Trump Wants To Buy Greenland

President Trump wants to make a deal.

President Trump has apparently expressed interest in buying Greenland from Denmark and aides are exploring the idea, although it’s unclear if Denmark is interested in selling or if the citizens of Greenland are interested in being sold:

President Trump has been urging aides to explore a way to buy Greenland from Denmark, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

His interest in Greenland began last year. At a meeting that spring in the Oval Office, he joked about buying Greenland for its resources, according to a person who was in attendance.

In the year since, the president has repeatedly returned to the topic, asking aides if they can pursue a purchase of Greenland, a semiautonomous territory that Mr. Trump has been taken with in part because of its natural resources, like coal and uranium.

Privately, Mr. Trump’s advisers are highly skeptical that such a move could ever happen. But instead of telling him they do not think it is possible, the advisers have agreed to investigate the matter, according to the people briefed on the discussions.

His interest in buying Greenland was first reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. Greenland, a self-governing country, is part of the kingdom of Denmark, where Mr. Trump is scheduled to visit in September to meet with the prime minister, Mette Frederiksen; Queen Margrethe II; and the leaders of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

More from The Washington Post:

President Trump has pushed top aides to investigate whether the U.S. government can purchase the giant, ice-smothered island of Greenland, two people with direct knowledge of the directive said.

The presidential request has bewildered aides, some of whom continue to believe it isn’t serious, but Trump has mentioned it for weeks. The two people with knowledge of the presidential demand spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal such White House planning.

As with many of Trump’s internal musings, aides haven’t told him the idea is preposterous and instead are waiting for more direction before they decide how seriously they should look into it.

Among the things that have been discussed is whether it is even legal, what the process would be for acquiring an island that has its own government and population, and where any money to purchase a giant landmass would originate.

Trump’s interest in acquiring Greenland was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Greenland is 2.2 million square kilometers, with 1.7 million of that covered in ice. It has considerable natural resources, such as coal and uranium, but only 0.6 percent of the land is used for agriculture. It has around 58,000 residents, making it one of the world’s smallest country’s by population.

It is a self-governing country that is part of the kingdom of Denmark. Trump is scheduled to visit Denmark in two weeks.

Interestingly, this wouldn’t be the first time the United States has tried to buy the giant ice-covered island. Back in 1946, as Europe was recovering from World War II and attention was shifting to the Cold War with the Soviet Union that would last for the next four decades, President Truman offered Denmark $100,000,000 in gold to purchase the Danish territory. This was prior to the formation of NATO and apparently motivated primarily by the desire to establish Naval and other military bases in a location closer to Europe. The Danes turned the offer down, but the U.S. got its military basis anyway and those bases now serve as servicing and refueling stops for U.S. military aircraft. Greenland also plays an important role in the early warning system run by NORAD to monitor for launches of nuclear missiles headed toward North America.

Obviously, $100,000,000 must have been at least someone attractive to a war-ravaged Denmark at the time, and the fact that they nixed the deal back then is a pretty strong indication of how they’d react now. In addition to Danish consent, of course, the United States would need to get the support from the roughly 50,000 citizens of Greenland, a population made up of a mixture of people of Danish origin and, in its largest part, the Inuit (native) population of the country. The primary languages of the island are Danish and Inuit, and it has been considered a state of Denmark since 1953. Additionally, the island has enjoyed something approaching self-government since being granted home-rule in 1979. After a non-binding referendum in 2008, the citizens of Greenland have gradually assumed more direct control over government functions, although things such as foreign policy remain largely under the control of the Danish government in Copenhagen. Given this, it’s unlikely they’d want to become part of the United States. Then again, considering how things are going in this country right now, it’s hard to understand why anyone would.

As if to make that clear, politicians in Greenland have already reacted to the idea of being sold to the United States:

Greenland on Friday dismissed the notion that it might be up for sale after reports that U.S. President Donald Trump had privately discussed with his advisers the idea of buying the world’s biggest island.

“We are open for business, but we’re not for sale,” Greenland’s foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters.

