In Denmark, Bewilderment and Anger Over Trump’s Interest in Greenland

ODENSE, Denmark — The astonishment in Denmark over President Trump’s apparent desire to buy Greenland turned to bewilderment and anger on Wednesday after the American leader abruptly scrapped a state visit because the Danes have no desire to sell.

The cancellation was a rare snub of Denmark’s head of state, Queen Margrethe II, who extended an invitation to the president and would have hosted him and the first lady.

News that Mr. Trump is not coming “came as a surprise,” The Royal House’s communications director told the state broadcaster, adding, “That’s all we have to say about that.”

Others, however, had more to say. “Is this some sort of joke?” Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former prime minister, wrote on Twitter. “Deeply insulting to the people of Greenland and Denmark.”

It was not a joke. A day earlier, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he was abandoning plans to visit Denmark because of the country’s refusal to sell Greenland, a semiautonomous part of the kingdom of Denmark.

The idea, which came to light last week, had been immediately and flatly rejected by leaders in Greenland and Denmark, who found themselves in the odd position at the time of having to publicly state that “Greenland is not for sale.” On Wednesday, disbelief and condemnation echoed through the political landscape, as it began to sink in that Mr. Trump wasn’t kidding.

“Please stop,” Martin Lidegaard, head of the foreign affairs committee in Parliament, wrote on Twitter, before citing several other areas of discussion that he said should be of interest to both countries: the Arctic, climate change and the Middle East.

“Total chaos,” the former finance minister Kristian Jensen wrote. “This has gone from a great opportunity for a strengthened dialogue between allies to a diplomatic crisis.”

A headline in Berlingske, a conservative daily, read “The U.S. and Denmark’s relationship has never been this ice-cold. It will have wide-ranging consequences.” A headline on the website of the state broadcaster read, “Trump sends Denmark and the U.S.’s relationship to the freezing point.”

In his tweet, Mr. Trump called Denmark “a very special country with incredible people,” but said he was putting off the visit because Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had said she had no interest in discussing the sale of Greenland.

“Greenland is not for sale,” Ms. Frederiksen told a Danish newspaper this week. “Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”

Adding to the already considerable awkwardness, Mr. Trump’s announcement came not long after the American ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, had written on Twitter that Denmark was excited about the president’s visit.

Greenland’s government is in charge of most aspects of its affairs except foreign policy and defense. Local governments have not managed to develop a sustainable economy and receive more than 50 percent of the island’s budget in direct subsidies topped with additional Danish spending on defense and enforcement of sovereignty. The total bill amounts to $740 million annually.

“For no reason Trump assumes that (an autonomous) part of our country is for sale,” Rasmus Jarlov, a former minister of business, wrote on Twitter. “Then insultingly cancels visit that everybody was preparing for. Are parts of the U.S. for sale? Alaska? Please show more respect.”

Many Danes had seen Mr. Trump’s visit as a recognition of a special relationship with the United States built on decades of friendly relations, mutual interests in the Arctic, and Danish responsiveness to American calls to action.

Danish troops took part in American-led missions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, where 43 Danish troops were killed, a staggering number for a nation of 5.5 million not used to war.

Pernille Skipper, the speaker of Parliament’s leftist red-green alliance, said on Twitter that Mr. Trump “lives on another planet. Smug and disrespectful.”

Noting that the president’s tweet said the visit had been postponed, rather than abandoned, Soren Espersen, who speaks for the populist Danish People’s Party on foreign affairs, suggested there was little point in Mr. Trump coming. “Why not just cancel?” he said. “We are so busy here with other things.”

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