Did anyone talk about the Arctic at COP24?

januar 2, 2019 • Af


Teenage activist Greta Thunberg is seen inside the venue of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. (Kacper Pempel / Reuters)

I keep wondering if anyone really talked about the Arctic in Poland at COP24, the great international climate meet that recently ended? This was for a brief moment the world’s most important arena for the battle against climate change, designed to get the Paris Accords from December 2015 on track — but where was the Arctic?

Looking back at two weeks of intense global media coverage, I wonder where were the heads of states from the Arctic countries blasting away about the effects of climate change in the Arctic?

Where were the key ministers from the eight Arctic governments banging fists against podiums to fuel important speeches about the challenges to the Arctic peoples, the villages ravaged by coastal erosion, the threats to biodiversity, the decimated herds of reindeer, the melt of Greenland’s ice sheet and of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, the buckling infrastructure, the heating oceans, the melting permafrost and how the changes in the Arctic will affect the entire globe?

And indeed, where was the Arctic Council? The body that the Arctic governments so often praise as their common platform, our successful melting pot of good intentions, strategic diplomacy and inclusive Arctic governance? How many times have the Arctic Council issued statements on the need for action against climate change? So why did the new Secretary General of the Arctic Council not stand up in an epic moment, devoid of all falsehood and pretense, to face the cameras and tell the world how the eight Arctic governments had asked her to first of all ask for two minutes of silence — and then go on to declare, on behalf of the eight nations and all the indigenous Arctic peoples, that as from this moment all political activity in these eight Arctic states —  including Russia and the USA —  would be drastically re-designed and focused singularly on the prevention of further, catastrophic heating of the planet — and richly inspired, of course, by the consistent work of the five scientific working groups of the Arctic Council, encompassing hundreds of the most dedicated scientists of this world, who have already long ago documented how urgent action is sorely needed. And excuse us, by the way, for not doing this long ago.

‘No talk about climate’

Sometimes it is good to allow oneself a bit of wanderings like this.

I know of the limits to the mandate of the Secretary General of the Arctic Council and, more importantly, the absence of wider commitments to climate efforts in capitals like Moscow and Washington.

But the absence of newsworthy Arctic interventions from political leaders of USA, Russia or other Arctic states at COP24 in Poland reminds us how climate change in the Arctic does not seem to be what drives the agenda for many key political leaders in the Arctic capitals.

The governments of the Arctic are concerned about sustainable development, which is something quite different. Indeed, few know exactly what the term means, but the governments mostly agree that it does not compel them to focus more seriously on climate change, even if the problem is certainly there in the statements of intent.

The Moscow government has recently announced yet another larger-than-life 5.5 billion-ruble investment plan for the Russian Arctic. A colleague from The Independent Barents Observer in Norway travelled with Russian prime minister Medvedev to the booming oil and gas-center in Sabetta in Russia’s far north Yamal Province to report how the new plan covers “investments in regional infrastructure and natural resource development, including railway construction, new sea ports and development of hydrocarbon and coal fields….There was no talk about the aggravating and potentially devastating climate changes that are unfolding in the Arctic. The meeting headed by Medvedev had its focus not on nature protection, but on exploitation.”

In Alaska, on the U.S. side of the Bering Strait latest news is the revitalizing of plans for a new 200-mile highway to copper fields in the far north — and a rush to drill for more oil in more places on the North Slope, including a long-fought-over wildlife refuge; probably to no-one’s surprise. Economic development has been for years on the top of the agenda of many Arctic communities, and the governments of the Arctic countries have been quick to incorporate this natural desire of the peoples of the Arctic into comprehensive, national strategies for future growth.

Teenager steals the attention

The governments of the Arctic states are home to the most glaring evidence of climate change available on the planet. They are rich in economic resources, in technology and knowledge; they have financed for almost three decades substantial science into just about any aspect of climate science in the Arctic, including science conducted by the Arctic Council’s productive scientific working groups. Hundreds of scientific articles, reports and carefully calibrated suggestions for action have been crafted by scores of conscientious experts from across the Arctic — and yet no-one from the governments of the Arctic really stood up to present all this in Poland. The science by the working groups is of course carefully integrated into IPCC’s reports, but is is not boosted in very visible ways by political leaders.

The Arctic Council, to be fair, was certainly not absent in Poland. The Arctic Council and the government of Finland, which is presently chairing the Arctic Council, co-hosted a 90-minute side event for all interested parties to attend on the heady effects of black carbon in the Arctic. An obvious item for the global audience at COP24. Black carbon, which is basically soot from industries, power-plants, gas-production, cars and households in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, is darkening ice and snow in the Arctic, so that the Arctic absorbs more of the sun’s warmth than before. At the event, starred by the environmental ministers from both Finland and Poland, experts told the audience how this heavy source of climate change could fairly easily be extinguished using existing technologies, and a representative from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition told of worldwide efforts to curb black carbon emission.

Meanwhile, 15 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden stole much of the media attention at COP24 with a three-minute speech. In carefully braided pigtails she faced the global gathering of ministers, diplomats and negotiators of all hues and gave them all she had: “You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared to be unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess,” she said.

I understand that diplomacy is about finding compromise in the real world. I know that it will most probably never happen, but quietly, I allow myself to wonder if any key political representative of a key Arctic government will ever speak about the Arctic with similar nerve.


This blog was first published on  26. December 2018


Film festival in Murmansk shows why dialogue with Russia is necessary — and tough

december 21, 2018 • Af


The male choir of Russia’s Northern Fleet performs at the award ceremony at the Northern Character film and television festival in Murmansk. (Lars-Petter Kalkenberg)

We drive from Kirkenes at the very top of Norway to the Russian border and across the tundra for four hours to Murmansk, the biggest city in the Arctic, with a population of about 300,000. The windshield wipers on our minibus battle snow most of the way. I have been asked to sit on the jury of Northern Character, a film and television festival in Murmansk about everything in the north. It is not one of the biggest film festivals in Russia, but well organized by people from the local television station TV21 in collaboration with colleagues from Norway, Sweden and Finland.

I am about to experience just how hard it is to level with Russians when the chips are down. A valuable lesson if one wants to understand why Arctic cooperation with Russia is so crucial — and so tough.

We drive through one the most militarized regions of the world. It is here in the northernmost part of northwest Russia that Russia’s mighty Northern Fleet keeps its stealthy submarines, its nuclear warheads, battle-ready warships, fighter jets, garrisons and so forth. To its neighbors, Russia is a constant source of nervous jitters and the Northern Character festival, now in its 11th year, is one of the many civil society projects designed to keep confidence building people-to-people conversations going across the borders.

Common history

For the festival, 174 film and TV productions in all genres have been selected. Hard-nosed unfiltered critique of those in power is not in vogue here, but the festival’s ambition reflects Russia’s long tradition of quality films and a newer trend, dating back at least 15 years, of cooperating with the neighboring Nordic countries.

Northwestern Russia, northern Finland and northern Norway share a long and complex history. For many centuries tradespeople from northern Russia brought  flour and meat to the poor fishermen in northern Norway. Today many Russians go shopping in Kirkenes where many street signs are bilingual, people in the border region do not need visas and many of residents of Kirkenes are Russian.

In the winter darkness we pass the memorial for those who died at the front close to Litsa River. In the Second World War some 40,000 Russian soldiers died here fighting German troops who, like us, came from the West.

From 1941 the Germans pressed forward in a fatal attempt to take Murmansk. In this part of Arctic Russia the harbors are ice-free year round and allied convoys from Great Britain and the United States used the harbor in Murmansk to deliver food, ammunition, and thousands of tanks, vehicles and fighter planes to the Red Army. The Germans were stopped at Litsa River, where a hellish battle raged for three years. The Germans died from the cold and Russian perseverance. In October 1944 the Red Army freed northern Norway. Kirkenes was the first city in Norway to be liberated from Nazi occupation, and the neighborly relations between Russian and Norway took on new depths.

The jury is split

War is also with us at the festival and one documentary, “Overdrive, return point” by Russia’s Natalia Gugueva causes us particular difficulties. The film is about Crimea, or more precisely about an airbase close to the town of Saky north of Sebastopol in the southern part of the Crimean peninsula.

In 1992 at the break-up of the Soviet Union, the airbase at Saky is Soviet, but it is now to be handed over to independent Ukraine along with the rest of Crimea. The Russian pilots are given a choice: You can continue to serve Russia, but only if you move to Severomorsk-3, an airbase near Murmansk in Russia’s Arctic. Or you can swear a new oath of allegiance to Ukraine and keep flying in the sun over Crimea.

The film, which is supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture, follows the pilots who go north; they refuse to pledge allegiance to anything but Russia. Through Guguevas skillful instruction and because of Eugen Kuznetsov, a charismatic Russian jet pilot and the main character of the film, Gugueva’s documentary is in many ways a deeply moving drama about patriotism, sacrifice and existential doubt. It is Gugueva’s third film about the pilots. She expertly uses older and brilliant new footage, and we are taken right into the fateful days in 2014, where Russian troops take over Crimea. Everyone fears that a war will break out between Ukraine and Russia, and the Russian pilots at Severomorsk-3 are forced to weigh whether they will be able to shoot at and potentially kill those of their old colleagues who chose to stay in Saky.

I would have rated this documentary among the very best at the festival, if it wasn’t for one unforgivable fault. About midway it constructs a grossly generalized, spiteful, manipulated and derogatory image of the entire Ukrainian people, which renders any praise of the film impossible.

After hours of discussion over two days of deliberations our jury is split in two. It is the Russians against us from the West. Without any prior contact between us, the four of us from the Nordic countries have all reached the same conclusion: We cannot give this particular documentary any of the many prizes of the festival.

Our professional conversation about films is about to disintegrate into personal attacks. One of our Russian jury members asks me whether I have ever served in the military, as if this has bearing on my ability to have an opinion on films. My Norwegian colleague is similarly treated. At no stage do our Russian friends acknowledge our key argument that such wildly generalizing and outright hateful statements about an entire people has no place in this world. In stead they suggest that we lack knowledge of Russia’s history or that our critique is caused by the film’s poor English subtitles. For reasons never shared with us, it is obviously not an option that the festival can end without praise to this film.

