What can one say? Except that he’s losing what’s left of his mind.
It wasn’t just Frederiksen whom he was set to meet. A state visit with Denmark’s queen was planned. Danish security services had been preparing for his arrival for months, naturally. They’re a NATO ally, not some random country on the other side of the world. And Greenland likely isn’t even theirs to sell: Denmark has gradually granted Greenland more and more independence in conducting its foreign affairs, most recently in the 2009 Act on Greenland Self-Government that recognized Greenlanders as “a people pursuant to international law with the right of self-determination.” Whatever the strategic merits of U.S. dominion over Greenland, that was never something Denmark could grant.
And so it’s insane to want to punish them for refusing to grant it.
If anything, Trump has now compromised American influence over Greenland. A week ago, Denmark was a close ally and Greenland was open for U.S. business. A week later, the Danes are bewildered and insulted and Greenlanders will naturally view future American interest in their country as somewhat suspicious, particularly given their historical experience with colonialism. If access to Greenland’s natural resources and its strategic position in the Atlantic have value to the U.S., and they do, the last thing you’d want to do is jeopardize that access by alienating the people with the power to extend it.
Because the president governs by whim, his staff apparently had to go through the motions of semi-seriously pursuing this idea even though it was never going to happen.
People familiar with the president’s interest in Greenland said he had been talking about the potential purchase for weeks. Senior administration officials had discussed the possibility of offering Denmark a deal in which the United States would take over its annual $600 million subsidy to Greenland in perpetuity, said two people familiar with the talks who were not authorized to reveal the internal deliberations.
They also discussed giving Denmark a large one-time payment as well to incentivize the transfer, the people said…
One U.S. official involved in Arctic issues expressed surprise Tuesday night that Trump was interested in buying Greenland. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity, noted that the Alaska congressional delegation has been trying to get the Pentagon to spend more money on operations in the Alaskan Arctic and that they probably would be concerned that a Greenland deal could jeopardize that.
Chattering about buying Greenland is one thing, petulantly snubbing the Danes because of their disinterest in the idea is another. They’re understandably irritated:
“It’s an insult from a close friend and ally,” Michael Aastrup Jensen, a member of the Danish parliament with the influential center-right Venstre party, told The Washington Post. He said Trump’s interest in purchasing Greenland took the country by surprise and was initially widely considered to be a joke, before Danes realized the full extent of “this disaster.”
Jensen said Danish lawmakers felt misled and “appalled” by the president, who “lacks even basic diplomatic skills,” he said. “There was no word [ahead of time] about: ‘I want to buy Greenland and that’s why I’m coming.’”
On Twitter, Denmark’s former business minister, Rasmus Jarlov, wrote: “For no reason Trump assumes that (an autonomous) part of our country is for sale. Then insultingly cancels visit that everybody was preparing for.”…
Center-right lawmaker Jensen called the abrupt cancellation “an insult to the royal house.”
There’s also this, about which the Danes have long memories. Again, understandably.
This is no longer funny. Danish troops fought alongside the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. 50 Danes died. The president dishonors the alliance and their sacrifice. On the same day he sought to appease Putin by supporting his return to the G8. https://t.co/f5SHS3F1qL
— Tom Wright (@thomaswright08) August 21, 2019
“Total chaos with [Trump] and cancellation of state visit to Denmark. It has gone from a big opportunity for strengthened dialogue between allies to a diplomatic crisis,” tweeted a former Danish prime minister last night. The leader of the Social Liberal Party noted that Denmark “now more than ever should consider [fellow] European Union countries as our closest allies.” Thus did a fun and kooky little episode of “The Trump Show” (“Wait, he wants to buy Greenland?”) turn into an international incident because the president is a giant baby.
The charitable interpretation of why he canceled is that he’s not being spiteful, he’s simply attempting to maximize leverage. He views this as a real-estate deal, right? Well, real estate is what he knows. Sometimes you need to walk away from the table to increase your bargaining strength. Except there’s no one on the other side of the table in this case; there’s no negotiation, and there certainly won’t be a negotiation now that he’s offended Denmark’s national pride by snubbing them and their royal family. Even the best-case scenario for his behavior is a “What the hell is he thinking?” scenario.
But wait. Is that really the best-case scenario? Times reporter Maggie Haberman claimed on CNN this morning that her sources are telling her the Greenland thing was just a smokescreen, a pretext for Trump canceling his trip to Denmark. What was the real reason he didn’t want to go? She … doesn’t know. Trump doesn’t seem to enjoy international diplomatic visits; maybe he was just looking for a reason to bail out and, ah, seized on the craziest one available to him. Others speculated that this has to do with his insecurity about Obama’s comparative popularity: O is also scheduled to visit Denmark next month, and maybe Trump was anticipating how the side-by-side footage would look of him being greeted cordially and Obama being received rapturously.
I don’t think he thinks that far ahead, though. And by doing what he’s done here, he’s guaranteed that O will be greeted even more warmly than he otherwise would have been. Maybe Haberman’s sources are insisting that he canceled the trip for reasons unrelated to Greenland because they’re tremendously embarrassed by the fact that he *did* cancel it over Greenland and are trying to reassure the public that even Trump couldn’t conceivably be this weird and petty. Even though, obviously, he could be.
Here’s the Danish prime minister expressing her surprise and disappointment this morning. You’ll never hear a more tactful expression of “WTF?”