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Martin Breum


Greenland’s snap election exposes global mineral demand

februar 26, 2021 • Af

A parliamentary election unexpectedly called for in Greenland for 6 April now threatens to impact the access of European industries to minerals that are vital for Europe’s green transition.

Det 600 meter høje brede Kvanefjeld ligger blot seks-syv kilometer fra byen Narsaq i Sydgrønland. Greenland Minerals søger tilladelse til at anlægge en mine på det brede plateau på fjeldets top. Foto: Martin Breum

As the electoral campaign in Greenland picks up speed, still more Greenlandic politicians seem to waver in their support for a proposed mining project in southern Greenland, which holds one of the world’s largest deposits of rare earth minerals.

These minerals are crucial for green technologies like wind turbines, solar panels and electrical cars.

Greenland Minerals Ltd, an Australian-owned company which hopes to extract rare earths from the Kuannersuit mountain in southern Greenland, has joined the European Raw Materials Alliance, a recent initiative by the EU commission.

The future of the mine, however, seems increasingly challenged as more politicians, fearful of losing popular support before the elections, appear sensitive to protests by local environmental groups.

Shifting signals about the mine from Siumut, Greenland’s governing party, have caused particular uncertainty. The party had a new chairman in December.

“The party’s new leadership tried to get the public hearings about the mine postponed. It looks to me as if Siumut is more divided on this issue than ever,” Jensine Berthelsen, political editor of Sermitsiaq, Greenland’s main newspaper, told EUobserver.

Greenland’s main opposition party, Inuit Ataqatigiit, is vehemently opposed to the mine and scored well in the latest opinion poll.

After the elections, a new government in Nuuk will consider complaints collected during the hearings and decide whether or not to grant Greenland Minerals a licence to mine.

Uranium controversy

The proposed mining site is only a few kilometres from Narsaq, a town of 1,350 people in southern Greenland. The project has divided Greenland into two bitterly opposed camps for more than 10 years.

Critics fear large scale environmental devastation, in particular since the Kuannersuit mountain also contains substantial deposits of uranium that will surface with the rare earths.

The head of the Nuuk office of the World Wildlife Fund, Kaare Winther Hansen expressed his concerns in December. “First of all, Greenland Minerals will not ship its chemical waste out of Greenland. They want to dump it in a lake behind an artificial dam, and there are doubts about these dams: Will they last or will they not? We are not impressed,” he said.

“Secondly, they will not establish an underground mine, but an open pit mine on a location with thorium, uranium and fluoride compounds, which are potentially dangerous and likely to spread in the surrounding area. The citizens of Narsaq live only five kilometres from the nearest part of the mine. They use surface water for drinking, so you will also have a dust-problem,” he told this reporter.

On 10 February, Greenland’s environmental groups were supported by more than 100 environmental groups from around the world. They appealed to the governments in Nuuk and Copenhagen and to the EU, asking for a halt to the Kuanersuit project and to all other large-scale mining in Greenland.

“Protecting Greenland and the Arctic is not only a local, national and regional, but also a global issue”, said Diego Francesco Marin from the European Environmental Bureau, a private network of 160 civil society organisations.

“The European Parliament has already expressed support for the idea of an Arctic sanctuary and people all over the world realise that the Arctic environment is particularly vulnerable to pollution, because it recovers very slowly,” Marin said.

A halt to large-scale mining in Greenland would also hurt another potential rare earth mine situated at the mountain plateau known as Kringlerne some 25km from Kuannersuit.

The project at Kringlerne holds no uranium and is also in the process of securing official permits for its mining operation.

The production of rare earth minerals is technologically demanding and has been known to cause severe environmental challenges, in particular in China.

It includes chemical extractions of the sought after minerals and subsequent depositing of millions of tons of crushed and partly contaminated ore.

Jobs and growth

Supporters of the mine at Kuannersuit tend to focus on the 700-800 permanent jobs the mine would provide in a region which has long smarted from unemployment and depopulation. Also, supporters talk of potential economic benefits to Greenland and its 57.000 people.

According to Greenland Minerals’ estimates, Greenland’s treasury is likely to receive more than $200m per year in taxes and other income throughout the 37 years of projected mining. This would have substantial impact on Greenland’s future economic challenges.

“We will simply close the holes in Greenland’s economy,” Jørn Skov, Greenland Mining’s executive managing director said in December.

He said that the Kuannersuit mountain is rich especially in four key rare earth minerals — neodymium, praseodymium, terbium and dysprosium.

The deposits were certified by Australia’s Joint Ore Reserves Committee, and the company claims it can satisfy one-fifth of the world’s demand for these four minerals: “Greenland can deliver 15-20 percent of what is needed to drive the green transition,” Skov said.

New EU campaign

Europe’s dire need for rare earths like those in Greenland was highlighted last September, when the EU Commission launched a large-scale campaign to secure Europe’s future supplies of rare earths and other strategic minerals.

The commission presented an Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, a 2020 List of Critical Raw Materials and a foresight study.

The authors underscored that China presently controls more than 90 percent of global production of rare earth minerals.

The new initiative was launched by Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market: “A number of raw materials are essential for Europe to lead the green and digital transition and remain the world’s first industrial continent. We cannot afford to rely entirely on third countries – for some rare earths even on just one country,” he said.

Greenland is not part of the EU, but linked to the union as a semi-autonomous part of the Danish kingdom and as an OCT — Overseas Countries and Territories to the EU.

The EU has long provided Greenland with economic support for education and other sectors through the EU-Greenland Partnership Agreement and the EU Commission negotiates fishing rights for European fishing fleets in Greenland’s waters.

Fear of Chinese control

Greenland’s minerals and the need to prevent Chinese control is high on the agenda.

In 2012, Antonio Tajani, then vice president of the commission, travelled to Nuuk to secure that Greenland would continue to sell its minerals on the free market.

A letter of intent was signed by both parties, but this has not prevented Chinese interest.

In 2016, Chinese mining conglomerate Shenge bought 12.5 percent of Greenland Minerals’ shares.

Shenge is still the company’s largest shareholder, now with nine percent of the shares, and Greenland Minerals says it relies on Shenge to provide the technology needed for the mine at Kuannersuit, if political permission to extract the minerals is secured.

In 2018, Greenland Minerals signed a non-binding agreement with Shenge, that Shenge might eventually buy the total output of rare earths from Kuannersuit, a total of some 32,000 tonnes of ore.

By December last year, however, this had changed.

Greenland Mining now said it wanted to export all potential outputs of rare earths from Kuannersuit to Europe. Jørn Skov, the executive managing director, spoke highly of the new EU campaign, in particular the European Raw Materials Alliance, which aims to connect European industries with suppliers of strategic minerals.

Trump saw it

In the US, Greenland’s rare earths are also in sharp focus.

In July 2019 then US president Donald Trump issued a presidential memoranda asking the US secretary of defense to do more to secure future supplies of rare earths for the US arms industry.

The president called for urgent “purchases” and “purchase commitments” abroad.

Three weeks later, speaking of strategic interest and Greenland’s minerals, the president suggested that the US might buy Greenland, the world’s largest island, from Denmark.

The suggestion was firmly rejected by Greenland and Denmark, but the US has continued to increase its cooperation with Greenland particularly in the mining sector.

In June 2020, the news portal DefenceNews reported that the Pentagon had asked the US congress to allow the US government to spend up to $1.75bn on rare earth minerals that are used for the production of – among other military items – Javelin missiles and F-35 fighter jets.


This article is a slightly edited version of the article first published by the on 25 February 2021



Hvad svarer kongeriget, hvis Rusland kræver mere af havbunden nord for Grønland?

februar 5, 2021 • Af

Rusland overvejer at udvide sit krav til den arktiske havbund helt til Grønlands 200-sømilegrænse.

To russiske skibe gennemførte mellem august og oktober 2020 et togt i polarisen med atomdreven isbryder og et forskningsskib, der indsamlede data om havbunden bare 60 sømil nord for Grønlands eksklusive økonomiske zone. Rusland vil desuden sandsynligvis indbyde Danmark til forhandling snart.

Sådan lyder essensen. Rusland har selv offentliggjort en række detaljer om togtet i 2020. Arktisk Kommando i Nuuk var klar over skibenes tilstedeværelse allerede, da togtet fandt sted.