The president of the festival has to be summoned to break the deadlock and finally it is agreed that the jury will not award any prize to Gugueva’s film. It is also agreed, however, that the Russian president of the jury, acclaimed filmmaker Yusup Razykov, can award the film a “special mention” in his own name.

Nobody is really happy. But at least the four of us from the Nordic countries stood our ground and at the award ceremony in Murmansk our jury president dutifully tells the audience about the split.

I learned an important lesson. If you want to talk to Russian colleagues about matters close to their core persuasions, come well prepared. Be aware that you will not necessarily win the argument and that it may be worthwhile to prepare a Plan B that at least allows for continued dialogue.

The rest of the festival was loads of fun, loads of film — some good, some  bad. We had sincere and very useful, neighborly talks about journalism, art, our common history, the nature of peace and how we can work together. And in the jury we agreed when it came to the Grand Prix, the most prestigious of the prizes awarded. We gave this to “24 Snows,” a 90-minute documentary by Mikhail Barynin. A portrait rich in detail of Sergey, a horse breeder and reindeer herder in Yakutia in the Siberian forest. Barynin avoids the overly romantic while unfolding a disappearing way of life and the splendors of the natural world. The narrative of this Russian documentary is not be the sharpest, but our Russian colleagues argued convincingly why it is important that these marginal Arctic communities are brought forward in contemporary Russia. The footage of “24 Snows” is brilliant and the film is also awarded a prize for “best camera.”

Finally, at the peak of the award ceremony we are once again reminded of the permeating presence of Russia’s defense forces in this region. The large and almost all-male choir of Russia’s Northern Fleet treats us to a spectacular hour-long dance and song concert. A smooth baritone in black uniform sings “Strangers in the night” with the finest of Russian accents.

Martin Breum is a Danish journalist specializing in the Arctic. His participation at the Northern Character festival was organized by the Nordic Journalist Center in Denmark.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by ArcticToday, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary (at)


Why people matter when we talk about Arctic climate change

november 12, 2018 • Af

It is very difficult to have a conversation with an ice-floe. You may select a floe with an intriguing personal history; perhaps a past way up in the Arctic Ocean or a recent history of nerve-wrecking encounters with menacing icebergs. Even so, I would assume that your conversation will be short and shallow, devoid of any new hope, love or inspiration, based almost exclusively on your own muddy thoughts and mounting fears of climate change which your local news most likely refueled once again last night.

We talked about this at the recent Arctic Circle conference in Iceland among the more than 2000 people attending from all over the Arctic, and we talked about it in Finland a few weeks earlier among the 400 people at the great congress of CAFF, the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Arctic Council working group.

The question is, how do we talk sensefully about climate change? How do we configure the heady effects of climate change in the Arctic without herding ourselves and the rest of the world into a shivering abyss of fear and apathy?

Scientists, environmentalists, writers, filmmakers and politicians all around the Arctic are scratching their heads to find a way to shake the rest of the world into actually caring about climate change in the Arctic. I was intrigued to report in this space a few weeks ago how the World Wildlife Foundation is even turning away from the story of the soon-to-be-extinct polar bear; realizing after years of campaigning how it certainly generates much caring for bears but not really the kind of action on climate change that the WWF is looking for.

Thankfully, bright people are providing new food for thought. Look for instance to the Swedish professor of environmental history Sverker Sörlin, and you will learn why it may be worth remembering that ice-floes do not make great conversation or why stories of struggling polar bears or thawing permafrost in Siberia are unlikely to cut it alone.


In a new wide-reaching book “Competing Arctic Futures”, Sverker Sörlin in the concluding chapter warns us of the many projections of the future of the Arctic based on simplistic or reductionist perspectives, as he calls them. Our current visions of the future of the Arctic, Sverker argues, are “science informed projections of waning sea ice and irreversible warming”. As climate change accelerates, natural science and its preoccupation with ice, snow, permafrost and other natural phenomena quite sensibly becomes more dominating in our thoughts on the future, but we must not forget that in the end it is us — people — who decide how to react.

“Once you introduce societies and their complexities, contrasts, and creativities, there will always be a healthy balance between the necessity to simplify and predict on the one hand and the necessity to doubt and point to alternatives on the other. Above all, it will be necessary to allow for democratic and collective, indeed political agency which is another word for freedom,” Sverker writes. He is calling here primarily on scholars in the humanities, but the rest of us are invited, too, I believe.

Hurricanes have long been given names like Katrina or William, but you cannot talk sense to them, plan for the future or fall in love with them. One of Sörlin’s colleagues, Nina Wormbs from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, argues in the same book how the two most dominating features in current predictions of the future of the Arctic – climate change and resource extraction – seems to be pushing all other alternatives aside.

“The possibility to choose between different futures by the way of our own actions seems virtually absent”, she writes. “Determinism has increased with the forcefulness of climate change, to many invisible but nonetheless perceived as unstoppable. This narrative has consequences for the possibility of action in the present. It certainly provides opportunities for some, but for others it offers mostly constraints, if not decay,” she writes. The book is a great scholarly journey with entries also from several Russian scholars through our urge to predict and shape the future of the Arctic, but it begins and ends, perhaps unintentionally, with a timely warning.

“We must not conflate how climate responds to human action (…) with how humans can respond to the changing climate,” as Nina Wormbs puts it.

Many in the Arctic have been concerned for long how indigenous – or just Arctic –  voices are often missing from the global picture of the Arctic. In “Chasing Ice”, for instance, the prize-winning documentary film of retreating glaciers by US photographer James Balog, only one person from the Arctic, an unspeaking inuit sled handler, appears for a few seconds. In journalism we hail those like Elizabeth Arnold, a former U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent, who told us at the Arctic Circle conference of her project “Combatting Arctic Climate Change Fatigue by Bringing Indigenous People and Resilience into the Story”. Other concerned journalists in Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden are doing the same.

In science climatologists and oceanographers struggle to incorporate indigenous knowledge and experiences in their work. In Arctic politics Arctic peoples are Permanents Participants within the Arctic Council and elsewhere present under other nominators, but in the global, grander picture of Arctic development their role is often limited.

Chinese scientists in action; China is rapidly becoming a major player in the Arctic Photo: Xinhua

Also in this regard climate change is adding to the challenge. In 2015 we learned in “Contesting the Arctic” (Steinberg, Tasch and Gerhardt; I.B.Tauris) how at least seven different schools of thought compete for dominance in current thinking on the Arctic. There are those who fathom the Arctic primarily as a terra nullius, unclaimed and up for grabs, others imagine the Arctic principally as a resource frontiers waiting for eager patrons of industry and still others see the Arctic mostly as a pristine gem of nature that we should all rever and protect.

Most of these imaginations allow only limited space for the indigenous and climate change is squeezing this room even further. As researcher Eric Paglia from the Swedish Defence University investigates in “Competing Arctic Futures” the current understanding of the Arctic is increasingly incorporating countries and actors who are not in any usual sense of the word even Arctic at all.

After the cold war journalists, scholars and politicians talked increasingly of the Arctic as a region of nations and peoples with comparable interests and living nicely within a somewhat defined common geography. Those were the days when the Inuit Circumpolar Congress, the Arctic Council and other regional bodies came to life.

But climate change and the explosion of global interest in the Arctic is changing the story once again. Paglia scrutinizes otherwise confidential documents from China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the UK and other non-Arctic nations to find out how they assert their claim to the Arctic. He recounts how the Arctic as it is increasingly presented now also encompasses Chinese interests, Singaporean suggestions, inputs from the EU, India and South Korea. Symptomatically, as I write this, preparations for an Arctic Circle pop-up conference in Seoul this December is underway. Climate change, climate science, shipping and commerce is connecting the Arctic to the rest of the world. All of which will further narrow, most likely, the space offered to Arctic indigenous voices and perspectives in stories about the Arctic in international newspapers, in news items on tv, in films and other renderings.

Chinese world map – used by some Chinese authorities at least since 2014

Perhaps the Arctic is indeed even moving to a whole new location. As New Zealand’s  famous China scholar Anne Marie Brady brings to attention in her book “China as a Polar Great Power”, the Chinese authorities are increasingly advocating the use of a new world map. In this world image the Arctic no longer lie far away at the cold top of the Earth. Rather, the Arctic and the Arctic Ocean is, at least on this map of a China-centered world, located much close to the central line of action; not in the global periphery.

Obviously, we need to talk about all this. And as we are now reminded, conversations with ice-floes, polar bears or thawing permafrost are unlikely to suffice.

“Competing Arctic Futures – Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” (ed. Nina Wormbs), Palgrave Macmillan 2018.



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The USA and China both have designs for Greenland – but both talk only little about them

oktober 17, 2018 • Af

Two seemingly unrelated messages, reaching us only a few days apart, recently revealed how Greenland occupies an increasingly strategic place in today’s geopolitics. One of the messages might mean that the U.S. will soon send more troops, planes and other military equipment to Greenland; the other means that China’s growing and apparently semi-secret Arctic ambitions should probably be scrutinized in a new light.

Thule Air Base – a new statement of intent may lead to increase US military presence in Greenland

First, a message came from Thule Air Base far up in the western parts of Northern Greenland. The US Air Force has run this base since the 1950’s and it is still a crucial facility in the defence of the American heartland, in particular since it provides early-warning of potential nuclear missiles from Russia, North Korea and China and because of its impressing array of antennas that pick up intelligence from military satellites and forward it to the US. I spent some days there last year and left with a clear sense that I had for long been deceived by the remoteness. The remoteness does not make the base less important, on the contrary. It is precisely the proximity of the base to the countries on the other side of the Arctic Ocean that gives the base its significance. 

