Trump snubs Danish Queen as state visit canceled over Greenland

Morten Buttler and Nick Rigillo
Denmark's Queen Margrethe attends the inauguration of the city of Soenderborg's new waterfront, in Southern Jutland, Denmark, Friday July 26, 2019.

President Donald Trump canceled a state visit to Denmark after his offer to buy Greenland was met first with bemusement, then flat refusal. Anger followed, and even Queen Margrethe II was drawn into the fray.

Trump had been due to make his first visit to Denmark, a founding member of NATO and a U.S. ally in the Iraq war, on Sept. 2-3. A series of reports last week indicated he wanted to purchase Greenland, the world’s biggest island and site of a strategic American base. The territory is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, though it has extensive home rule.

A leading member of the Danish government bloc on Wednesday called Trump’s behavior “hopeless,” while a former prime minister said the decision was “deeply insulting” to Danes. The queen weighed in, noting through a spokeswoman that the U.S. president’s decision to snub her invitation in a tweet came as a surprise.

Strategic visit

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said later that an invitation to Trump for a state visit still stands. The cancellation was a matter for regret, she told reporters in Copenhagen. “I was looking forward to his visit.”

Their discussions were to have focused on the strategic importance of Greenland. It’s where the U.S. has its northernmost base, Thule, and the island’s location close to the natural resources in the Arctic has made it attractive to both Russia and China. Frederiksen’s predecessor, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, said the debacle will require “enormous” work to repair trans-Atlantic relations.

The cancellation of the trip is a “diplomatic crisis,” said Kristian Jensen, a leading member of the opposition and a former finance minister. He hinted at the damage done to the post-World War II relationship with Denmark, which was among a handful of countries to follow the U.S. into the Iraq war.

Frederiksen had previously called the idea of buying Greenland absurd and said she hoped it was a joke. She made clear the island wasn’t for sale and that Denmark doesn’t have the authority to sell it in any case. Trump saved his response for Twitter.

Special country

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday night.

Trump still plans to travel to Poland from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 for commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. The U.S. leader has praised that nation for meeting a target for defense spending by NATO member nations and added 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground there. He also has touted a possible new military base for U.S. forces, known as “Fort Trump.”

Morten Ostergaard, the leader of the Social Liberals who form part of the government bloc, tweeted that “reality has surpassed fantasy. It cannot be that no one in the U.S. state department told Trump in advance” that buying Greenland isn’t an option. “This is pretty hopeless. And it shows why we more than ever need to regard the EU members as our closest allies. You cannot count on this man.”

Here’s what former Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt had to say:

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who used to be NATO secretary general and is another former Danish PM, also weighed in:

Martin Lidegaard, a member of the government bloc and a former foreign minister, called the affair a “diplomatic farce.”

Trump wrote that “the Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”

Earlier this week, the president told reporters that buying Greenland would be “a large real estate deal” that could ease a financial burden on Denmark.

Frederiksen and other officials ruled out a sale.

“Greenland isn’t for sale, Greenland isn’t Danish, Greenland is Greenlandic,” Frederiksen said Sunday during a visit to the island, according to the local newspaper Sermitsiaq. “I keep trying to hope that this isn’t something that was seriously meant.”

However serious White House discussions of a sale might have been, the topic prompted jokes on both sides of the Atlantic after Trump’s interest was reported. He got into the act Monday night with a tweet showing an image of a golden Trump tower on an austere Greenland landscape. “I promise not to do this to Greenland,” Trump wrote.

With assistance from John Harney.