Besætningen fra Akademik Fedorov fotograferet ved hjemkomst til Skt. Petersborg. Foto: Det russiske forsvarsministerium

Yderligere detaljer fremgår af informationer, jeg har skrevet om i Weekendavisen i denne uge og af den engelske version her på hjemmesiden. Den seneste risikovurdering fra Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) tyder desuden på, at en del i kongeriget har kendt til sagen i nogen tid.

Det russiske togt har umiddelbar politisk betydning, og effekten øges selvsagt, hvis Rusland rent faktisk udvider sit eksisterende krav til havbunden og dermed til alt, hvad dybet måtte gemme af olie, gas og mineraler.

Udvidelse på vej

Vi ved endnu ikke, om udvidelsen af kravet kommer. De indsamlede data kan være utilstrækkelige, og der kan opstå politiske forhindringer.

Men meget tyder på, at en udvidelse er på vej. Det kan booste overlappet mellem Ruslands krav i Arktis og det dansk-grønlandske med 200.000 kvadratkilometer, så det samlede overlap lander på 800.000 kvadratkilometer.

Og ifølge FE vil Rusland sandsynligvis snart opfordre regeringen til direkte forhandlinger. FE mener, at Rusland sandsynligvis vil foreslå forhandlinger, så snart FN’s Sokkelkommission har vurderet Ruslands data (med eller uden udvidelse), og det kan ifølge de seneste forlydender fra kommissionen ske snart – formentlig allerede i år (dog med coronaforbehold).

Tre komponenter trænger sig på: Politisk tolkning af det seneste togt, behovet for enighed i rigsfællesskabet og spørgsmålet om den sikkerhedspolitiske effekt.

Politisk værdi
Med et udvidet krav i Arktis, eller alene med forsøget, signalerer Vladimir Putins regering styrke og handlekraft over for sit russiske vælgerhav.

Ruslands ledere har siden zartiden brugt erobringen af Arktis til at konsolideres deres egen legitimitet, og Vladimir Putin bruger grebet effektivt.

Faldskærmsjægere har trænet ved Nordpolen og det russiske Arktis udvikles i rekordfart. Ruslands økonomi er dybt afhængig af råstofferne fra nord, så folkesjælens fodring og landets velfærd hænger sammen i denne sag.

En del husker måske, da to russiske miniubåde i 2007 dykkede 4.300 meter ned til bunden ved Nordpolen og plantede det russiske flag.

De øvrige arktiske stater – inklusive Konservatives udenrigsminister, Per Stig Møller – frygtede, at Rusland med dykket gjorde sig klar til at bryde med international lov i Arktis, og at krigsskibe snart ville følge efter.

Senere forskning viser dog, at dykkets russiske ledelse sandsynligvis var mere optaget af indenrigs symboleffekt. Udenrigsminister Sergei Lavrov beroligede: Det amerikanske flag på månen førte jo heller ikke til krav om amerikansk ejerskab, og Rusland har siden slavisk fulgt FN’s spilleregler.

Usvækket fokus på erobring
Ruslands seneste togt, der også nåede ind i USA’s interessesfære nord for Alaska, understreger, at Ruslands fokus på arktisk erobring er usvækket, og at enhver forhandling med Danmark, Grønland og andre konkurrenter vil blive grebet tilsvarende håndfast an.

Det er væsentligt, ikke mindst fordi forhandlinger som nævnt kan blive relevante relativt snart. Coronaen vil forsinke processen i FN’s Sokkelkommission, men vi taler altså ikke længere nødvendigvis kun om forhandlinger i en fjern fremtid.

Danmark og Grønland vil som mindstemål skulle afklare, om tiden er inde til armlægningen med Rusland – et spørgsmål, der også involverer Canada.

Da Kristian Jensen (V) endnu var udenrigsminister, afviste Danmark et russisk tilbud om forhandlinger, angiveligt fordi Canadas krav ikke var klar, men den afvisning kan ikke længere bruges. Canada indleverede sit krav i 2019.

Er Danmark og Grønland enige?
Svar til Rusland vil kræve enighed internt i rigsfællesskabet, og her er der ikke nødvendigvis sammenfaldende interesser.

Grønland vil givetvis være optaget af de potentielle fund af olie, gas og mineraler. Selvstyreloven foreskriver, at alle indkomster fra råstoffer i Grønland principielt tilhører grønlænderne, uanset om de gemmer sig under bunden af Det Arktiske Ocean.

Ingen har endnu fundet skyggen af værdier så langt inde i polarisen, men ingen ved heller, hvad man finder i fremtiden. Regeringen kan blive klemt mellem sit udtalte ønske om at gøre rigsfællesskabet attraktivt for Grønland, så det ikke går i opløsning, og behovet for ikke at skabe konflikt med Rusland.

Det er slemt nok i Ruslands øjne, at Danmark på den militære front samarbejder umådeligt tæt med USA om at booste det amerikanske militære aftryk i Arktis i en tid, hvor Washington oftere tordner mod russisk oprustning og stadig oftere fører flådeskibe, fly og tropper tæt på Ruslands arktiske sfære.

Varmere forhold
Modsætningerne i rigsfællesskabet blev blotlagt i 2014, da Danmark og Grønland skulle enes om kongerigets krav til FN’s Sokkelkommission. Aleqa Hammond, der var formand for Naalakkersuisut, oplevede danskerne som uambitiøse:

“Vi havde som udgangspunkt to vidt forskellige holdninger til den fremtidige betydning af soklen. Det følte vi i hvert fald,” fortalte hun mig senere.

Ifølge Hammond var det grønlandsk pres, der gjorde, at kongerigets krav blev udvidet, så langt FN’s Havretskonvention overhovedet tillod, nemlig helt til Ruslands 200-sømilegrænse. Russerne er stadig, som Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste skriver, “sandsynligvis meget utilfredse”.

I dag er forholdet mellem Nuuk og København varmere, men fokus i Nuuk er næppe ændret, og viljen til selvstændig udenrigspolitisk ageren er kun tiltaget. Aleqa Hammond er desuden blevet formand for Inatsisartuts, det grønlandske parlaments Sikkerheds- og Udenrigspolitiske Udvalg.

Et udvidet russisk krav vil måske rejse spørgsmålet, om yderligere dansk-grønlandsk dataindsamling i Det Arktiske Ocean vil gavne forhandlingspositionen. Nye ekspeditioner vil i givet fald koste et pænt antal millioner blandt andet til leje af en isbryder, og der ingen tradition for, at Grønland bidrager til udgifterne.

Freden holder
Sikkerhedspolitisk er der ifølge kendere, herunder lektor Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen fra Center for Arktiske Sikkerhedsstudier ved Forsvarsakademiet, ingen grund til bekymring:

“Sikkerhedspolitisk betyder det ikke meget. Det er internationalt farvand, så russerne kan sejle og flyve deroppe så meget, de har lyst. Det afgørende for Danmark er, om Rusland holder sig til gældende regler og konventioner, og der er intet, der tyder på regelbrud her,” sagde han, da jeg spurgte.

Martin Lidegaard (R), der var udenrigsminister, da det dansk-grønlandske krav blev formuleret, er ganske enig; det samme er den canadiske ekspert, professor Michael Byers fra University of British Columbia.

Konstruktiv tilgang
Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste ser en mindre, potentiel risiko for russisk disruption, men kun hvis afgørelserne fra FN’s Sokkelkommission går Rusland voldsomt imod. Som tjenesten skrev i december:

“Rusland har indtil videre udvist en konstruktiv tilgang til sokkelspørgsmålet. Det er sandsynligt, at Rusland også fremover ønsker at fremstå som en konstruktiv forhandlingspartner, som følger FN-processen. Rusland vurderer sandsynligvis, at denne tilgang foreløbigt bedst tjener Ruslands interesser. Det er dog muligt, at Rusland senere vil vælge en anden tilgang, hvis FN-processen ikke fører til et acceptabelt resultat for Rusland”.