On September 16, while visiting Thule Air Base, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, John Rood signed a declaration of intent to invest in dual-use military and civilian infrastructure that was swiftly disseminated to the public via Facebook by the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen. “In light of world events, the US acknowledges the increasing importance of the Arctic,” the message read. “This Statement of Intent lays out the principles for investments in Greenland to enhance US military operational flexibility and situational awareness…the US Department of Defence intends to pursue potential strategic investments vigorously….for example…in projects related to the airport infrastructure in Greenland that may have dual civil and military benefits. These investments would seek to enhance US and NATO capabilities in the North Atlantic region…”

It was a seemingly concrete, but really very opaque message, raising more questions than it answered. It was impossible for ordinary mortals to know if it meant, for instance, that the U.S. Air Force will soon expand far beyond Thule Air Base and build more airports for fighter jets and bombers in Greenland. It could be read in that way, but for the uninitiated the wording left everything in the air. Is the U.S. Air Force concerned over Greenland’s own plans for new airports? Or was the message really to say that the U.S. does not tolerate any Chinese involvement in Greenland?

John Rood’s declaration of intent was made public at a supremely sensitive moment. Denmark and Greenland are currently embroiled in a controversy over new airports in Greenland. Naalakkersuisut, the Self-Rule government in Nuuk, wants to enlarge the airports in Nuuk, the capital, and in Ilulissat, the main tourist attraction in Greenland and to build a new airport in the south.

A Chinese company, China Communications Construction Company, is among the five companies pre-qualified for the construction. Denmark worries that China’s involvement could potentially land Greenland in a painful debt-trap and compromise its security. To keep China from becoming involved, Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has offered to invest some $100 million and to secure low-interest loans that would greatly ease Greenland’s financial burden and make Chinese funds (and probably also CCCC’s entrepreneurial skills) irrelevant. This offer led go the collapse of the ruling coalition in Nuuk, since one of the coalition’s parties feared renewed Danish influence in Greenland. John Rood’s message came right in the middle of all this, and most press reports linked it to this very current, Danish-Greenlandic discussion.

Then, finally, one of Denmark’s leading security analysts, Henrik Breitenbauch, head of the Center for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen, offered a more scholarly interpretation of John Rood’s message. Writing in Weekendavisen he explained that in his analysis the U.S. declaration had less to do with the local discussion, even if the U.S. would certainly share Denmark’s distaste of Chinese involvement in Greenland. The U.S. message, rather, should be read as a reflection of a very real shift in American military priorities. The U.S. is focusing its military still more on the defense of the North American continent. It is a shift of direction in the entire international engagement of the U.S. Breitenbauch laid out how this shift will mean “less focus on the fight against terror in North Africa and the Middle East and more focus on the Atlantic and the Pacific, and in addition on Russia, China and other nations with the capacity to directly harm the U.S., such as Iran and North Korea.”

This means, Breitenbauch explained, that the northern part of the Danish realm — Greenland in particular — will once again become highly relevant in a global security perspective. “Decision makers in Copenhagen and Nuuk should keep their eyes peeled and follow events very closely,” he wrote.  He reminded us how the U.S. Navy has revived its Second Fleet, which was superbly important during the Second World War but taken out of service in 2011. This Second Fleet has recently been brought back to life and given responsibility for the defense of the northeastern part of the U.S. and all waters to the North Pole.

In extension, Breitenbauch predicted, the U.S. Air Force may very well chose soon to strengthen its monitoring of Russian subs in the North Atlantic and its defense of Thule Air Base. This is how we should understand John Rood’s message, he argued. It could lead, he wrote, to “massive increase of American military — in particular airborne — capacities in Greenland. Because of the extreme conditions and enormous distances even temporary deployment of limited numbers of advanced fighter planes will demand very large operative and logistical support structures with men and material on the ground. It would be at a level we have not seen since the Cold War.”

A few days after John Rood’s message, Anne Marie Brady visited Denmark and lectured at Copenhagen Business School. Anne Marie Brady is a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and one of the world’s most prominent China scholars. She has studied for 30 years the Chinese party state system and, for the last 10, China’s polar ambitions. In 2017 she published the immensely detailed and well documented “China as a Polar Great Nation,” the first book ever to comprehensively investigate in one go China’s Arctic and Antarctic strategies, public statements, hidden policies, polar budgets and investments, concrete polar expeditions and activities.

Chinese scientists in action; China is rapidly becoming a major player in the Arctic Photo: Xinhua

In Anne Marie Brady’s analysis, China sees the polar regions as it does the great oceans and outer space: As strategic frontiers decisive for the future of the world and for world dominance.

“China has studied other great powers. John F. Kennedy talked about how a great power will be able to be dominant in outer space, in the high seas, and China has added the polar regions and the cyber domain as new strategic territories that are owned by no one. China is expanding into areas of the world where there is room to move, and where it really is a question of whether you have got the capacity, the human resource and the financial resources to expand into them,” she told me.

She stressed repeatedly how China’s formal statements and document, published in English and aimed at a foreign audience, would often reveal only the benign, while China’s real intentions, its underlying strategies and priorities would remain either hidden or only accessible to those mastering Chinese. “Within the party state system information management is a very important tool. So if countries like Denmark and Greenland want to have a sound China policy they need to look beyond what they are told in English and into the Chinese discourse. There will be a very selective message targeted to foreigners about China’s policy, especially on a sensitive and emerging policy areas as the Arctic is, and a very different discourse in the Chinese language when China explains to its own population, why it is putting so much money into a territory outside China,” she said.

Chinese polar endeavors, she explains also in her book, really pursue three overriding priorities: China’s national security, including its economic and military security; natural resources necessary for China’s continued growth and stability; and science and technology needed for China’s quest to become a leading world power.  

So when China is rapidly establishing science stations in the Antarctic and in the Arctic, it is certainly to conduct climate and other natural science, but also to prepare for resource extraction and advance China’s defense capabilities — including its satellite based Beidou-system; a Chinese equivalent to the GPS-network of the US. China does not want to be dependent on a system that the U.S. controls; instead it now has ground receiving facilities for its own in Sweden’s Arctic, in Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic and more are on the way. China and Iceland will open a joint research station in northern Iceland on October 22 and China’s has plans also for a ground receiving station in central Greenland and for a large research station elsewhere in Greenland. As Anne Marie Brady explains in her book, China needs all this for climate science but also for other purposes, some military: The Beidou-system will help it navigate in the polar regions with ships, planes and submarines. The U.S. and Russia both have nuclear missiles aimed at China. In a worst-case scenario many of these would traverse the Arctic on their way to China, and China is busy expanding its satellite-based tracking  and monitoring capacity.

“Greenland is important and interesting to China because it is in the Arctic, because it has strategic resources and because it is increasingly autonomous. China is always interested in soon-to-be independent states. Greenland is strategically significant as other great powers have known; the US has had bases there for a long while, and it would be useful for China to have a satellite station there for the Beidou-system. So there are many elements that makes Greenland interesting to China as part of its overall Arctic agenda,” Brady told me.

In Greenland, there is still very little Chinese presence on the ground. Long-standing Greenlandic efforts to lure Chinese investors have so far come to only little — even if China may have many future designs. Large Chinese corporations have invested in perhaps-to-be mining operations, but that is about it.

Perhaps this was part of the reason that John Rood’s message was given such a warm welcome by Naalakkersuisut, the Self-Rule government.

“We welcome the American Statement of Intent, and look forward to discuss details of possible US airport investments in Greenland. The Greenland Government is prepared to put great emphasis in a dialogue securing mutual benefits. In this respect, we see the United States Department of Defense statement as a positive initiative”, said Greenland’s then Minister for Education, Culture, Church and Foreign Affairs, Vivian Motzfeldt — a few days before the ruling coalition collapsed.

Greenland often confirms its firm place in the NATO alliance and only wants to make sure that it benefits tangibly from any new U.S. activity in Greenland.

Denmark made it clear that it is also in full support of whatever lies behind Rood’s statement:

“Looking ahead, increasing civil and military activity in the Arctic will call for expanded presence and surveillance. With the Danish Government’s Defense Agreement running until 2023, we will continue the strengthening of our presence in the Arctic. And we appreciate the close cooperation with the U.S. on Arctic Affairs, including improving operational capabilities,” said Danish Minister of Defense, Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

This blog was first published on on October 17. 2018



Danmarks uklare sikkerhedskurs i Nordatlanten

september 24, 2018 • Af

Lad os et kort øjeblik sammenholde Lars Løkke Rasmussens nye løfte om et stort dansk bidrag til lufthavnene i Grønland og færingernes salg af fisk til Rusland. Sammenligningen løfter os direkte ind i en af rigsfællesskabets mest besværlige gråzoner: Hvornår mener regeringen, at en sag i Grønland eller på Færøerne påvirker rigets sikkerhedspolitik?

Aftalen: Statsministeren har tilbudt finansiering til to lufthavne i Grønland bl.a. for at forhindre, at Grønland låner pengene i Kina. Foto:

Her findes ingen klare regler, ingen kodeks eller stringens. Det er et af mere betændte spørgsmål mellem København og de politiske myndigheder i Torshavn og Nuuk. Så snart en sag er stemplet som “sikkerhedspolitisk”, har regeringen i København nemlig per definition magten. Kun regeringen i København kan føre rigets udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitik.

I Grønland forsøger Lars Løkke Rasmussen med kontante indskud at udelukke, at Grønland låner penge til lufthavnene i Kina. Det er angiveligt en af mange grunde til statsministerens initiativ; han har tilbudt 700 millioner kroner som ejerkapital plus et lån og en lånegaranti på hver 450 millioner.

Både Lars Løkke Rasmussen, forsvarsminister Claus Hjort Frederiksen og udenrigsminister Anders Samuelsen markerede i foråret, at det danske kongeriges sikkerhedspolitiske situation i deres analyse kunne blive undermineret, hvis Grønland endte i en kinesisk gældsklemme.

Det var underforstået, at Danmark derfor havde al mulig grund til at gribe ind og i sidste ende nedlægge veto mod f.eks. store lån i Kina. De tre ministres meldinger lød som en kontant påmindelse: Husk nu, at rigets udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitik sidste ende alene føres af os. Claus Hjorth Frederiksen inddrog endda USA i sin advarsel; han havde netop besøgt sin amerikanske kollega James Mattis, som ifølge Claus Hjort Frederiksen var bekymret over udsigten til, at Kina skulle få indflydelse i Grønland via lufthavnene.

