“Based on the Fact She Won’t Sell Me Greenland, I’m Staying Home”

Denmark, by all reports one of the happiest, most affluent societies on earth, retains a symbolic monarchy for patriotic purposes. One of the Queen’s duties is to invite foreign leaders for state visits.

So Margrethe II did the politically normal, correct thing and invited the U.S. president. She knew, of course, from her briefings that Donald Trump has a reputation for ignorance of history, contemporary geopolitics, military matters, etc., and has a tendency to insult his hosts.  She knew it would be awkward; perhaps she’d chatted with Elizabeth II about her recent experience. But Denmark is a close NATO ally and treats U.S. leaders to pomp and ceremony as a matter of course.

Margrethe probably did not expect that two weeks before the scheduled visit Trump would indicate interest in purchasing the huge island of Greenland. The Danish foreign minister and then prime minister would first decline to take the proposal seriously,  dismissing it as a joke (surely the polite response). At first it was funny.

But as time passed, and it dawned on the Danes that maybe the Emperor with No Clothes was serious, they had to state firmly, politely, lest there be any confusion: “Greenland is not for sale.”

The queen could not have anticipated that the U.S. president, his feelings deeply hurt, would abruptly cancel the visit, tweeting towards midnight August 20:

Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Fredericksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting in two weeks for another time…

Yes, this is really happening. The president of the U.S. cancelled a state visit to Denmark because its prime minister ruled out the U.S. purchase of a vast autonomous territory inhabited by 55,000 people who enjoy autonomous rule, which has been owned by Copenhagen since at least the eighteenth century.

Trump has judged Fredericksen, and found her wanting.

“…based on…comments that she would have no interest….”

Surely any true friend of the U.S. would want to assist in its territorial expansion!

“…in the purchase of Greenland…”

As though the natural default position would be to want to sell that island to the owner best able to USE it wisely!

“I will be postponing our meeting…”

To register Trump’s disappointment in the Danes, and make them feel bad for annoying him, provoking him with their reflexive rejection of his proposal, and to force them to duly RESPECT the country that pays for their protection (since Denmark only pays under 1.5% of GDP on “defense” and Trump demands 2%, stupidly alleging the U.S. makes up the difference), and allow more time for behind-the-scenes negotiations for the deal, he must postpone the fairly imminent state visit that has already cost Denmark many millions to prepare.

This is perhaps Trump’s most idiotic tweet ever. He is both asserting the U.S.’s virtual right to acquire more territory as it did in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, through applying irresistible pressure, and his right to retaliate, even against close allies who thwart him, even in his wildest ambitions.

The man is not all there. To pick a fight with Denmark, an ally so abjectly loyal that it backed the criminal Iraq War and lost troops in both that and the Afghan occupation, and has steadily promoted U.S. interests within NATO, would not seem to make any sense.

To pick the fight over Greenland would seem especially stupid. The resource-rich island is self-governed, for the most part by Inuit people who have no interest in becoming colonized by the U.S. (Trump again highlights his racism by ignoring this fact.) The Danish government does not have the legal power to sell Greenland even if it wanted to.

To tweet so fretfully, childishly, announcing that, if he can’t have Greenland, he’ll take his toys and go home rather than have tea with the Queen, is just pathetic.

Think the Europeans: “Such a stupid little boy.” Scandinavians in particular, maybe. There’s a good word in Old Norse for Trump: oaf.  It meant the half-witted idiot-child of an elf. Danes are models of equanimity and courtesy, features of civilized society.  Fredericksen mentions that preparations for the visit had been well underway. Why waste more money? The Danes have a low national debt and a reputation for rational budgeting; they don’t like to throw money away on frills.

Copenhagen should do the right thing in response to an insufferable diplomatic discourtesy and revoke the damn invitation. Be Lutheran about it, say: Ich kann nicht anders. We have no alternative—but to unwelcome this oaf.

Or go ahead—but add conditions for a rescheduled visit. This could be the right time to reopen the question of Virgin Islands ownership. From the 1660s the Danish West Indies (Virgin Islands) provided many African slaves to the British North American colonies and then the new republic. Denmark sold the Islands to the U.S. in 1917.

But then look what happened! Trump’s friend Jeffrey Epstein established his Pederasty Island and entertained global royalty there. It’s time to discuss returning the Virgin islands to more responsible Danish sovereignty.

Her Majesty and the prime minister should inform Donald Trump that his visit will only be welcome if he is willing to discuss not just Greenland but multiple ongoing territorial issues between the two countries. They should prepare by burning mugwort, pine and juniper throughout Copenhagen and the visit’s venue before, during and after the unfortunate, burdensome, irritating, pointless event.  This will help purify the atmosphere.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.