Her bør for fuldstændighedens skyld måske tilføjes et enkelt forhold, som FE ikke nævner. Den, der vinder retten til ressourcerne på havbunden, opnår ifølge FN’s Havretskonvention også en ikke særlig klart defineret ret til at forhindre andre i at udnytte ressourcerne i det samme område.

Rusland vil muligvis tolke juraen sådan, at der med retten til havbunden også følger ret til at inspicere eller på anden vis kontrollere andre nationers fartøjer, og så er det ikke længere uproblematisk.

True den frie sejlads
Der er stadig masser af is nord for Grønland, men klimakrisen betyder som bekendt, at isen forsvinder, så det er ikke den rene science fiction.

Spørgsmålet om “freedom of navigation” står allerede højt på dagsordenen i Arktis. USA, Danmark og andre beskylder Rusland for at true den frie sejlads nord for Rusland, og kontroversielle militære manøvrer gennemføres for at understrege pointen.

Især USA vil derfor muligvis også bekymre sig, hvis Rusland nu får udsigt til rettigheder nord for Grønland, der kan bruges som undskyldning for at bringe kontrollerende russiske isbrydere eller andet isenkram i mere regulær rutefart tæt på Thulebasen og det amerikanske fastland.

Denne nyhedsanalyse, der her optræder en anelse redigeret, blev offentliggjort på Altinget/Arktis 3. februar 2021



Russia considers extended claim to the Arctic seabed

februar 5, 2021 • Af

Despite the climate crisis, the ice in this region can still be several years old, thick as a man is tall and tougher than oak.

The icebreaker systematically clears open tracks in the ice in honor of the vessel trailing it, the “Akademik Fedorov”. The lesser, but ice-enforced vessel methodically sucks up data about the seabed with an advanced multibeam echosounder embedded in its hull.

Onboard the ship Russian technicians, if they do what they have done before, translate the data into colourful computer-visuals of the seabed’s majestic contours.

Focus is on the Lomonosov Ridge, the impressive subsea mountain range that runs from Russia across the North Pole and onwards towards Greenland and Canada. The ridge pushes 3700 meter tall peaks upwards from the seabed which is otherwise flat as a pancake, and the nature of the connection between the ridge and the landmasses at either end will determine who has the rights to what the seabed may hide of oil, gas and minerals.

Consistent rumors about the goal of this ambitious Russian mission can now be verified: The two vessels were harvesting data about the seabed, because Russia is contemplating a revised, enlarged submission to the UN’s Commission on the Limit of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).

A such enlarged submission could win Russia the rights to the seabed from close to the North Pole and down all the way to the maritime borders of Canada and Greenland 200 nautical miles from shore.

According to information given to me recently, an enlarged Russian submission to the CLCS could be underway in a matter of a few months, but we don’t know whether it will ever happen.

Most probably, no-one outside Russia has yet seen the new data; it might be insufficient to support an enlargement, and political barriers on the diplomatic front could also make Russia fold. But the analysis is reportedly in progress; Russia has received encouraging rumblings from the CLCS on its existing submission, and new details about the latest mission that is published in this article for the first time corroborate expectations of an enlargement.

Zig-zag in ice

The “50 Let Pobedy” and the “Akademic Fedorov” were operating in the characteristic zig-zag pattern also known from three Danish-Greenlandic icebreaker missions in the same waters between 2007 and 2012 (This reporter travelled on one of them.)

The two Russian vessels toiled forth and back across the Lomonosov Ridge as close as 60 nautical miles from Greenland’s exclusive economic zone. They operated far from the seabed further north that was covered by Russia’s submission to the CLCS in 2015.

The Russian Embassy in Copenhagen has not yet come back on a request for more information about the purpose of the mission, but in November, as “Akademik Fedorov” returned to quay in Saint Petersburg, the Russian Ministry of Defence published a brief news item and a few pictures of the crew.

Crew members from Akademik Fedorov on return from the Arctic Ocean. Photo: The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

It was not clear precisely where “Akademik Fedorov” had been, or what the new data was intended for, but we learned that the vessel had returned from a three month mission somewhere along the Lomonosov Ridge and further west over the Chukchi Plateau north of Alaska, where the US has hitherto been alone in its quest for the seabed.

Flemming Larsen, director of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS, in Copenhagen, commented on the Russian news item last week:

“It appears that they have done bathymetry, in other words mapping of the topography across the Lomonosov Ridge. Also, they have taken samples of the sediments. It is all about illustrating the character of the ridge: Does it belong to Greenland or does it belong to Russia? But we have not yet heard what came out of it,” he said.

Denmark’s Arctic Command in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, was aware of the two Russian vessels already when they operated north of Greenland. In December, Denmark’s Defence Intelligence Service foretold in its annual risk-analysis that Rusland would “most likely“ enlarge its submission to the CLCS all the way to Greenland’s exclusive economic zone.

Russia might simply have told the other Arctic coastal states about its considerations. Canada, the Danish Kingdom, Norway, Russia and the US have long acknowledged the potential for disruptive disagreements over the still non-existent borders on the seabed and the diplomats and experts meet regularly in order to prevent any slidings towards collision and tension.

Norway has no direct interest involved, but the Norwegian embassy in Copenhagen confirmed that Norway is aware of the Russian mission:

“Norway is aware that Russia has conducted a mission with Akademik Fedorov in the Arctic Ocean, but the mission in 2020 does not cover areas that are part of the Norwegian continental shelf. Therefore, there is no need for prior contact between Norway and Russia about the details of the mission. Generally, the embassy stresses that the activities in the Arctic Ocean are characterized by good communication among the five coastal states. Norway highly appreciates this”.

Closer neighbours

The underlying conflicts of interest are substantial. An enlarged Russian submission could — simply speaking — bring Russia closer to Canada and Greenland than most people would have dreamt off only a few years back.

In the most far reaching scenario, where Russia manages to realize the full potential of an enlarged submission to the CLCS, Russia’s rights to the seabed would begin right outside Canada’s and Greenland’s exclusive economic zones 200 nautical miles from shore.

Russia would have exclusive rights to all resources on the seabed, but, importantly, not in the water column, on the surface, or in the airspace above. Also, Russia would command certain rights to regulate traffic in the area in order to protect its riches.

These are privileges and potential wealth to which Greenland and Canada have so far been the only contenders.

Few security risks

At the heart of the matter are overlapping demands for very large tracts of seabed, tantalizing dreams of oil, gas and other treasure. Whipping up further prospects of drama and strife, however, would run against what most experts expect.

In Denmark, the chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of parliament, Martin Lidegaard, who was Denmark’s minister of foreign affairs when Denmark and Greenland submitted their submission to the CLCS in 2014, only learned of the Russian mission when approached for this article, but he is not worried:

“If Russia enlages its submission based on new scientific grounds, I can not see that this needs to have any security implications. The Danish Kingdom itself has put forward a large demand, and I assume that we are heading towards difficult negotiations under all circumstances,” he said. 

Assistant professor Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen from the Center for Arctic Security Studies at the Royal Danish Defence Academy agreed: “Security wise this doesn’t mean much. It is international waters, and the Russian’s can sail and fly there as much as they want. The decisive issue for Denmark is whether Russia sticks to current rules and conventions and there is nothing that indicates any breach of the rules at this stage,” he told me.

Denmark’s Defence Intelligence Service sees a potential risk, but only if the recommendations of the CLCS rules very squarely against Russia’s wishes. In this case, the service says, Russia might “choose a different approach”.

Canada’s leading expert, professor and Canada Research ChairMichael Byersfrom the Department of Political Science at University of British Columbia agrees with Lidegaard and Clemmensen:

“I am not alarmed. My assumption is that Russia is simply preparing for all eventualities. In the unlikely situation where the CLCS determines that the Lomonosov Ridge is a natural prolongation of the Asian continent only, Russia wants to have submitted data that enables the Commission to affirm its sovereign rights all the way across to the outer limit of the Canadian and Danish exclusive economic zones”.

Most observers expect tough direct negotiations between the states involved,  because the CLCS will find, most likely, that the Lomonosov Ridge connects to both Russia, Greenland and Canada.

In this case, the nations involved will have to negotiate the final borders themselves; the CLCS will not deal with the actual drawing of political borders.

Martin Lidegaard already looks beyond the negotiations.