I Nuuk bredte utilfredsheden sig. Både Kim Kielsen, formanden for Naalakkersuisut og oppositionsleder Sara Olsvig holdt fast i, at lufthavnene måtte ses som et banalt stykke infrastruktur. De grønlandske politikere påpegede, at Grønland for længst har hjemtaget ansvaret netop for sin egen infrastruktur, finansiering, udseende og valg af eksterne partnere til f.eks. modernisering af lufthavne. Efter grønlandsk opfattelse er lufthavnene et rent grønlandsk anliggende — ikke sikkerhedspolitik.  

Lars Løkke Rasmussens nye løfte om dansk bidrag har indtil videre lagt en dyne af kontanter over den grundlæggende uenighed. Kim Kielsen, formanden for Naalakkersuisut forsøger i øjeblikket at skabe et flertal i parlamentet, så Grønland kan tage imod det danske tilbud; de to politiske ledere søger angiveligt en praktisk løsning til alles bedste, men reel afklaring af den underliggende uenighed er ikke opnået.  

Hvorfor ikke på Færøerne?

På Færøerne holder regeringen sig anderledes tilbage. Skiftende politiske ledere i Torshavn har siden 2014 kritiseret eller undladt at støtte de europæiske sanktioner mod Rusland efter den russiske armés indmarch på Krim-halvøen i sommeren 2014.

Lukrativ forbindelse: Færøernes Poul Michelsen underskriver ny aftale med russiske Tatiana Valovaya fra Den Eurasiske Økonomiske Union, Torshavn 24. august. Foto: Árni Gregersen

Færøernes daværende landsstyreformand Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen rejste samme sommer til Moskva, hvor han forklarede den russiske handelsminister, at Færøerne ikke er medlem af EU og ikke havde nogen planer om at deltage i EU’s sanktionsregime. Da Rusland som reaktion på sanktionerne indførte forbud mod import af en række varer fra EU-landene —  herunder fisk — var Færøerne ikke omfattet, og i dag tjener de færøske fiskevirksomheder mange penge på at sælge fisk til Rusland.

Da Danmark ligesom andre europæiske lande tidligere i år udviste to russiske diplomater som reaktion på to mordforsøg i England, markerede Færøernes udenrigsansvarlige Poul Michelsen igen, at Færøerne ikke er med i EU-fronten mod Rusland og forsvaret for folkeretten.

Senest underskrev Poul Michelsen den 24. august på sit kontor i Torshavn en ny samarbejdsaftale (memorandum of understanding) med Rusland via Den Eurasiske Økonomiske Union; målet er en rigtig frihandelsaftale med Rusland, så Færøerne ikke skal betale told af fisken i Rusland. Den russiske repræsentant for EEU var Poul Michelsens gæst i tre dage.

Venstres udenrigspolitiske ordfører Michael Aastrup Jensen er pikeret: “Min personlige holdning har været klar længe, og jeg finder det stærkt problematisk, at Færøerne nu indgår en ny aftale med Rusland og en række af Ruslands nære venner, “ sagde han, da jeg skrev om sagen til Weekendavisen. “Man går direkte imod alle andre lande og områder i EU-fællesskabet, som prøver at isolerere Rusland og stoppe den magtpolitik, som Putin er godt i gang med overfor Krim, overfor Georgien og andre nationer. Jeg finder det meget, meget uheldigt for Danmark og for Europa, at vi har et område i rigsfællesskabet, der laver den her type aftaler,” sagde han.

Aastrup Jensen forestiller sig, at Putin vil bruge Færøerne i sin propaganda, og han advarer Færøerne om at uvilje mod øerne kan brede sig i Europa. Tidligere udenrigsminister Martin Lidegaard (RV), tidligere forsvarsminister Nick Hækkerup (S), og SF’s Jonas Dahl har luftet lignende frustration.

De færøske ledere fastholder, at de har retten på deres side. Færøerne har for mange år siden hjemtaget ansvaret for sine egne handelsforbindelser — og fisk handler jo kun om handel, ikke sandt? Landsstyret fastholder som begrundelse, at Færøerne ikke har råd til at miste det russiske marked, og landsstyrets politik har solid opbakning på øerne. Over en fjerdedel af Færøernes fiskeeksport går i dag til Rusland. Værdien af denne eksport svarer til værdien af al import af varer til færingernes private forbrug plus al import af olie til øernes energiproduktion.

Det interessante er nu, at den danske regering i dette tilfælde nøjes med at give den færøske ledelse ret i, at Færøerne har hjemtaget ansvaret for sine egne handelsforbindelser. De udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitiske aspekter af sagen har regeringen ikke offentliggjort nogen holdning til.

Hvorfor her og ikke der?

Så er vi tilbage ved sammenligningen. Hvorfor er låntagning til de grønlandske lufthavne af afgørende betydning for rigets sikkerhed, mens Færøernes konsistente afvisning af sanktionerne mod Rusland ikke er?

Er det fordi, Kina allerede anses for farligere end Rusland? Er det fordi lufthavne trods alt får betydning længere ind i fremtiden end de færøske fisk? Eller fordi, USA har store interesser i Grønland, men ikke på Færøerne? Kun en uge efter, at Lars Løkke Rasmussen i Nuuk indgik sin ny aftale med Kim Kielsen, formanden for Naalakkersuisut,  meddelte USA, at lufthavnsstrukturen i Grønland har det amerikanske forsvars store bevågenhed; det kunne ligne en støtteerklæring til den danske regerings analyse af lufthavnenes sikkerhedspolitiske betydning, men reelt ved vi ikke, hvad der ligger bag.

Uklarheden skaber vanskeligheder. Da Naalakkersuisut i 2014 ophævede forbuddet mod uranudvinding i Grønland gik det helt i hårdknude mellem de daværende politiske ledere, Helle Thorning-Schmidt og Aleqa Hammond. Helle Thorning-Schmidts regering fastholdt, at uranen i Grønland indvirkede på Danmarks udenrigspolitik; Nuuk påpegede, at Grønland overtog alle beslutninger vedrørende den grønlandske undergrund i 2010. Først tre år senere kunne parterne underskrive aftaler, der løste de aktuelle problemer — mens de underliggende uenigheder forblev uafklarede.

I øjeblikket behandler Naalakkersuisut anmodninger fra flere mineselskaber, der gerne vil have udvinde mineraler i Grønland — herunder sjældne jordarter, der bl.a. bruges i avancerede våbensystemer. Det er endnu uklart, hvad den danske regering mener om den sag.

På et rigsmøde på Færøerne i juni mellem Kim Kielsen, Lars Løkke Rasmussen og Færøernes lagmand Aksel Johannesen enedes man om at arbejde på et fælles screening-system, sådan at større projekter i Grønland og på Færøerne i fremtiden analyseres for eventuelle sikkerhedspolitiske komplikationer, inden nogen kommer for godt i gang.

Hvilke institutioner, der skal inddrages, hvem der får beslutningsmagten og hvem, der skal screenes for hvad, hvorfor, hvornår og ud fra hvilke kriterier, står dog stadig hen i de uvisse. De praktiske vanskeligheder står i kø: Endnu er ingen færøske og grønlandske politikere og kun et lille fåtal af embedsmænd f.eks. clearet til at se fortroligt-stemplede dokumenter fra efterretningstjenesterne eller Danmarks ambassader i udlandet.  

Dette blogindlæg er også bragt som nyhedsanalyse på Altinget:Arktis 24.09 2018


Hans Ø – nu på BBC World News!

juni 20, 2018 • Af

I april havde jeg fornøjelsen at besøge Hans Ø sammen med en privat, schweizisk delegation. Efterfølgende skrev jeg i Weekendavisen og på den amerikanske Arktis-portal om, hvordan Danmark og Canada i mere end 45 år har været ude af stand til at enes om, hvem der ejer denne ekstremt afsidesliggende, golde, kolde og utilgængelig klippeknold langt oppe i Kennedy-kanalen mellem Canadas Ellesmere Island og det mest nordvestlige Grønland. Hans Ø ligger flere timers helikopterrejse nord for Siorapaluk – verdens nordligste bygd! de søde folk på BBC læste min klumme på ArcticToday; så ringede de – og her er de 4-5 minutters tv, der kom ud af den sag:



COLD RUSH – ny bog om Danmark og Grønland

maj 24, 2018 • Af

Herligt – jeg har lige fået omslaget på min ny bog: COLD RUSH – der udkommer i Storbritannien og Canada om kort tid.

cold rush greenland arctic denmark journalism

Omslaget på den canadiske udgave af Cold Rush

COLD RUSH er kort sagt en journalist rejse gennem de seneste ti års udvikling i Grønlands og Danmark rolle i det moderne Arktis og i forholdet mellem de to dele af kongeriget. Det er en slags internationaliseret kondensat af de tre bøger, jeg har skrevet om samme temaer på dansk siden 2013 – og især de to første, Når isen forsvinder og Balladen om Grønland, der lige som den seneste Hvis Grønland river sig løs er udkommet på Gyldendals forlagJeg har i de seneste år fået en del forespørgsler fra interesserede, der ikke taler dansk, så det har længe været en drøm at få en bog ud på engelsk, som sammenfatter fortællingen. Jeg ved, at der en del mennesker ude i verden, der undrer sig såre over det dansk-grønlandske forhold, og jeg forstår godt denne undren. Når vi nu selv knap nok kan finde rundt i forholdet mellem Danmark og Grønland, tænk engang, hvor indviklet det så må være for udlændinge!