Trump is due to visit Copenhagen in September and the Arctic will be on the agenda during meetings with the prime ministers of Denmark and Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory

This position was made even more clear by a member of Greenland’s Parliament:

When the people of Greenland voted with a 75 percent majority for self-rule back in 2008, the island’s then prime minister Hans Enoksen said he dreamt of full independence by 2021, “in time for my 65th birthday”.

More than a decade later Mr Enoksen is still dreaming. While his newly formed Partii Naleraq campaigned for a quick break during last year’s Greenlandic general election campaign, others believe it will take generations.  

The annual block grant from Denmark of close to £500m represents more than a third of the country’s budget, and while Greenland’s mining industry is taking off, the revenues it brings in still lag far behind what the country needs to wean itself away from its former colonial masters. 

Maja Chemnitz Larsen, an MP for the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, said that it would be “very difficult” for the islanders without Danish subsidies. 

“I’m pro independence for Greenland, but I’m not pro making it a short process, because I think the economy of Greenland is very dependent on the block grant and I don’t want to have welfare decline dramatically,” she said.  

She said the notion that the island could be purchased from Denmark, as reportedly floated by US President Donald Trump, was an offensive one, telling the Telegraph it was not a commodity to be bought and sold. 

“Most people will find it disrespectful because the decision as to whether Greenland should be bought by anyone else is up to Greenland. It’s not up to Denmark.” 

As with so many things that come out of the White House, it’s hard to tell if this is something the President is serious about or whether it’s another one of those random, crazy ideas he gets that White House staff must nonetheless take seriously. I suspect it’s the second and that somewhere there’s a junior attorney in the White House Counsel’s office researching this issue just to please the random thoughts that enter President’s brain. We’ll know which one it is if and when the President shows up to a campaign rally wearing this hat:

And if this is for real, maybe we can call it “Trump’s Folly.”

FILED UNDER: National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al Ameda says:

    (1) Does Denmark know about this?
    (2) Does Trump know where Greenland is?

  2. Jen says:

    I’m rarely speechless, but this is bonkers even by current standards.

    He is and has been the crazy relative who says weird and random things and he’s currently running the country. I’ve shied away from having a 2020 countdown calendar as it’s depressing to see how much time must pass before the election, which really cannot come soon enough.

  3. @al Ameda:

    (1) They do now.

    (2) Debateable.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    My father spent WWII in Greenland, the only good thing he had to say about it was that if he had a couple of days leave, he could often catch a transport plane back to Boston.

  5. Jen says:

    @Sleeping Dog: My only context for Greenland was reading “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” which really did a great job of evoking: a) cold, b) snow, and c) desolation.

    I love the cold though so what with global warming it does hold some promise as far as I’m concerned. I’ve thought moving there or to Iceland wouldn’t be bad at all.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:


    From what I understand, Iceland is civilization compared to Greenland. If you want to go anywhere you better like boats.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @al Ameda: 3) Does Trump know it’s a lot smaller than it looks in Mercator projection?
    3b) Does Trump know what Mercator projection means?
    4) Does Trump know it’s mostly ice covered? And is this why he’s OK with global warming?

  8. Moosebreath says:

    Whoever this person is, she just won the internet (h/t Balloon Juice):

    “To be fair when I’m down in the dumps and feel like no one likes me I go shopping too.”

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: 3) No. 3b) No. 4) No.

    Next time just ask “Does trump know anything?” The answer to that is, No.

  10. Kathy says:

    @al Ameda:

    3) Does he know what Greenland is

  11. Jen says:

    @Moosebreath: Asha Rangappa is former FBI and a CNN analyst. She is very, very funny on Twitter and is part of a group of former intel agency women who provide very interesting analysis of current events. Emily Brandwin (@CIAspygirl on Twitter) is another one. Here’s her comment on the Greenland purchase:

  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    C’mon…that idiot couldn’t even find Greenland on a map if his life depended on it.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    I wonder if there is any statement that Trump could make which would send the sanctimonious crowd over at TAC to the “NO won’t vote for Trump!” side.