“An extended Russian submission will make it even more important to talk about how we regulate the area after the borders have been drawn,” he said. He would like to fully protect a smaller part of the ocean around the North Pole itself and to regulate against pollution and militarization in the rest of the ocean outside national jurisdictions.

Russia “unhappy”

Russia’s submission to the CLCS in 2015 laid claim to the seabed from Russia’s exclusive economic zone to the North Pole and somewhat beyond; it is a possible extension of this claim that is now in focus. A certain amount of anger may be involved.

Denmark’s and Greenland’s submission from 2014 covers close to 900.000 square kilometers of Arctic seabed – it was an unexpectedly massive demand. Following pressure from Greenland, Copenhagen agreed to stretch the demand as much as legally possible all the way to Russia’s exclusive economic zone.

Copenhagen’s Defence Intelligence Service said in its December analysis that Russia was “likely unhappy with the extent of the Kingdom’s claim”.

According to an educated estimate an extended Russian submission could potentially increase the overlap between Russia’s existing claim and that of Denmark and Greenland with some 200.000 square kilometers, adding to an overlap already at 600.000 square kilometers.

On top of this, an enlarged Russian submission would most likely increase Russia’s overlap also with the Canadian and possibly the US designs.

Interestingly, there is no indication to date that anything of value might be found under the seabed north of Greenland. Also, the ice and the impressive depth of the ocean is likely to deter any exploration or extraction of resources for years to come. That may not be the point, however.

The UN Convention of the Law of Sea has inspired coastals states all over the world to submit claims to the CLCS for large tracts of seabed. The Danish Kingdom, comprising Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, has laid claim to five:

Three around Greenland, two at the Faroe Islands. It is about resources, but also about the political clout that will follow any such national expansion — in particular, of course, if the North Pole is part of the deal.

Russia may feel that it is under time pressure. The CLCS is reportedly about to finalize its evaluation of Russia’s submission from 2015. If an extension of this claim is to be included in the CLCS’s evaluation this time around, time may be an issue.

Russia’s keen interest in the Arctic seabed has long been evident. In 2007, two small Russian submarines dived 4300 meter to the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole and planted a Russian flag. While president Vladimir Putin praised the Russian divers, many governments were worried:

Would Russian naval vessels follow up and make claims to the Arctic seabed by force? Would Russia disregard international law in the Arctic Ocean?

The Russian flag planted on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole in 2007. Photo: NTV

Russia’s foreign secretary Sergey Lavrov called for calm: The US flag on the moon did not lead to any US claims of ownership either, he said, and Russia has adhered scrupulously to the rules of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea ever since.

Russia is likely to win large tracts of seabed simply by following procedure; it would have next to nothing to gain from any breaches.

Also, Russia may want to test any potential extension of its existing claim in Copenhagen, Ottawa and in the rest of the Arctic coastal states before submitting it to the CLCS. The commission is only mandated to evaluate a claim if all involved agree to the process.

Norway, Denmark and Canada are unlikely to protest as long as Russia adheres to the rules and existing agreement, including the so-called Ilulissat Declaration from 2008. Washington, however, may be less easy to predict.

The US has not signed the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea but it has expressed clear intentions to win its proper share of the rights to the Arctic seabed.


This text, slightly altered, appeared first on on February 1st. 2021. 


Controversial mine in Greenland enters decisive phase

januar 14, 2021 • Af

A mining-project with rare earth, uranium, with a Chinese shareholder and many eager eyes watching from the USA, the EU and elsewhere has entered its so far most decisive phase in Greenland.

The history behind is illustrious: After a brief summer visit to the small town of Narsaq in grassy southern Greenland in 1957, Danish nuclear physicist Niels Bohr, famous for his Nobel Prize and his part in the Manhattan Project in the U.S. that led to the first nuclear bomb, had a small square named after him. Last time I was in Narsaq, the diminutive sign was still testifying to the event: “Niels Bohr Square.”

Greenland Minerals has been working to establish a mine at Kvanefjeld since 2007. (Greenland Minerals)

While the sign was put up, Danish soldiers worked their geiger counters on Kuannersuit, a nearby mountain, where geologists had found extraordinary amounts of radioactivity. The ambition was to bring uranium from Narsaq — which is, according to the 1,350 local inhabitants, the most beautiful town in Greenland — to Denmark for use in yet-to-be developed nuclear power plants.

A mine shaft, the mouth of which can still be seen, was drilled halfway up the mountain, and in 1980 more than 4,200 tons of ore was shipped to Denmark for closer scrutiny. Shortly after, Denmark decided never to build any nuclear power plants, and the importance of Greenland’s uranium paled to the same color as Niels Bohr. Instead, the lead role was given to the so-called rare earths, the superminerals of our time.

Kuannersuit (also known as Kvanefjeld) holds one of the largest known deposits of rare earths in the world. Rare earths, which include 17 different minerals, are found in many places on Earth, but nowhere in as tempting amounts and compositions as in Narsaq, and the mine on the top of Kuannersuit, some 600 meters above sea level, has never been closer to becoming a reality than today.

Which is why the political process that was officially started just before Christmas in late December 2020 could have far-reaching effects, including influencing the national defense of the U.S. and its allies, the emergence and growth of technologies the world needs for the fight against global warming and the future of Greenland.

Another mining project, Tanbreez, which lies less than 50 kilometers away, also holds rare earths and is also edging closer to fruition, but Tanbreez is smaller, has no uranium, and most political attention is presently on Kuannersuit.

Political support

After 10 years of wrangling with Greenland Minerals A/S, the mining company behind the plans for Kuannersuit, Greenland’s environmental authorities have tentatively approved the company’s plans for environmental protection at the proposed mine and the plans for other interaction with the surrounding society. Now that the relevant documents have been translated into Greenlandic, which is Greenland’s official language, the final political process has begun. For now, a majority in parliament has declared itself in favor of the mine, if no unexpected environmental problems are unearthed during the public hearings.

Greenland’s young liberal minister for raw materials, Jens Frederik Nielsen, is openly supportive:

“This is an important mine. It will create jobs and economic growth. It would be great if we were already at the finishing line, but we must of course follow the law and the process must be allowed to be played out,” he told me in Nuuk a few days ago.

With the necessary reservations he predicts that the mine may open “within a year, perhaps only half a year.”

This is epoch-making.

Indispensable minerals

If you look at Kuannersuit from the air, you will see large whitish patches of mountain with little or no vegetation. The rare earths are sufficiently potent to be easily detected, and while most people have no inkling as to their practical use, their importance to the world has grown almost as fast as that of uranium back when nuclear power was in the making.

Today, scores of crucial technological inventions are highly dependent on rare earth minerals. These minerals, with names like neodymium, praseodymium, terbium and dysprosium, are indispensable in the electronic fridges, self-driving cars and other electronics that are to communicate through the internet of things. They are at work in the computer I write on, in my cell phone — and in navigation systems for nuclear missiles. They are used in solar panels and they are essential in magnets for the pumps, windmills and electrical vehicles that are paramount for the fight against global warming.

Without the rare earths many of the political ambitions to combat the climate crisis would be endangered. According to Greenland Minerals, Kuannersuit is particularly rich in four of the key minerals — the ones mentioned above. During a briefing in Nuuk, Jørn Skov, the company’s new executive managing director, told me that Kuannersuit may satisfy towards one-fifth of the world’s demand for these four:

“I think it is a fantastic story. Greenland can deliver 15-20 percent of what is needed to drive the green transition. This is the world’s greatest challenge, and imagine that Greenland can help solve this. Meanwhile, Kuannersuit may also solve some of Greenland’s own fundamental economic problems,” he says.

Over the last 10-12 years Greenland Minerals have drilled more than 70 kilometers of holes into Kuannersuit and the size and composition of the mineral deposits have been certified by Australia’s Joint Ore Reserves Committee. Documentation is important: Jørn Skov and Greenland Minerals’ Australian holding company need investors who are willing to invest $1.2 billion in order to establish the mine — if the political permission is granted from Nalakkersuisut.