Jeg tror, det er vigtigt også for os i Danmark og for Grønland, at resten af verden får et bedre indblik i Grønlands og Danmarks indbyrdes relation og i, hvordan de to nationer tackler de nye udfordinger i Arktis. Klimaforandringerne, de truede isbjørne og andre klima-relaterede arktiske fænomener har fået hele verden til at fokusere på Arktis – og dermed på Grønland – og rigtigt mange politikere, organisationer, regeringer, aktivister, kunsterne, erhvervsledere mener, at de bør gøre “noget”. Jeg husker tydeligt, da jeg i 2013 talte med den daværende formand for Naalakkersuisut, det grønlandske landsstyre, Kuupik Kleist, om hans oplevelser i de fire år, han havde været formand. Jeg spurgte ham, hvad der stod stærkest i hans erindring, og han svarede uden tøven, at det var alle de mennesker fra hele verden – England, Saudi Arabien, USA, Asien – som ustandseligt havde givet ham “gode råd” om, hvordan han burde styre sit land.

Det antyder, hvorfor jeg håber, det er umagen værd at udgive en let tilgængelig, uafhængig bog på engelsk til dem, der ikke taler dansk, om de store linjer i kongeriget og i vores rolle i Arktis.

Det har været lidt af en rejse, og der er mange, der fortjener tak – men nogle fortjener det rigtigt meget. Oversættelsen blev organiseret med fænomenal assistance fra de tre gæve oversættere, Sara, Stina og Mette – eller som der står i bogen:

Translation from Danish:
Sara Hollænder Schousboe, cand.ling.merc, translator, project manager
Stina Flecks Gottschalck, cand.ling.merc, translator
Mette Nørgaard Thomsen, cand.ling.merc, translator
Initial translation by Kevin McGwin appeared in ‘The Greenland
Dilemma’ by Martin Breum, 2015

Og endelig: Det var Hanne, min kone, der i sin tid fik ideen til COLD RUSH. Jeg var i færd med at få min bog Balladen om Grønland oversat til engelsk. Så spurgte hun: Hvad så med den første, Når isen forsvinder? Skal den ikke også oversættes? Og BUM – så var ideen født: En bog, der sammenfatter det hele! Hjælp gerne med at sprede kendskabet til den!


Lost in Translation

maj 23, 2018 • Af
Forud for valget i Grønland i april var jeg en tur i Ilulissat. Det blev til en artikel i Weekendavisen om sprog, om skellet mellem Nuuk og provinsen i Grønland – som følger her: 
Separatisme. Tirsdagens valg i Grønland er også en kamp mellem en voksende hovedstad og den udkant, der henter Grønlands guld, fiskene og rejerne, op af havet. I valgkampen smelter bitterheden over centraliseringen sammen med kravet om uafhængighed. De løsrivelses-ivrige politikere fisker stemmerne hos den halvdel af befolkningen, der ikke taler dansk.

ILULISSAT – Ude ved iskanten i Ilulissats verdensberømte isfjord ligger seks åbne fiskejoller med kraftige, sorte påhængsmotorer fortøjet til isen. Længere ude på vandet duver mastodontiske isfjelde. Solen bager, det er vindstille, otte-ti graders frost. Turister betaler formuer for det her. En fisker med svedperler på panden, blå kedeldragt og de klassiske sorte og orange gummistøvler kommer trækkende over isen med en mægtig plasticdunk med benzin inde fra byen. Han har ikke vanter på.

Illooraq Esekias Therkelsen droppede skolen som 13-årig og har fisket siden i Diskobugten. Foto: Morten Rasch

Illooraq Esekias Therkelsen droppede skolen som 13-årig og har fisket siden i Diskobugten. Foto: Morten Rasch

Jeg er taget til den grønlandske provins og vil spørge ham, hvordan udsigten til valget på tirsdag ser ud for en jollefisker? I Grønland skelner man mellem Nuuk og »kysten«, en samlebetegnelse for alle byerne og bygderne langs kysten.

Fiskeren her og hans kolleger på kysten udgør grundstammen i Grønlands økonomi og folkesjæl. Det er ham og de andre fiskere/fangere her i det nordvestlige Grønland, deres koner og venner på trawlerne og fiskefabrikkerne, der henter Grønlands guld – fiskene og rejerne – op af havet.

Grønland er verdens største producent af koldtvandsrejer; fisk og rejer skaffer over 90 procent af eksportindtægterne. Og nu er der udskrevet valg i utide netop på grund af afgrundsdyb politisk uenighed om rejekvoterne, kvotekongerne og forestillingen om, at den lille mand får for lidt.

Mit akutte dilemma er, at fiskeren i den blå kedeldragt og jeg ikke kan tale sammen. Jeg boede et par år i Grønland, da jeg var dreng, men jeg taler ikke et kvæk grønlandsk; det gør langt hovedparten af de cirka 5.000 bofaste danskere i Grønland heller ikke. Og fiskeren med benzindunken, som han nu med en kraftanstrengelse bakser op i sin jolle, taler ikke dansk — det gør halvdelen af grønlænderne ikke, og især ikke her ude på kysten. Han peger ud over fjorden og fortæller livligt på grønlandsk; vi forsøger med tegnsprog, vi griner, han vil vældig gerne snakke, jeg spørger på ny, men nej.

På den facon kommer vi ufrivilligt til at illustrere en del af pointen: De uafhængigheds-ivrige politikere, der vil løsrive Grønland fra Danmark gerne allerede i 2021 – præcis 300 år efter at missionæren Hans Egede indledte kolonitiden i 1721 – eller de, som i det mindste vil have vedtaget en punkt-for-punkt-køreplan for et hurtigt ryk mod friheden, har ikke flertal blandt vælgerne, langtfra.

Men de taler højt i tv-debatterne, de borer i et kløende sår, og de ånder de mere pragmatiske som landsstyreformand Kim Kielsen hedt ned ad nakken og kritiserer dem for at være vankelmodige. De løsrivelses-ivrige taler direkte til et solidt mindretal, som ikke mindst skal findes herude på kysten og i den halvdel af befolkningen, der kun taler grønlandsk.

»Sproget er en kilde til dyb frustration for rigtig mange. Vi lever i et stærkt opdelt samfund med store grupper, der kun taler grønlandsk, og andre grupper, der kun taler dansk. Det er blevet meget polariseret,« forklarer Michael Binzer, tidligere administrerende direktør for Air Greenland.


Ønsket om mere selvbestemmelse blev artikuleret i Grønland allerede i 1700-tallet, da den Kongelige Grønlandske Handel for alvor satte sig på sagerne, og det er nemt at finde ny næring i dag. Tag blot de mest banale anstødssten: Mange chefer i det offentlige er stadig danskere og taler ikke sproget. Den kræftramte ældre kvinde på sygehuset skal stadig bruge tolk for at tale med lægen. Mange ledere i de største virksomheder, også Selvstyrets egne, er stadig danske.

Danskerne – og den lille, grønlandske elite – bor i de største huse, kører i de sejeste biler, holder de dyreste ferier. Mange redaktører på aviserne og hos KNR, Grønlands svar på DR, er danskere, mens en nådesløs sortering af dem, der ikke taler dansk, begynder allerede i gymnasiet og på håndværkeruddannelserne: Uden et godt dansk klarer du den ikke. 62 procent af de voksne grønlændere havde i 2016 alene en folkeskoleuddannelse, og frafaldet fra ungdomsuddannelserne er højt.

Gerderaq Nielsen, 60 år, fra den lille bygd Akunnaaq med 80 indbyggere lidt syd for Ilulissat har ingen formel uddannelse: »Det, jeg kan, lærte jeg på slæden af min far,« fortæller han. Han fik en jolle som 12-årig og satte langline efter qeeraq, havkat. Han taler heller ikke dansk, men nu er jeg bevæbnet med tolk.

Gerderaq Nielsen går ind for Grønlands løsrivelse, men han hører til pragmatikerne fra Inuit Ataqatigiit, SFs tidligere søsterparti, et af de to store partier i Grønland, så han ønsker ingen fast deadline for uafhængighedsprocessen. Politikerne bør i stedet fokusere på levevilkårene for folk i bygderne og ikke på den evige ekspansion af Nuuk, mener han. »Vi blev lovet, at erhvervslivet ville blive lagt ud på kysten, hvor vi bor, men det er gået lige modsat,« klager han.

Der er 56.000 indbyggere i Grønland, færre end i Haderslev Kommune, men den sure kamp mellem udkant og hovedstad er mindst lige så skarp som i Danmark. Godt 17.000 – næsten en tredjedel af borgerne – bor i Nuuk. Hovedstaden udvider energisk, og her i valgkampen smelter de løsrivelses-ivrige kampråbet om uafhængighed tæt sammen med bitterheden over centraliseringen.

»Vi er reelt et meget splittet samfund. Der skal meget lidt til, før folk begynder at rive hovederne af hinanden. Det er ærgerligt,« siger Ole Dorph. Han er tidligere ansvarlig for Grønlands socialpolitik og to gange borgmester i Ilulissat og dermed for verdens mest udstrakte kommune, senest fra 2013 og til i år.

På tirsdag stiller han op til Inatsisartut, det grønlandske parlament, for Siumut, Socialdemokratiets søsterparti, der har siddet på magten i alle år undtagen fire siden det første valg i Grønland i 1979. Dorph vil hellere tale om uddannelse end om løsrivelse:

»Vi ser jo i aviserne og i fjernsynet, at Lars Løkke siger, at vi kan glemme alt om bloktilskuddet fra Danmark, den dag vi vil være vores egen nation,« siger han.

»Det er vi nødt til at have i baghovedet. Vi kommer til at mangle mellem fire og fem milliarder. Vi er pisket til at stå sammen og finde nogle løsninger, der giver penge først,« siger han.

Bor man i Danmark, kan det være svært at forstå, hvordan snakken om Grønlands uafhængighed kan give mening. Statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen påpeger gerne det tilsyneladende utopiske ved projektet: Hver gang politikerne i Grønland bruger to kroner på plejehjem eller skoler, kommer den ene fra Danmark.

Bloktilskuddet på 3,7 milliarder udgør halvdelen af det offentlige budget, og dertil kommer politiet, domstolene og den danske flådes fiskerikontrol, redningstjeneste med videre – samlet set indsatser for yderligere en halv milliard om året.

