic Partnership With Greenland and Denmark

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October 29, 2020

National security adviser Robert O’Brien announced on Thursday a burgeoning strategic partnership with Greenland and Denmark, representing progress in the U.S. effort to gain a foothold in the increasingly contested Arctic region.

"Had an excellent virtual meeting with Premier Kielsen of Greenland and [foreign minister Jeppe Kofod] of Denmark," O’Brien tweeted Thursday. "The United States is establishing a strategic partnership with Denmark. We are also expanding our partnership with Greenland through our consulate in Nuuk, including in trade, investment, education, and security."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), the architect of a proposal to purchase Greenland—an autonomous territory of Denmark—for the United States last year, applauded the efforts made by the Trump administration to tighten cooperation with the Arctic territory.

"I’m encouraged by reports of our talks with Danish and Greenlandic officials," Cotton told the Washington Free Beacon. "The threat of Chinese infiltration in the Arctic is real, and closer ties between Washington and Nuuk are essential."

The new agreements come during a time of increased threats in the Arctic region. Russia has unleashed a new nuclear-powered icebreaker vessel that gives Moscow greater access to the region, taking advantage of the United States' major gap in navigational capabilities in the Arctic. China, meanwhile, has declared itself a "near-Arctic state," signaling its ambitions to increase its influence in the region. 

Rich in energy resources, the Arctic is a region of critical strategic importance. Given its latitude, the Arctic is also a prime location for communications- and space-related technology. As China and Russia emerge as serious geopolitical rivals in space, Space Force chief of operations John Raymond has noted that the Space Force will move to make a footprint in the Arctic.

Greenland made headlines last year when Cotton penned an op-ed in the New York Times making the case that Washington should buy the territory. Cotton reportedly also broached the issue with President Donald Trump several times.

"The acquisition of Greenland would secure vital strategic interests for the United States, economically benefit both us and Greenlanders, and would be in keeping with American—and Danish—diplomatic traditions," Cotton wrote in August 2019. "Our nation has much to gain, as do the Danes and Greenlanders."