Kuannersuit lies a bumpy six- or seven-kilometer journey along a gravel road from Narsaq. The route takes visitors past the garbage dump, then a small bay and left of Sofus’ and Suka Frederiksen’s farm, where a small herd of Greenland’s very few cows feed. (Suka, a former minister of foreign affairs for Greenland, died this summer after a long illness.) The cows are low and compact, a small dark Arctic variant of the ordinary cow, but they are sweet and smart and eye passers by without consternation. After the farm, the gravel path rises more steeply towards Kuannersuit. Cars have to stop half way up the slope, not far from the old mine shaft. The rest of the Kuannersuit is climbed by foot.

I heard on an earlier occasion that Greenland Minerals might buy Sofus’ farm. Even Jørn Skov’s engaging presentation does not exclude the possibility that a mine on top of Kuannersuit’s uneven plateau, where some 1,200 workers are due during the construction phase, will produce such amounts of dust and so much trucking with heavy vehicles that the area closest to the mine might be somewhat contaminated.

The village of Narsaq in southern Greenland. Greenland Minerals is one approval away from being able to begin operating an open-pit mine on the plateau overlooking the village (Greenland Minerals)

For years, large yellow signs stuck on containers from Greenland Minerals near Sofus’ farm have warned bypassing locals against potential nuclear radiation, and many of Narsaq’s citizens are nervous. They fear for their children’s health, for the sheep in the valleys, the fish and the whales in the fjord, for the nascent south Greenland veggie-farms, for the wild berries on the mountain, for their peace of mind and tranquility. Some years back, rumors had it that the whole of Narsaq will close or have to relocate if the mine moves in.

American interest

And do all these details carry any importance to other than the locals? Yes, indeed.

In the summer of 2019 U.S. President Donald Trump issued a presidential memoranda for publication in the Federal Register. The president asked his Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, to take note of the president’s concern that the U.S. does not possess sufficient capacity for the production of minerals from rare earths.

The president sternly suggested other ways forward: “Without Presidential action under section 303 of the Act, United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability for separation and processing of Light Rare Earth Elements adequately and in a timely manner. Further, purchases, purchase commitments, or other action pursuant to section 303 of the Act are the most cost-effective, expedient, and practical alternative method for meeting the need for this critical capability.”

The president wanted increased effort to solve the problem, and three weeks later he confirmed that he had indeed contemplated buying the whole of Greenland — including its 57,000 inhabitants, sled dogs — and minerals. As many will recall, the offer was promptly rejected by both Greenland and Denmark, which still holds sovereignty over Greenland.

But the pursuit of Greenland’s minerals continued. For three weeks in August 2019, a U.S.-sponsored airborne survey for new deposits took place in southern Greenland, and when Thomas Ulrich Brechbuhl, chief advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Greenland in October 2019, the rare earths once again played an important role. In June this year, the Pentagon asked Congress to legislate to secure sufficient rare earths for U.S. defense. The news portal DefenseNews reported that the proposed legislation would raise spending caps under the Defense Production Act to enable the U.S. government to spend up to $1.75 billion on rare earth elements in munitions and missiles.

A Chinese shareholder

In 2016, China’s interest in Kuannersuit became evident as the Chinese mining conglomerate Shenghe bought 12.5 percent of Greenland Minerals’ shares. Shenghe is still the company’s largest shareholder, though now with 9 percent of the shares. The point here is, that China controls more than 90 percent of the global production of minerals from rare earths. The process of separating the minerals from the ore is technologically demanding, expensive and messy, particularly since acids are used in the extraction process. The Chinese companies are world champions in this and the EU and the U.S. both worry that China might use its monopoly for pressure.

Which is why it did not go unnoticed when, in 2018, Greenland Minerals signed a non-binding agreement with Shenghe, which stipulated that Shenghe might eventually buy the total output of rare earths from Kuannersuit, some 32,000 tons of ore.

“Shenghe have expressed an intent to acquire all rare earth output produced at the project whether as a mineral or chemical concentrate product on arm’s length pricing reflecting published internationally traded prices,” Greenland Minerals wrote in a press release, after which the company’s stocks went up. In January 2019 Shenghe signed a deal with China National Nuclear Corporation, which was also to enjoy the fruits from Kuannersuit. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the state-owned CNNC is a key developer behind China’s nuclear power supply as well as China’s arsenal of nuclear weapons

A market in Europe

Today, however, any focus by Greenland Minerals on direct sales to China seems to have evaporated. Instead, representatives of Greenland Minerals hold sales talks in Brussels. In September, the EU Commission launched a wide ranging campaign to secure supplies of rare earths and other strategic minerals to Europe. The EU Commission wants to connect European industries with producers of rare earths like Greenland Minerals, and Jørn Skov finds the approach promising.

Shenghe from China will still deliver the necessary technology for the mine at Kuannersuit, just like Shenge provides knowhow and technology for the Mountain Pass rare earth mine in California, where Shenghe is also a shareholder; not even the U.S. makes do without China’s expertise. But Greenland Minerals’ strategy is now to sell the entire package of valuable rare earth content from Kuannersuit in Europe. Time will show if this also goes for the uranium from Kuannersuit that Niels Bohr looked for six decades ago. Any export of uranium from Greenland must be preceded by a detailed agreement between Denmark and the end user country.

“We cannot say anything about this at this stage,” says Jørn Skov.

A radioactive byproduct

Greenland Minerals talks about the uranium as a byproduct from the potential mine that will inevitably be unearthed as the rare earths are excavated. But even if uranium makes up only a small portion of Greenland Minerals’ planned production, it pains many souls and minds in Greenland.

The citizens of Narsaq and many in the rest of Greenland have been bitterly divided over uranium since the 1980s. In 2014, a ban on uranium mining in Greenland was lifted by a single vote in the Inatsisartut, Greenland’s parliament.

Protestors gather in Nuuk in 2018 to demonstrate against uranium mining. (Urani? Naamik)

The opposing forces have united in Urani Naamik, a Uranium-No-Thanks-association, and Muté B. Egede, chairman of Inuit Ataqatigiit, Greenland’s largest opposition party, who is also a southerner, was more than blunt in his dismissal of the mine on Kuannersuit when I asked him earlier this year:

“We are against uranium in Greenland, both exploration and mining. It divides our population, and we don’t think that Greenland should be turned into a waste depot for future generations. There are other and more sustainable businesses we would much rather help develop in southern Greenland,” he said. His party argues for a referendum on uranium and talks strongly about the waste issue.

Each year, Greenland Mining will crush three million tons of ore at Kuannersuit and export only a tiny fraction. The rest, the so-called tailings, are to be deposited in a large lake on top of Kuannersuit.

The head of the Nuuk office of the Arctic Program of the World Wildlife Fund, Kaare Winther Hansen, also remains skeptical:

“First of all, Greenland Minerals will not ship its chemical waste out of Greenland. They want to dump it in a lake behind an artificial dam, and there are doubts about these dams: Will they last or will they not? We are not impressed. Secondly, they will not establish an underground mine, but an open pit mine on a location with thorium, uranium and fluoride compounds, which are potentially dangerous and likely to spread in the surrounding area since it is an open pit mine. The citizens of Narsaq live only 5 kilometers from the nearest part of the mine. They use surface water for drinking, so you will also have a dust-problem,” he says.

Greenland Minerals habit of headhunting the most capable of the Greenland governments own staff also irks the critics. They object when top civil servants exchange their access to confidential government information with top tier jobs with Greenland Minerals. From the outset in 2007 the company hired the head of the Department of Raw Materials in Nuuk. A few years laters, Lars-Emil Johansen, a former member of Greenland’s government and former head of Siumut, Greenland’s largest political party, took on the position as chairman of the board Greenland Minerals and in July this year Jørn Skov took the plunge.

For more than two decades until shortly before accepting his present executive position with Greenland Minerals, Skov worked as head of key departments within Greenland’s government. He was well known for his profound influence on legislation pertaining to Greenland’s raw materials; one of the most powerful shadows behind Greenland’s front line politicians.

“I am probably not the least controversial figure in the country,” as he says.

“We find it scary,” said the former head of Urani Naamik, Marianne Paviasen, who is now a member of parliament for Inuit Ataqatigiit.