Men for min fiskerkontakt ude på iskanten og mange andre vil pengene fra Danmark ikke være det afgørende på tirsdag. Det handler mindst lige så meget om identitet, sprog og kultur, og som Ole Dorph forklarer, har mange jollefiskere i de seneste år tjent en halv million eller mere om året på at fiske hellefisk.

»80 procent af vores borgere her i Nordgrønland har ikke nogen formel uddannelse, men det betyder jo ikke, at de er til last for samfundet. Det er dem, der tjener al valutaen til landet. Og mange af jollefiskerne, der tjener godt, fordi priserne er høje, de lytter til de politikere, der gerne vil løsrive Grønland hurtigt. Hvorfor ikke, tænker de, det går jo rigtig godt,« siger han.

Dorph hører som sine partifæller til pragmatikerne, men han taler varmt om visionen om det uafhængige Grønland. Samtlige af de etablerede partier er enige om, at løsrivelsen vil komme — kun timingen skændes de om.

Et enkelt nystiftet parti, Samarbejdspartiet, ønsker at forny i stedet for at opløse rigsfællesskabet, men ifølge den første og hidtil eneste meningsmåling kommer de måske slet ikke ind. Selv arbejdsgiverforeningen Grønlands Erhverv skrev i sit blad, at »GE går også ind for selvstændighed«. Det er næppe hele sandheden, men det illustrerer, hvordan den politiske samtale i Grønland ikke længere for alvor har plads til andre standpunkter.

Løsrivelse i 2021

Partii Naleraq – Pejlemærket – var hurtigst til at banke valgplakater op her i Ilulissat, indbyggertal 4800, Grønlands tredjestørste by. Partii Naleraq, der deler navn med byens førende værtshus, ledes af tidligere landsstyreformand Hans Enoksen, som kun modvilligt for få dage siden indrømmede, at løsrivelse i 2021 måske er en kende optimistisk.

Partiets plakater hænger ved Brugsen, kirken, telepost og mange andre steder i byen, men efter valget vil Partii Naleraq stadig være en lilleput. De to store partier, Siumut og Inuit Ataqatigiit, vil ifølge alle målinger igen sætte sig tungt på over halvdelen af de 31 pladser i Inatsisartut. Siumuts Kim Kielsen eller IAs partileder Sara Olsvig vil blive udråbt til formand for Naalakkersuisut eller Premier of Greenland, som det også hedder.

Men samlet set vil de to store formentlig også tabe terræn på tirsdag. De kæmper hårdere end før for at fastholde vælgernes tro på, at en række problemer må løses, før løsrivelsen bliver aktuel. De to store partier er enige om, at langt flere skal uddannes, nye indtægter skabes, og den høje selvmordsrate, boligmanglen, de seksuelle overgreb på mindreårige osv. skal bekæmpes. (Sexovergrebene er i øvrigt ikke tabu i Grønland. KNR, Grønlands DR, havde tirsdag programsat en hel valgdebat på tv om samme).

Den skandaleombruste Aleqa Hammond, tidligere formand for Naalakkersuisut, er valgets joker. Også hun er fra kysten, opvokset i Uummannaq nord for Ilulissat.

Med usvækket sans for drama ventede hun til sidste sekund med at erklære sit kandidatur for et nyt parti, Nunatta Qitornai, vort lands børn, stiftet af Grønlands tidligere udenrigsansvarlige, Vittus Qujaukitsoq – en politisk sleben forkæmper for hurtige løsrivelse. Han ønsker systematisk overtagelse af flere ansvarsområder fra Danmark, decentralisering og en grønlandsk kystvagt til afløsning af den danske flåde.

»Vi kommer ikke til at sulte ihjel,« sagde han allerede i 2017. Han er parat til at skære i den offentlige service – skoler, plejehjem osv. – hvis det kan sikre uafhængigheden. Det er en nyskabelse. Selv de ivrigste har hidtil fastholdt, at velfærd efter skandinavisk model er en del af Grønlands dna.

Vi er reelt et meget splittet samfund. Der skal meget lidt til, før folk begynder at rive hovederne af hinanden. Det er ærgerligt.

Ole Dorph, tidligere borgmester i Ilulissat

Ole Dorph, Michael Binzer og andre, jeg taler med, gætter, at Aleqa Hammond vil trække så mange stemmer på tirsdag, at både hun, Qujaukitsoq og måske flere fra det ny parti får plads i Inatsisartut – på trods af Hammonds synderegister.

Hun strøg til tops i 2013. Hun var formand for Siumut og vandt et valg på skarpe krav om mere kontant beskatning af udenlandske mineselskaber og et rungende budskab om »uafhængighed i min levetid«. Hun fik 6818 personlige stemmer – den højeste score i Grønland nogensinde.

Som formand for Naalakkersuisut fik hun snapt skærpet mine-beskatningen og ophævet forbuddet mod uranudvinding i Grønland – i øvrigt i hård strid med regeringen i København.

Efter mindre end et år blev hun abrupt væltet af sine egne. En revision afslørede, at hun havde ladet Grønlands landskasse »lægge ud« for flyrejser, ferieophold i Paris, drinks med videre for sig selv, sin samlever og dennes børn. Da alt kom for en dag, lød det samlede beløb på 204.000 kroner. Pressen mindede om andre, ældre sager og en dom for bedrageri. Vrede borgere gik i optog i Nuuks gader. Aleqa Hammond tog orlov, Kim Kielsen blev ny Premier of Greenland, men i 2015 stillede Aleqa Hammond op igen, nu til en af Grønlands to pladser i Folketinget, og igen satte hun rekord.

Hun sad i Folketinget for Siumut til august 2016, men selvskadede så igen. Ekstra Bladet fortalte om misbrug af et kreditkort fra Folketinget til private indkøb for i alt 12.953,10 kroner. Denne gang måtte hun sige farvel til Siumut, men hun fortsatte i Folketinget som løsgænger, og da hendes seneste fadæser ikke har ført til dom eller bøde, har hun frit kunnet stille op til valget på tirsdag.

Hendes fans på kysten er tilsyneladende klar til at glemme skandalerne. Som Michael Binzer, den tidligere chef for Air Greenland, forklarer mig: »Vi har et andet forhold til skyld i Grønland. Her handler det mere om at give folk en chance til. Vi er et lille land. Vi har brug for alle dem, der kan noget, og Aleqa Hammond er dygtig.«

Michael Binzer stemmer ikke på Aleqa Hammond, men han kender turen. Han blev selv detroniseret i 2014, da det viste sig, at han havde fiflet med sit cv. I dag er han anerkendt ledelseskonsulent og i færd med et kursus for Royal Greenland, Selvstyrets fiskekoncern.

»Hun har måske en flosset moral, men det ændrer ikke ved, at folk ser op til hende. Hun har udsyn, taler tysk, dansk, engelsk, og hun taler til hjertet, ikke til hovedet. Hun taler til den menige grønlænder herude på kysten. Aleqa Hammond er vores version af Dansk Folkeparti,« siger han.

Fisk til Østen

Det lykkes mig at finde min kontakt fra iskanten igen. Illooraq Esekias Therkelsen er født 1966 i bygden Ilimanaq, der ligger syd for Ilulissat. Han droppede skolen som 13-årig og har fisket siden. Vi futter ud mellem isskosserne i Diskobugten i hans jolle på en hylende kold eftermiddag – nu med tolk.

n Rasch

Han bruger stadig ikke vanter, men ryger til gengæld filtersmøger helt i bund uden at tage dem ud af munden. Han mener, at politikerne skulle interessere sig mere for at strømline fiskeriet: »Jeg sætter min langline om formiddagen og indhandler måske 800 kilo hellefisk om eftermiddagen. De kunne flyve fisken til Østen og sælge den som frisk fisk samme dag, hvis de havde udvidet lufthavnen noget før,« siger han.

En forlængelse af landingsbanen i Ilulissat til interkontinentale fly har stået på dagsordenen i årevis. Igen får Nuuk én over nakken: »Det er os fiskere heroppe i Ilulissat, der lander værdierne. Det er os, der sponsorerer alt det, der sker nede i Nuuk, men hvad gør de for os?« spørger han. Kiloprisen på hellefisk har i nogen tid ligget på 20-25 kroner. På en god dag henter Illooraq Therkelsen 16.000-18.000 kroner på sin langline.

Fra toppen af hans jolle-antenne blafrer Siumuts parti-vimpel. Illooraq Therkelsen har allerede brevstemt, og han mener det samme om løsrivelse som Kim Kielsen, partiformanden: Selvstændigheden skal nok komme, men først når Grønland har råd.

Jeg spørger, om han har et budskab til Weekendavisens læsere. »Uuuha,« siger han og spytter et udbrændt filter i vandet.

Han ser ud over bugten. Danmark er langt væk.

Han melder pas og sender i stedet en klassiker til de grønlandske politikere: »Når der er valg, lover de altid, at vi får billigere varer fra Danmark, bedre forhold for pensionisterne og billigere benzin. Men de glemmer altid det hele bagefter,« siger han.

Samme aften mødes vi tilfældigt i baren på byens dyreste hotel, men dilemmaet består: Tolken har fri.


Why election day in Greenland is anything but ordinary

maj 4, 2018 • Af

After the elections in Greenland in April I wrote this column for in the US; posted on May 4th.:

As this is being written, the premier of Greenland, Kim Kielsen, is taking his time negotiating with potential partners over the terms for his next coalition government.

Kim Kielsen (th) og partifællen Karl Kristian Kruse ved valgstedet i Nuuk. Foto: Ritzau / Scanpix /Arctic Today

Kielsen won the elections in Greenland on April 24, not with any impressive margin, but with sufficient votes for his Siumut party and for parties that he is on speaking terms with that finding a majority among the 31 members of Inatsisartut, Greenland’s parliament, should not be uncomfortably difficult.

I was in Greenland on election day, trotting around in snowy Nuuk where the political parties, their candidates and supporters waited for the electoral results in the community hall, at Daddy’s nightclub, in sports facilities and other locales until far into the small hours of the next morning; some celebrating wins, some accepting losses, and all watching the crucial digits on the TV screen as results poured in from Greenland’s many towns and smaller communities.

