Denmark Finds Itself at the Center of a Trumpian Storm
In other words, Denmark quickly found both its traditional and its social media consumed by Trump. And just as when Britain was forced to re-examine its relations in the wake of Trump’s threat to restrict intelligence sharing over Huawei, or when Mexico was plunged into a political showdown over paying for a wall, or when even Australia faced Trump’s anger over an Obama-era migration deal, the events led Danes to speculate on Trump’s motives, including his apparent discomfort with powerful women.
Trump himself added weight to this interpretation yesterday when, questioned by reporters as he departed the White House, he characterized Prime Minister Frederiksen’s rebuff of any potential Greenland deal as “nasty,” an epithet he has applied to other prominent women, including Hilary Clinton and Meghan Markle.
For Agner Pedersen, the firmness with which Frederiksen rejected Trump’s sally played a role. “I’m not sure he thought he could just buy Greenland outright, but he also didn’t expect to have the door closed so absolutely,” he said. He also wondered if the controversy might not be another attempt by the White House to deflect attention from more serious concerns. “There are other things going on that perhaps Trump would like to turn the focus away from. Some recent news about the economy, for example,” he said, in reference to economists’ concerns about a possible U.S. recession.
Other Danish experts note that the U.S. wants other concessions from Denmark—which it may not get. Some members of Frederiksen’s coalition government have indicated they would reject US requests for increased support in the Middle East.
Kristian Søby Kristensen, deputy director of the Centre for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen, told me that there is resistance to American requests for increased Danish troops in Syria and naval support in the Strait of Hormuz. “Both questions put the center-left government in a tight spot,” he said. “Although of course if you want to convince a country of something, a state visit can be a good way.”
Still, Søby Kristensen said, though the events might be a diplomatic crisis, they do not herald a wider rift. “The “American security guarantee, and NATO, have kept Denmark safe for close to 70 years and the bilateral security relationship tying the two countries together is very important,” he said. “So I think the prime minister’s strategy will be to not be too colorful, to be stoic, and wait to repair things at a multilateral meeting.”
Other experts say they expect Denmark to face increased U.S. pressure over the Arctic. As climate change has melted ice there, opening new shipping lanes and rendering the area’s valuable natural resources more accessible, China and Russia have both moved in. “If you look at the globe, Greenland is key terrain,” Steen Kjærgaard, senior military analyst at the Royal Danish Defence College, told me. “And control of it is very important to Americans. If they can’t buy it, they’re going to want other things. I think they’re going to demand better surveillance. I think they’re going to come with a claim to more access for the U.S. military. And the pressure on Denmark to spend 2 percent [of its budget on defense a commitment Trump is demanding NATO allies fulfill] will be even stronger.”