An economic boost

Jørn Skov, who also took with him a trusted colleague, did not break any laws when he went to work for the mining company, and the Kuannersuit mine enjoys support from a majority of Inatsisartut, at least until further notice. The support is garnered primarily because of the promise of more than 700 permanent jobs in Narsaq, all in the mine.

Such a boom would cause a revolution in south Greenland, a region painfully suffering from unemployment and from a serious exodus of many young and qualified people. More than half of the 700 jobs at the proposed mine at Kuannersuit will go to foreigners, since Greenland cannot provide the needed number of skilled hands, but still: According to Greenland Minerals’ own estimate, Greenland’s treasury is likely to receive more than $200 million per year in taxes and other income throughout the life of the mine. Should such sums really materialize, Kuannersuit may potentially help solve a major part of Greenland’s economic woes.

The port in Narsaq, Greenland, in 2011. (Claire Rowland / CC via Flickr)

“We will simply close the holes in Greenland’s economy,” says Skov.

To the more eager, this may make Greenland’s secession from Denmark look more realistic; Greenland’s first ever constitution is already in the oven. Jens Frederik Nielsen, the minister for raw materials, does not talk of secession or high politics at all, but he readily shares his high expectations:

“For me, wealth is the jobs we create and the tax revenue that follows. We can build new competences and we will have a ground for new developments in southern Greenland, that is still badly hurting. That is the most important to me,” he tells me. Nielsen seems convinced that the environment will be handled responsibly:

“We have good legislation on raw materials, which forces the companies to adhere to very hard demands. I have much sympathy for the concerns about radioactivity within the local population. I have talked to the association about this; but I trust our legislation,” he says.

The public hearing about Greenland Minerals’ plans for environmental protection and for the potential mine’s interaction with the rest of society will probably last at least 10 weeks. Afterwards, all complaints must be registered and addressed by the authorities or Greenland Minerals.

When this is over, Greenland’s political leadership in Nuuk, the parliament and Naalakkersuisut, the government, will make a final decision whether the mine on Kuannersuit will be allowed to go ahead or not.

This article was first published at on 18. December 2020. 


This is why a controversial language requirement sparks division in Greenland

november 13, 2020 • Af

Few subjects are more sensitive in Greenland than the question of language, but a few days ago Greenland’s premier cut straight to the bone.

Writing in Greenland’s main political newspaper Sermitsiaq, Kim Kielsen, head of Naalakkersuisut, Greenland’s Self-Rule Authority, suggested that all new public employees who do not speak the local language must henceforth take language courses and pass exams at a certain pace or lose their job. Read my lips: Learn the language or get out.

Kim Kielsen speaking at meeting with Nordic prime minister, 2019. Copyright:

The suggestion came on the heels of a separate suggestion by Siumut, Kielsen’s party, to reserve the right to vote in Greenland to people who have lived there for two years or more. As it is, Danes and people from the Faroe Islands, the third part of the Danish Kingdom, who have lived in Greenland for just six months may vote in local elections, but Siumut wanted to restrict this. This suggestion was soon scrapped since it seemed to violate basic rights, but it helped paint a pattern.

Together the two suggestions underscore how some among Greenland’s governing circles seek further and faster decolonization. They also illustrate, at least to my reckoning, how appeals to those who wish for greater distancing from the old colonial power Denmark are still considered supreme as means to garner political support in Greenland: Later this month Kim Kielsen is up for re-election as chairman of Siumut, Greenland’s main governing party.

‘Nationalistic suggestions’?

More interesting, however, is how Kielsen’s suggestion is likely to meet both controversy and support in Greenland. To some critics, his move will seem offensively focused on ethnicity and based on yesteryear’s perception that Denmark is the source of most evil in Greenland. These critics will find the language requirement likely to scare sorely needed foreigners from seeking a job in Greenland’s public sector.

Aaja Chemnitz, a member of the Danish Parliament for Inuit Ataqatigiit, the main opposition party in Greenland, aired her distaste for the proposal, also in Sermitsiaq: “These are nationalistic suggestions that focus on who are Greenlandic and who are not. Who may vote at the elections and who may not. It is a sad tendency, where you exclude people because of their ethnicity instead of assessing with which skills they contribute to society. This is worrying. The number of people in Greenland is not growing and there is no doubt that the political signals now sent from Greenland are noted by those who might otherwise consider moving there,” she said.

Chemnitz may possibly be thinking here not only of foreigners but also of the many young Greenlanders who study abroad. They are badly needed back home, and much effort is put on luring them home after their education. At least some of those outlooking youths may find it hard to match their desire to see Greenland fully engaged with the international community with the seemingly nationalist tendencies the critics find embedded in Kielsen’s suggestion. In Greenland, as elsewhere, the national language is deeply cherished, widely recognized as key to the nation’s pride and identity, but any suggestions that it should be used as a means to exclude those who do not master it are instantly divisive.

Some locals will probably be wary that Kielsen’s plan will fuel further ostracizing of Greenlanders who speak Danish better than Greenlandic, or only Danish. Members of this sizeable group have previously complained of exclusion and discrimination. Introducing his plan in Sermitsiaq, Kielsen wrote of this group as victims who have had their language taken away from them during colonial times by ill-informed parents, and how their inability to speak Greenlandic “is driving a wedge through society.”

He suggested that by making language learning tools freely and widely available, “this group will have better options for winning back their lost language, so that together we may heal one of the wounds from the colonial time.” Not all included are likely to appreciate such categorizing.

More foreigners

Kielsen introduced his plan as a means to handle in particular an expected increase in the number of foreigners in Greenland. In particular, the ongoing construction of two large new airports and the prospect of more mining operations make it inevitable that more foreigners will come to work in Greenland. Kielsen suggested that free language courses should be available online for all preparing to move to Greenland.

My guess is that only a few of his compatriots will object to this part of Kielsen’s plan. Rather, it is his suggestion that language training and proven progress should be obligatory for all future public servants that will provoke controversy.

To understand the background, I asked for scholarly interpretation: “In principle, I think it sounds reasonable to make certain requirements,” says Arnaq Grove, an associate professor with the Institute of Language, Culture and History at Ilisimatusarfik, the University in Nuuk. She recognizes fully the potential biases, but she also points to periods in Greenland’s colonial past, where a pragmatic approach to nationalism and the restoration of Greenlandic culture and customs in her view became a means to build bridges, not to divide:“I think one should take an interest in the language of the place one chooses to live and in the culture behind it,” she tells me on the phone from Nuuk.

Who will teach?

In 2009, with the latest revision of Danish-Greenlandic relations, Greenlandic became by law the only official language in Greenland. In 2010, to follow up on this pivotal change, legislation in Greenland stipulated that room must also be made for both Danish and English in the educational system and in public life. Grove strongly recommends more strategic efforts to educate the necessary number of skilled language trainers and scholars, also to safeguard the continued development of Greenlandic that might otherwise get squeezed between the two foreign languages. As it is, Grove tells me, many foreign terms are not fully integrated into Greenlandic and the teaching of proper Greenlandic suffers.

In the short term, she foresees practical problems if Kielsen’s plan is to be implemented fast, since language teachers are scarce, but requirements that newcomers pick up some local language are not alien to her. She is presently helping to develop related requirements for future staff at the university.

Some supporters will find Kielsen’s suggestion only logical and long overdue. In the 18th century, when Denmark’s colonization of Greenland took speed, Danish became the all-pervasive language of influence, learning and power in Greenland, even if most still did not speak it.

Premier Kim Kielsen addresses the opening of the autumn 2017 session of Inatsisartut. (Inatsisartut)

Today, Danish is still widely used — too widely for some — in Inatsisartut, the parliament, in governmental departments in Nuuk, in the municipal administrations, in all institutions of higher learning, in the health sector where most doctors are still Danish, in the publicly owned companies and so forth.

Add to this that about 50 percent of the 57,000 people who live in Greenland do not speak Danish or speak it only rudimentarily and you will understand why the question of language has been key and center to public discourse on identity, power and discrimination in Greenland for generations.

“Greenlandic is our official language, but all public communication is still translated from Danish,” Grove tells me. She grew up in one of Greenland’s small and scattered villages; the overwhelming majority in these settlements do not speak Danish, nor other foreign languages. Studies made by Grove’s students document that many Greenlanders, even many with bilingual skills, need or ask for a translator when confronted with the many Danish doctors in Greenland; it is when one is most vulnerable that communication is most sensitive.