Big deal, you think, this sounds just like any other election?

But no, not by a far shot. In one sense you are right, of course, these elections were very, very ordinary, but this is exactly why the whole process was so much out of the ordinary and why suggesting otherwise would be misreading Greenland very badly.

These seemingly ordinary proceedings — votes cast, results counted, negotiations to follow — represent a fundamentally important story of modern Arctic ingenuity, creativity, innovation and social cohesion that we should be careful to take note of.

Everything works

Just as the voting centers closed at 8 p.m. in the evening on April 24, the mayor of Nuuk, Asii Narup Chemnitz, who served as head of the capital’s electoral committee, walked up to me in the sports hall that served as the heart of the elections in Nuuk:

“Sometimes we forget how impressive it is that everything works here,” she said, embracing with a gesture not only Nuuk, but the entire Greenlandic nation. Understandably tired after 12 hours of overseeing the local electoral proceedings she still found time to marvel at the underlying wonder of it all.

We were just two minutes past the last voter in Nuuk and a bunch of her employees were already busy counting votes (under due supervision from appointed controllers), others were dissembling voting booths, cleaning, unscrewing noticeboards and generally readying the hall for more sports in the morning.

Chemnitz reminded me how rigorously controlled voting, organized according to the most detailed rulebooks on proper, western, democratic elections, had taken place not only here in urban Nuuk but also at 71 other locations in the vastness of Greenland, the world’s largest island.

Ballots by dogsled

In the end this became my take-home-lesson from the Greenland elections 2018, delivered to me on election night by the exhausted but happy mayor of Nuuk. Democracy worked — and will continue to work in Greenland. Not only through the strong dedication to its principles by the 56,000 citizens of this unique nation (71.9 percent of 40,769 eligible voters took part), but very much also through the efforts of ordinary people of all walks of life who make up the superbly complex web of logistical solutions in this nation where no two towns are connected by road or rail, where weather patterns are sometimes difficult, where money is often scarce but where human ingenuity and grit somehow continue to rule and flourish.

Following Arctic affairs I often come across terms like “isolation”, “remote”, “wilderness”, “uninhabited”, “traditional”, “icy” and other descriptions. I probably inadvertently use some of these myself; born, raised and still living as I am in very urbanite — and anything but Arctic — conditions in Denmark. But I am trying to understand that we all live in the center of our personal lives and that nowhere is essentially remote — unless you are not there yourself and unable to imagine that you were. Of course, the Arctic sometimes requires different solutions to practical issues than Toronto or Copenhagen and vice versa. But it has long been time to dismantle the more widespread misconceptions of the Arctic as “remote” and replace them with more appropriate imagery.

The electoral process in Greenland worked without a hitch (as least as far as we know) not only in Nuuk, but in villages with less than 50 people hundreds of kilometers away on the island’s East Coast on the other side of the vast ice sheet. Everything worked also in Siorapaluk, the world’s most northern settlement — north even of Thule Air Base — just as it did in tiny Aappilattoq, 2,500 kilometers to the south.

In Savissivik, a town of less than 60 people in the very far north, things almost went bad: As ballots for all voters in Greenland’s northern districts were flown from Nuuk to Ilulissat, the administrative seat of northern Greenland, weather conditions deteriorated. Only through extreme vigilance by those who followed the distribution of ballots electronically did ballots reach Savissivik in time. Firstly, the were re-routed and flown from Ilulissat to Pittufik/Thule Air Base. From here, Air Greenland’s station leader, Peter Lilie, called a hunter in Savissivik, Markus Hansen, who immediately set out on a 150-kilometer journey on his dogsled. Lilie got in his 4X4 and headed towards Camp Tuto, a disbanded military research site at the edge of Thule Air Base. The two met there, ballots for Savissivik got on Hansen’s sled and polling began on time in Savissivik. 31 members of the community cast their vote.

In total, 43,000 ballots were distributed in Greenland by planes, helicopters, ships, speedboats, automobiles, snowmobiles and dogsleds.

Meanwhile, Greenland’s publicly owned telecommunications company, Tele-Post, got ready for the sensitive task of collecting electronically the results from all 72 election centers on a coastline of 2,500 mostly uninhabited kilometers  — a process executed so seamlessly that I never thought of it until much later. Watching TV in Nuuk, we had results popping up from all corners of Greenland, which were then instantly integrated, calculated and presented as rapidly and smoothly on-screen as if we were in Toronto, Stockholm or Washington.

And so it went, quite ordinarily, until at the very end of a long election night we all knew who won and who lost. Around midnight the bizarre happened: Kim Kielsen, who had just had a congratulatory call from the main runner up, Sara Olsvig from Inuit Ataqatigiit, Greenland’s second largest party, made an appearance at Daddy’s, Nuuk’s main nightclub that his party, Siumut, had taken over for the occasion. Everyone expected Kielsen to now make his victory speech, but at this very moment the owner of the club, himself a candidate of Kim Kielsen’s party, announced that the club was closing, since local law prohibited it from remaining open any longer. Kielsen never made any speech.

Not this, but every other important detail of the electoral process was immediately available to all citizens in Greenland on live radio or television.

Voting, counting, reporting — it all worked flawlessly; even a recount of votes cast in Sisimiut, Greenland’s second largest city, that was made necessary by a technical fault in the middle of the night.

And right now, as I write this, the Premier of Greenland, Kim Kielsen, is continuing to carefully ponder his next move. As I finished writing, I just checked again and there are still no news. Coffee is poured. Negotiations drag on. It is all so very ordinary. Which is what makes it extraordinary.


Risfællesskabet – skal Kina bygge Grønlands lufthavne?

april 7, 2018 • Af

I Weekendavisen i denne uge lyder en af overskrifterne:


Det er en artikel, jeg længe har glædet mig til at skrive, og pludselig blev den ekstra aktuel, fordi der for nylig opstod mulighed for, at et kinesisk entreprenørselskab skal udføre de store lufthavnprojekter i Grønland.  “Risfællesskabet” – rigsfællesskabet stavet uden G – optræder som allerede i min bog “Balladen om Grønland” fra 2014, hvor jeg talte med en forsker fra Københavns Universitet om de kinesiske minearbejdere, der dengang var ventet i Grønland. Minearbejdernes indtog blev aldrig aktuelt, men tanken om den talende stavemåde blev hængende:

Anne-Marie Brady kommer næppe til at fylde meget i valgkampen frem mod valget i Grønland den 24. april. Hendes historie er ellers uhyre relevant.

I december 2017 brød ukendte gerningsmænd ind på hendes kontor på University of Canterbury i Christchurch og stjal hendes harddiske og flere USB-stik. I februar i år brød de ind i hendes private hjem og stjal tre laptops og to telefoner. Indbruddene efterforskes nu af New Zealands politi og efterretningsvæsen. Selv mener Anne-Marie Brady, at gerningsmændene må have været kinesiske agenter eller på anden vis ansporet af Kina: “Nogen forsøger tydeligvis at sende et signal til mig — formentlig for at intimidere mig. Jeg havde kontanter liggende frit fremme, men de var uberørte, ligesom mine smykker. Folk, jeg har været i kontakt med i Kina, er blevet kaldt ind til afhøring hos det kinesiske Sikkerhedsministerium,” siger hun til pressen i New Zealand.

Anne-Marie Brady, forfatter til “China – A Polar Great Nation”


Brady udgav i 2017 bogen China As A Polar Great Nation, der med mængder af detaljer beskriver, hvordan Kinas hastige indtog i polarområderne — herunder Grønland — indgår centralt i Kinas plan om at blive en af klodens førende nationer teknologisk, innovationsmæssigt og økonomisk inden 2030 og en af verdens førende nationer på alle fronter inden 2050.

Et af midlerne er præsident Xi Jinpings store Belt-and-Road initiativ, på dansk: Silkevejsprojektet, hvor Kina med milliardinvesteringer i infrastruktur i udlandet sikrer sig mere handel, adgang til mineraler, olie og gas og afsætning for kinesiske produkter, standarder og teknologi, mens man høster ny viden, erfaring og kontante overskud.    Fra Grønland lød det i sidste uge, at et kinesisk entreprenørselskab, det statskontrollerede China Communications Construction Company Ltd., CCCC, nu er blandt de seks selskaber, der er prækvalificeret af Kalaallit Airports, det grønlandske landsstyres lufthavns-byggeselskab. CCCC, der blandt Kinas største entreprenørkoncerner, kan derfor nu byde på Grønlands aktuelle lufthavnsprojekt til cirka tre mia. kroner — det hidtil dyreste infrastrukturprojekt i Grønlands historie. Projektet gælder udvidelse af lufthavnene i Nuuk og Ilulissat og en ny i Sydgrønland.

De grønlandske ledere arbejder hårdt på at skaffe kinesiske investorer til Grønland, mens den danske regering frygter, at Kina får så stor økonomisk indflydelse, at det kan misbruges politisk. Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste advarede i 2017 om, at Kinas ønske om indflydelse i Arktis er så stort, at kinesiske investeringer ikke nødvendigvis behøver at være rentable. Grønland vil i FE’s optik være særlig sårbar:

“Som en følge af tætte forbindelser mellem kinesiske virksomheder og det politiske system i Kina er der særlige risici forbundet med omfattende kinesiske investeringer i Grønland. Det skyldes den indvirkning, som større investeringer fra Kina vil have på et samfund af Grønlands størrelse. Hertil kommer, at risikoen for politisk indblanding og pression øges, når det drejer sig om investeringer i strategiske ressourcer.”

Brady, der også er redaktør af det videnskabelige tidsskrift Polar Journal, har efter indbruddene i New Zealand stort set ikke givet interview, men hun indvilger i at besvare et par skriftlige spørgsmål fra Weekendavisen om Kina og Grønland: “Den grønlandske regering bør nu undersøge den eksisterende lovgivning for at finde ud af, om den er tilstrækkelig, når det gælder om at beskytte det grønlandske politiske systems integritet. Regeringen i Grønland bør investere i at udvikle en dybere viden om Kina i Grønlands offentlige sektor, og så bør den proaktivt undersøge i hvilket omfang, det kinesiske kommunistparti er engageret i at få politisk indflydelse i Grønland,” skriver hun.