    They remind me of the old joke: “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?” “I guess I would.” “What about $100?” “What do you take me for?!” “Oh, we’ve already established that–now we’re just haggling over the price.”

  14. This is just another way that Trump looks at the world like a child. Kids and other incredibly unsophisticated people think this kind of thing is possible: “we’re a rich country, why don’t we buy it! Plus, it would be cool!”

    Forget the people who live there and their sovereign rights (among other things).

  15. Hal_10000 says:

    This may, in all seriousness, be the least stupid idea to come out of this Administration. Greenland is strategically important. It has plentiful natural resources. And, if global warming continues, it may be prime real estate in 30 years. Buy it now while it’s covered in ice; sell it later at a huge profit when it’s a tropical paradise and everyone has to move north.

  16. @Hal_10000: Except that in the post-imperialist era, we don’t play games like this with territories where human being live.

    I actually get the general notion that the location has geopolitical significance. But that doesn’t mean that we are playing Risk. If the people of Greenland want to be independent of Denmark and would like the US to annex them, that would be one thing. A cash transaction for the island, and the people(!) who live there is another issue entirely.

    Even if Denmark would sell the real estate, the transfer of sovereign control is a whole other issue, unless we are going to impose our will on the citizens of Greenland.

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Trump fuqed up Puerto Rico (more than it was already) with his incompetence.
    Let’s not let him go near Greenland.

  18. Hal_10000 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yeah, I’m not really serious, at least as far as actually doing this goes. The idea is going precisely nowhere (among other things, Greenlanders have a right of self-determination). But I am serious that of all the ideas he’s had — ban muslims, close the border, cut taxes, increase defense spending, ban trans people from the military — a silly idea that will never happen but gives us an opportunity to make some jokes is the best one.

  19. Jen says:

    @Hal_10000: At least one article I’ve read noted that after WWII, the US made Denmark an offer of $100 million to purchase Greenland because of its strategic significance. That money would have gone a long way in post-WWII Europe. They turned us down then, and this notion is now a global punchline.

    Will someone please tell the President they are laughing AT him, not with him?

  20. Slugger says:

    First of all this is something Trump said. Trump says many things, and typically nothing happens after his initial expression. He is not the best President, but he is the biggest troll. We should disregard his eructations till we see some actual movement. Otherwise, we wind up buying season tickets to a USFL team, eating Trump steaks, drinking Trump vodka, and studying at Trump University. Trump says it/I ignore it.
    The US does have a huge military base on Greenland at Thule Air Force Base.

  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Jen: The offer to buy Greenland for military purposes actually made some sense. Pre NATO. With Denmark a member of NATO we’re pretty much guaranteed what we need.

    Unless, of course, Trumpsky destroys NATO. So maybe Trump’s actually planning ahead. But no, because it’s only the threat of Russia that makes Greenland strategic, and Trumpsky thinks Putin is his good buddy.

  22. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Now that Epsteins Island is off limits…Trump needs a new hang-out.

  23. Tyrell says:

    They said crazy things about Russia too. And Jefferson caught some flak about the Louisiana deal.
    I would be interested in what minerals are there and possibility of oil deposits. Maybe it would be better if a group of investors bought it. The military has some bases there and does weather research.
    I am more interested in why the world leaders have been going down to Antarctica.

  24. DrDaveT says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Dar(r)yl beat me to it — can you imagine anyone wanting to become a Territory of the US after seeing how we treated Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria?

    Maybe Greenlanders have a thing for paper towels…

  25. Joe says:

    I think he’s trying to surround the Canadians in advance of the takeover.

  26. @Hal_10000: Sigh. Indeed.

  27. @Tyrell:

    They said crazy things about Russia too. And Jefferson caught some flak about the Louisiana deal.

    Note, again: the era of imperialism (when it didn’t matter who was on the land, just which great power controlled it) versus now (when we take things like human rights and self-determination seriously).

    How would you feel if Trump sold your state to Russia, for example? (Wait, that’s absurd, you say? Well, indeed).

  28. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    The United States, Canada and Venezuela are the only countries in the Americas that still have territories. In Canada and Venezuela these territories have representation at the national level(In Canada they even have Senators), while in the US they are in practice colonies.