“Those of us who are educated sometimes forget how things are, but yes I do think quite a lot of people are in fact angry, or at least resigned to what they see as the inevitable,” Grove says.

Lack of skilled hands

To me, as an outsider who does not speak the language but visits as often as possible, the inherent dilemmas are all too familiar. In the main towns, it is relatively easy to get by without Greenlandic. Most educated Greenlanders speak Danish or English. In the larger centers, Danes are so numerous they form their own separate communities, involuntarily distanced from the rest of society by their inability to speak the language; an inability that often goes hand in hand with higher-than-average incomes, nicer houses and other privileges.

The continuation of this conundrum is due mostly to a dire lack of sufficiently educated, Greenlandic speaking administrators, economists, lawyers and other professionals. This lack of Greenlandic speaking educated personnel necessitates a constant import of labor — mostly from Denmark — which is expensive and often frustratingly inefficient. After a year or two most of the imports take off again, leaving the more permanent staff with yet another problem and little to add to institutional memory; the dilemma is well known particularly in healthcare and much present in these days of the corona-pandemic. Kielsen’s suggestion addresses a widely recognized, long standing problem.

No easy solutions are at hand of course; most point to the educational system for betterment, but improvement will not come fast. Some critics, frustrated by the lack of progress, accuse the political milieu in Nuuk of being too mentally immersed in the old colonial ways to look for faster ways out. These critics will probably find Kielsen’s suggestion reasonable, perhaps even elegant ,as it seems to offer measurable progress without hurting those already employed in the public sector and a relatively lenient way out for future public servants without Greenlandic: take a free language course.

Introducing his plan, Kielsen argued that it would help save much needed resources. Translating puts a significant burden on the public administration, especially since all key documents must be available in Greenlandic, the official language. Finally, he hinted at continued threats to Greenlandic as the national language:

“Over the next two decades our country will once again change dramatically, but how it will look in 2040 depends very much on the political decisions we make. This is why it is crucial that we make sure that Greenlandic continues to be the language we all have in common,” he wrote.

This text initially appeared on 12. November 2020


Ny Thule-aftale udvider Grønlands udenrigspolitiske råderum

november 4, 2020 • Af

Den nye aftale om Thule-basen mellem Nuuk og Washington er skelsættende og ikke kun på grund af de mange penge, vi hørte om i første omgang.

Striden om servicering af Thule-basen har været genstand for bitre retssager i USA og seks års seje forhandlinger mellem Nuuk, København og Washington. Den fandt sin
løsning onsdag i sidste uge efter et videomøde mellem USAs nationale sikkerhedsrådgiver Robert C. O’Brien, Jeppe Kofod og Kim Kielsen.

Udklip fra Steen Lynge, Naalakkersuisoq for udenrigsanliggender mener at Thule-aftalen giver Grønland større handlemuligeheder overfor udlandet

Grønland sikres nu igen store millionbeløb for serviceringen af Thule-basen. Basen dækker et område større end Bornholm, og Grønland vil fra 2024 efter alt at dømme igen tjene gode penge på serviceringen af basens grusveje, kantiner, sundhedsvæsen, sportsfaciliteter osv. Det er en triumf for Grønland og for det danske og grønlandske diplomati, der har kæmpet med Pentagon og US State Department, men det er ikke pointen her.

I politisk forstand er det centrale, at Nuuk med Thule-aftalen oplever at have fået langt større albuerum til at indgå aftaler med fremmede magter på egen hånd.

“Grønland er ikke dansk, Grønland er grønlandsk,” sagde Mette Frederiksen, da Trump ville købe Grønland, og Thule-aftalen afspejler, hvordan den indstilling nu gradvist får konkret betydning. Hovedaftalen fra sidste uge bærer kun to underskrifter: Kim Kielsen, formanden for Naalakkersuisut, Grønlands landsstyre, og Carla Sands, USA’s ambassadør i Danmark. Ikke Mette Frederiksens, ikke Jeppe Kofods, ikke Danmarks arktiske ambassadørs.

Hovedaftalen bærer kun to signaturer, præcis som aftalen om en amerikansk såkaldt hjælpepakke til Grønland til en værdi af 12 millioner dollars, der blev offentliggjort i april. Det var den første diplomatiske aftale indgået direkte mellem Washington og Grønland uden direkte medvirken fra København — selvom Udenrigsministeriet var informeret undervejs.

Hjælpepakken fulgte Trumps købstilbud og genåbningen af det amerikanske konsulat i Nuuk, og en række politikere på Christiansborg – Søren Espersen (DF), Rasmus Jarlov (K), Michael Aastrup Jensen (V), Karsten Hønge (SF) — var oprørte. Som Aastrup Jensen siger i seneste udgave af tidsskriftet Udenrigs:

“Jeg er bange for, at der er en langsigtet plan fra Trumps side om at trække Grønland ud af rigsfællesskabets sikre havn. Ikke nødvendigvis ved at købe Grønland, men på andre måder, og det skal vi tage alvorligt. Jeg er nervøs ved, at stormagterne går ind og interesserer sig for den del af vores kongerige. Vi skal turde tale meget tydeligere her.”

Stærkere rige?
Omvendt mener man i Nuuk, at rigsfællesskabet netop bliver stærkere af denne type aftaler, hvor Grønland alene tegner sig som ansvarshavende. På nyhedsportalen lød det i en overskrift i sidste uge, at “ny aftale udvider rigsfællesskabets rammer”. Det var en stramning, for der er ikke sket formel udvidelse af Nuuks beføjelser, men Steen Lynge, Naalakkersuisoq, landsstyremedlem for udenrigsanliggender, sagde til citat, at den nye aftale “skaber præcedens for, at Grønland mere frit kan indgå aftaler med andre lande på hjemtagne områder i fremtiden”.

“Det er vigtigt for den grønlandske befolkning, at vi har råderum inden for rigsfællesskabet, og at vi frit kan arbejde med hjemtagne områder,” tilføjede han.

Den danske politolog, postdoc Mark Jacobsen, der forsker i de amerikansk-grønlandske relationer på Scott Polar Institute ved Cambridge Universitet, tænkte i samme baner: “For regeringen i Danmark er aftalen ekstra værdifuld som håndgribeligt bevis på, at den også i udlandet repræsenterer og forfølger Grønlands interesser. Det kan forstærke båndene mellem Nuuk og København,” sagde han til nyhedsportalen

Populært sagt kan man hævde, at Mette Frederiksens regering, uden at opfylde Grønlands ønske om øgede udenrigspolitiske beføjelser for alvor og dermed risikere en konflikt med Grundloven, nu tilfredsstiller Nuuk ved at møblere Grønlands eksisterende råderum på mere funktionel vis.

Det sker ikke uden besvær. Aftalen er et resultat af et parløb mellem diplomater fra København og Nuuk gennem seks års komplekse og krævende forhandlinger med State Department og Pentagon, herunder hårde armlægninger med talknuserne fra US Air Force Acquisition, det amerikanske flyvevåbens magtfulde materieltjeneste.

Fravær af en formel dansk underskrift på selve hovedaftalen fra sidste uge tolkes i Nuuk og til dels i København derfor som en videreudvikling af det dansk-grønlandske forhold; ikke som et tab af dansk indflydelse i Nordatlanten.

De centrale aktører i Grønland, herunder formanden for Naalakkersuisut, Kim Kielsen, oplever, at Mette Frederiksen, Jeppe Kofod og resten af regeringen i højere grad end tidligere regeringer kommer indhold i Grønlands formelle ret til selv at tage vare på forholdet til fremmede stater og internationale institutioner, så længe det drejer sig om ansvarsområder, som Grønland allerede har hjemtaget fra Danmark – eksempelvis handel, råstofferne, fiskeriet osv. Retten fremgår af Selvstyreloven fra 2009.

Skrider det?
På Christiansborg er der som nævnt frygt for, at det hele skal skride. At USA på subtil vis skal opnå utidig indflydelse i Grønland, eller at Grønland får overdraget så vide udenrigspolitiske beføjelser, at Kina, USA, EU eller andre får mulighed for at spille Nuuk og København ud mod hinanden, fordi det er uklart, hvem der reelt har magten.