Kort før indbruddene i New Zealand udgav hun rapporten Magic Weapons – China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping, en minutiøs kortlægning af Kinas infiltrering i det politiske liv i New Zealand. Hun afslørede bl.a., hvordan et parlamentsmedlem, født i Kina, glemte at opgive sin fortid i det kinesiske efterretningsvæsens tjeneste, da han søgte ophold i New Zealand. Hun beskrev i detaljer, hvordan den kinesiske diaspora i New Zealand med opbakning fra Kina systematisk donerer penge til de politiske partier, stiller op og bliver valgt, og hvordan tidligere toppolitikere, herunder den fhv. premierminister Dame Jenny Shipley har fået lukrative poster i de lokale filialer af kinesiske banker. En anden fhv. premierminister, John Key, gør nu forretninger i Kina — og nægter at oplyse, hvem det var, der i 2017 købte en stor ejendom af ham til langt over markedspris. 

Ifølge Brady anser Kina de polare områder som en ny frontlinje på linje med det ydre rum og havbunden under de store oceaner; åbne områder, hvor et kapløb om magten og råstofferne er i fuld sving. Polarforskningen er et vigtigt redskab. Kina har på få år bygget så mange og store forskningsstationer på Antarktis, at Kina nu er ved at overhale USA og Rusland på isen. I 2048 skal et forbud mod minedrift på Antarktis til revision, og Kina sigter ifølge Brady målrettet efter mineralerne — og det samme i Arktis.

Analysen passer som skallen på et æg til Kinas indtog i Grønland. Også der handler det efter alt at dømme om at sikre Kina adgang til jern, zink, bly, uran,  sjældne jordarter m.v., og om at skaffe Kina politisk indflydelse i Arktis. Kinas stærke fokus på forskningen i Grønland skal ifølge Brady fremme begge formål — foruden forskningen selv. Kina og Grønland indgik i 2013 en aftale om udforskning af mineralerne i Grønland. China Geological Survey har været igang siden, og Kinas centrale organ for polarområderne, State Oceanic Administration, indgik i maj 2016 en bredere aftale med Grønland om forskning i geologi, havis, glaciologi, atmosfærefysik, miljø, klima, udveksling af forskere mv.

I 2017 fik vi et første glimt af planen for en forskningsstation, som det statslige Polar Research Institute of China gerne vil bygge i Grønland. Planen lyder på boliger og laboratorier på ialt 2000 kvm; den største forskningsstation i Grønland nogensinde. Den senest opførte danske station, Århus Universitets Villum Research Station i Nordøstgrønland, der blev åbnet i 2016 med dronningens assistance, er på bare 600 kvm — inklusive garagen. I maj 2017 påkaldte en gruppe kinesiske turister, der skulle på krydstogt i Grønland, sig særlig interesse.

Tæt på Grønlands internationale lufthavn i Kangerlussuaq mødtes en del af kineserne med forskere fra Grønlands Naturinstitut. Man diskuterede et muligt fælles projekt med opsættelse af en satellitmodtager til klimaforskning. Billeder med Kinas røde flag blev taget, og i Kina blev mødet fremstillet som endnu et Kina-skridt i Arktis. Dilemmaet var, at en satellitmodtager muligvis også vil kunne bistå Kinas navigationssystem Beidou — et sidestykke til det vestlige GPS-system af potentiel militær signifikans. Som Brady skrev til det grønlandske medie “Skulle USA affyre missiler mod Kina, vil de flyve over Arktis, og det samme vil missiler, Kina affyrede mod USA. Her er der brug for et velfungerende polart satellitnetværk, og for at få det, skal de have arktiske og antarktiske satellitmodtagerstationer”. Den kinesiskkyndige blogger, Miguel Martin, bosat i Polen, hævder, at en af “turisterne” i Kangerlussuaq hørte til veteranerne bag Beidou-systemet, en anden havde forbindelse til det kinesiske forsvar. Journalister i Grønland afdækkede, at Naalakkersuisut, det grønlandske landsstyre, ikke var informeret.

Brady minder om Danmarks globale forpligtelser: “Danmark har skrevet under på Wassenaar-aftalen, som skal forebygge eksport at sensitive varer eller teknologier. Grønland bør være omhyggelig med ikke at indgå i eksport af know-how, der både har civil og militær betydning, til et land som Kina, der ikke har underskrevet Wassenaar-aftalen,” skriver hun til Weekendavisen.

Grønlands mineraler   Kina interesse i Grønlands mineraler har længe været kontant. Det statsejede China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group er i dag en del af et mineprojekt ved Citronen Fjord i Nordgrønland, hvor det australske selskab Ironbark har fået grønt lys af Naalakkersuisut, det grønlandske landsstyre, til udvinding af zink og jernmalm. China Nonferrous’ vicepræsident for projekter i udlandet Qin Junman var på besøg i 2017. Minen bliver i givet fald den nordligste på kloden, og Kinas engagement styrker nu Ironbarks jagt på de fornødne investorer.

I Sydgrønland har kinesiske Shenge Resources, der også er forbundet med den kinesiske stat, købt sig ind i potentiel udvinding af uran og såkaldte sjældne jordarter i Kvanefjeldet ved Narsaq. Shenge har siden 2016 ejet 12 procent af Greenland Mining and Energy (GME), der håber at udvinde en af verdens største forekomster af sjældne jordarter i Kvanefjeldet. Projektet er kontroversielt. Mineraler fra de sjældne jordarter hører til dem, FE kalder strategiske; de indgår i både moderne industri og våbenproduktion, og Kina kontrollerer i forvejen cirka 90 procent af verdensmarkedet. Udsigterne til uranudvinding har splittet Grønland i to og projektet har kostet dybe uenigheder med Danmark.

Ved Isua i det centrale Grønland ejer det kinesiske General Nice med base i Hong Kong licensen til en berømt forekomst af jernmalm. I 2014 forlød det, at godt 2000 kinesiske minearbejderes snart ville ankomme — det var dengang en forsker ved København Universitet spøgefuldt foreslog, at rigsfællesskabet kunne staves uden “g” —  men projektet ligger i dag i dvale, formentlig på grund af en overflod af stål på verdensmarkedet.   Grønland i Kina   Grønlands politiske ledere har som New Zealands længe gjort sig anstrengelser for at tiltrække kinesiske investeringer, forskere, turister og studerende. Kina er en vigtig aftager af Grønlands fisk og rejer; Grønlands rederi Royal Arctic Line har købt sit hidtil største skib i Kina.

Allerede i 2005 var Grønlands daværende landsstyreformand i Kina. Siden har mange andre været afsted — og mærket styrkeforholdet. Da Grønlands udenrigsansvarlige Vittus Qujaukitsoq i 2016 var i Asien og ville til et Grønlands-arrangement i Taiwan, blev han hurtigt belært af Beijing om Kinas one-China-politik. Taiwan-besøget måtte afblæses. Det dæmpede dog ikke entusiasmen. I 2017 turnerede den nuværende formand for Naalakkersuisut, Kim Kielsen, i Kina med et entourage på 24 — det tætteste Grønland kommer på at aflægge et egentligt statsbesøg. Her efterlyste Kim Kielsen bl.a. investorer til lufthavnene, godt hjulpet af den danske ambassade i Beijing.  

Den danske regering skal håndtere mindst fire hensyn: Frygten for at Kina får for stor indflydelse i Grønland, frygten for at forstyrre Danmarks egne interesser i Kina, behovet for ikke at støde Grønland fra sig og endelig behovet for at bevare det gode samarbejde med USA i Grønland, herunder især om USAs missilvarslingsanlæg i Thule. Danmark har energisk bistået Kina med at blive fast observatør i Arktisk Råd, og regeringen velsigner rutinemæssigt kinesiske besøg i Grønland. Men statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen forhindrede i 2016 også, at mineselskabet General Nice fik lejlighed til at købe den nedlagte danske flådestation ved Grønnedal i Sydgrønland. Forsvaret opfandt i al hast nye behov for de frønnede barakker, og pludselig var stationen ikke længere til salg.

Danmarks balanceakt er ikke altid lige elegant: Reuters citerede i sidste uge en unavngiven dansk embedsmand for at sige at “Kina har intet at gøre i Grønland” — et udsagn udenrigsminister Anders Samuelsen straks dementerede, så det kunne høres helt i Beijing. Forvirringen fik i januar en af Danmarks førende Kina-forskere, Camilla Sørensen fra Forsvarsakademiet, til at opfordre til bedre koordinering og “intensiveret dialog mellem Danmark og Grønland om en langt mere proaktiv håndtering af Kinas stigende rolle og tilstedeværelse i Arktis.” De kinesiske aktører er selv hyper-bevidste om den bekymring, de afstedkommer, men de er også stadig mere åbne om deres interesser.

En af de centrale aktører, strategichef ved Polar Research Institute of China, Zhang Xia, ærgrede sig 1. marts i den partitro avis Global Times utilsløret over, hvordan Danmark stiller sig i vejen for Kinas greb i Grønlands undergrund: “For Grønlands Selvstyre-regering vil udvindingen af de arktiske mineral øge befolkningens indkomst og reducere den økonomiske afhængighed af Danmark,” skrev han. “Men regeringen i Danmark mener, at Grønlands ønske om at udnytte ressourcerne vil øge Grønlands selvstændighed og fremme trangen til løsrivelse, hvilket ville medføre en alvorlig udfordring for Danmarks suverænitet og territoriale integritet. Selvom udviklingen af ressourcerne i Arktis er et økonomisk spørgsmål, påvirker strategiske overvejelser således beslægtede politikområder.” De første folk fra CCCC og de fem andre selskaber — to danske, et dansk-islandsk, et hollandsk og et canadisk — der kan byde på lufthavnene, ventes ifølge Kalaallit Airports på besigtigelse i Grønland inden for en måned.