    That’s… odd. It’s strange to want to add another colony to the list.

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    when we take things like human rights and self-determination seriously

    That is such a pre-Trumpian thing to say.

  30. Joe says:

    Perhaps, Steven, we could get Trump to trade my state, Illinois for Greenland. I would kind of like being Danish. Better healthcare, nice capitol.

  31. Kathy says:

    A better question is why would it be necessary to purchase Greenland?

    For military bases? They’re already there, part of NATO.

    Resources? You can buy any resources produced in Greenland in the international market. If the inhabitants of Greenland haven’t developed such resources, then that is their choice. Imposing development by purchasing their land is a violation of their rights to self-determination.

  32. @Kathy: Like I said: he has a child’s understanding of these things.

  33. PJ says:

    Yes, Trump regrets not having asked Epstein to buy Greenland before Epstein killed himself, but there was so little time to ask, the prison guards could have seen him at any time.

    Denmark isn’t going to sell it anyway. Beyond everything already mentioned, Danes hate Trump, any political party in Denmark that would vote to sell it would face the consequences in the next election.

  34. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Like I said: he has a child’s understanding of these things.
    I guarantee you that Putin mentioned wanting it as a strategic location, and now Trump wants to buy it for him as a gift.

  35. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Buying Greenland would give the U.S. a much greater claim to extending its offshore zone of control into the Arctic. I heard Pompeo on NPR today, all but salivating about how much oil and gas could be extracted from the Arctic Ocean. Follow the money . . .

  36. DrDaveT says:

    My boss just walked in and said “I hear Denmark is offering to buy the US…”

  37. Monala says:

    @Jen: I’m currently on a European vacation, and as we flew over Greenland, I thought of Smila’s Sense of Snow, too. What I remember was my sister and I discussing the book and agreeing that it reminded us of the Dave Barry joke about the college guy and gal assigned to write a fiction story together. They keep fighting because she wants to write a psychological drama and he wants to write an action tale.

    Likewise, SSoS felt like it was written by two different people fighting about just what type of story it would be. On the one hand, it was a poignant tale of a half-Inuit, half-Danish woman who doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere, and her affection for her neighbor, a young Inuit boy whose mysterious death she wants to solve. On the other hand, it’s an action story about an evil mastermind trying to take over the world and using Greenland as his base of operations, and the badass heroine trying to take him down. My sister and I both swore that going from chapter to chapter felt like we were reading a book written by two different authors.

  38. Gustopher says:

    I also want to buy Greenland. I think it’s just a thing that happens once a man reaches a certain age: the knees and the back begin to go, the waist begins to expand, and … you want to buy Greenland. Get away from the rat race, enjoy the open spaces, watch some puffins, and have 58,000 loyal subjects.

    Most men settle for a slightly sportier car, and make little “vroom, vroom” noises while they drive it.

  39. Sleeping Dog says:


    The New Yorker has the details of Denmark’s offer to purchase the US.

    LoL. I hope the deal goes through.

  40. Jen says:

    @Monala: I am pleased to report that is almost exactly what our book group felt about the book too. I really liked the snow analysis, but I’m weird and love the cold.

  41. de stijl says:


    Oh, I totally get where you are coming from Smilla’s Sense of Snow was so maddening.

    It was a deftly evocative take on how children of profound alcoholics in hardscrabble situations adapt and behave. And how people who are half-way between the hardscrabble and the blessed adapt and cope and persevere. How to skate back and forth and what that costs you.

    That was utterly fascinating.

    And then there was the stupid thriller plot. God! So much potential! So much waste!

  42. de stijl says:


    I’m moving to Duluth because I want to.

    I don’t love cold, but I hate hot. If it’s cold, I can always put on another sweater or better boots, etc. If it’s hot, I can only get naked. There is no more naked than naked.

    Properly kitted out, cold is easy to cope with. Invigorating. The coldest I ever experienced was -56F. That was brisk. You had to to pay attention, but eminently doable.

    Air temp 98F with dew point of 82F is hell on earth.