Hertil vil regeringen givetvis i lukkede kredse diskret henvise til, at aftalekomplekset består af fire dokumenter, herunder en såkaldt verbalnote, der udgør aftalens inderste, konkrete kerne. Det er her, USA beskriver, hvordan man vil sikre, at Grønland i fremtiden får kontant udbytte af serviceringen af Thule-basen, så de seneste seks års sure stridigheder kan lægges på hylden og USA få fred til at udvikle sit militær i Grønland.

Verbalnoten er formuleret som et forslag fra den amerikanske regering, der er godkendt på kongerigets vegne med et stempel fra det danske udenrigsministerium og en underskrift fra en medarbejder samme sted. Verbalnoten har karakter af en politisk aftale mellem kongeriget Danmark, repræsenteret ved Udenrigsministeriet, og USA. Ikke mellem Grønland og USA.

Det er i verbalnoten, at guldet ligger: En stribe vitale tekniske krav til de fremtidige udbud af den amerikanske servicekontrakt på Thule-basen. Her sikres det blandt andet, at det firma, der får kontrakten, skal være hjemmehørende i Grønland, så alle selskabsskatter tilfalder Grønlands landskasse, og der vil være krav om et vist antal grønlandske medarbejdere, lærlinge osv. Diplomaterne har brugt mange, mange timer på disse detaljer — og de er altså nu indeholdt i en aftale indgået mellem kongerigets udenrigsministerium i København og USA. De grønlandske forhandlere har givetvis deltaget tæt i forhandlingerne også om verbalnoten; alt tyder på et meget tæt dansk-grønlandsk parløb, men den er altså formelt godkendt af Udenrigsministeriet.

Resten af aftalen, som alene er underskrevet af Grønland og USA, består af en serie vigtige, men indtil videre uudfyldte hensigtserklæringer om bedre kontakt mellem Thule-basen og de lokale borgere i Nordgrønland og om udvidet økonomisk samarbejde mellem USA og Grønland, herunder faste konsultationer i en såkaldt Økonomisk Politisk Dialog (Færøerne indgår tilsvarende aftale med USA i næste uge). USA stiller eksportkreditter i udsigt til virksomheder, der vil lave forretning i Grønland; unge frivillige fra det såkaldte Peace Corps skal undervise i engelsk i Grønland; flere grønlændere kan se frem til legater til studier i USA m.m.

Alt det er centralt for Grønland og underskrevet alene af Kim Kielsen og Carla Sands. Men med den lille verbalnote er det altså lidt mere speget.

På denne facon afbalancerer regeringen tilsyneladende to centrale hensyn: Grønland får det længe ønskede større råderum i forholdet til fremmede magter, og den danske regerings monopol på forsvars- og sikkerhedspolitikken forbliver uantastet.

Grønland er nok grønlandsk i regeringens optik, men regeringens politik er fortsat, at kongeriget kun kan have én sikkerhedspolitik, én forsvarspolitik; ikke to eller tre, uanset, hvor gerne Grønland og Færøerne vil tale for sig selv.

Teksten her redigeret fra originalen, der optrådte på Altinget/Arktis 4. nov. 2020


Nye afsløringer fra Færøernes løsrivelsesforsøg har aktuel betydning for hele kongeriget

oktober 24, 2020 • Af

Den dybe alvor var det første, der fæstnede sig, da jeg læste Sjurdur Skaales nye bog om Færøernes forhandlinger om løsrivelse fra Danmark i år 2000. Regeringen i København tog absolut ikke let på sagen. Statsminister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen engagerede sig selv dybt i forløbet. I over et år var resten af regeringens topministre indkaldt til forhandlingsmøder gang på gang i mange, mange timer, og Sjurdur Skaale refererer talrige spidse detaljer, der viser, hvor velforberedt og rustet til styrkeprøven, regeringen var.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Anfinn Kallsberg, Høgni Hoydal og Helena Dam á Neystabø på vej ind til det første forhandlingsmøde i marts 2000. Finansminister Mogens Lykketoft i baggrunden. Foto: Jens Kristian Vang

Færingernes delegation med den unge republikanske leder Høgni Hoydal og lagmanden Annfinn Kallsberg i spidsen sad ikke over for statsministeren alene. Indkaldt time efter time var også finansminister Mogens Lykketoft, økonomiminister Marianne Jelved, justitsminister Frank Jensen og udenrigsminister Niels Helveg Petersen, og bag dem en hel række af departementschefer — og Poul Nyrup Rasmussen og Frank Jensen var til yderligere forhandlinger på Færøerne. Det voldsomme opbud var en magtdemonstration, men det afspejlede også den uhyre alvor, regeringen tillagde sagen. 

Som Sjurdur Skaale skriver i forordet: “Som folketingsmedlem må jeg tit vente i flere uger bare for at få et kort møde med en minister. Men i 2000 koordinerede alle regeringens fem topministre sammen med deres ledende embedsfolk deres kalendere, så de i hele dage og til langt ud på aftenen kunne være med til de ofte dramatiske forhandlinger”.

Forhandlingerne indeholdt efter dansk opfattelse en historisk risiko for uerstatteligt tab, potentiel reduktion af den danske stats udstrækning, en reduktion af det danske kongeriges havområde og landområde, en markant forandring af selve rigets demografiske, historiske og kulturelle natur, og det var som sådan, at sagen blev angrebet af det danske statsapparat. Ikke som en mulighed for at imødekomme de færøske aspirationer, ikke som en mulighed for en ny indretning af partnerskabet mellem Danmark og Færøerne, der burde udforskes i fællesskab, men som en ufornuftig, uønsket udfordring af selve rigets grundlæggende sammenhængskraft.

Færingerne troede, at de kunne gøre som Island, der blev en suveræn stat i 1917 og fortsatte tæt samarbejde med Danmark til den endegyldige løsrivelse i 1944. Færingerne troede, de ville møde samme vilje til kompromis, men sådan spillede klaveret ikke i København i 2000. 

Det er derfor, at Sjurdur Skaales bog er så vigtig. Den viser os, hvordan alle regeringer i Danmark, forud for Mette Frederiksens, altid har gjort, hvad der kunne gøres for at bremse processen, når færøske eller grønlandske beslutningstagere har taget skridt til at ændre på kongerigets aktuelle struktur. Vi kan spore tendensen i hvert fald tilbage til folkeafstemningen på Færøerne i 1946, hvor et lille flertal stemte for løsrivelse fra Danmark. Kongen og regeringen opløste det danske lagting, mobiliserede et marinefartøj, og der blev afholdt nyvalg. Et nyt hold færøske politikere sagde i stedet ja tak til hjemmestyre og kongeriget bestod. 

Tættere på vor tid husker læserne måske de skarpe meldinger fra statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, da færingerne for alvor tog fat på at skrive en færøsk forfatning. Her blev det forklaret med store bogstaver, at enhver vedtagelse af en forfatning, der asfalterede vejen til Færøernes løsrivelse, øjeblikkeligt ville medføre forhandlinger om reduktion af bloktilskuddet. En del i Grønland vil sikkert også huske, hvordan diskussionen bølgede tilsvarende, da den grønlandske forfatningskommission fik sit mandat i 2016.

Sjurdur Skaales øjenvidneberetning viser os i hidtil uset detaljeringsgrad, hvordan den danske stat i tiden efter 2. verdenskrig har grebet til de skarpeste værktøjer, hver gang, der er opstået risiko for rigets fortsatte sammenhæng. Anmelderen på skrev, at bogen bør være pligtlæsning for alle, der har interesse i løsrivelsestanken. Forholdet til Danmark har splittet færingerne siden 1906; et mindretal begyndte nogle årtier senere at overveje, om Færøerne mon ville stå stærkere som en selvstændig stat i nyt forbund med Danmark. I kort stunder har dette mindretal kunne samle et flertal.

Talte forbi hinanden

Sjurdur Skaale illustrerer, at forhandlinger i 2000 var nøje tilrettelagt af begge parter.  Færingerne havde en strategi, som Sjurdur Skaale i dag selv kalder håbløst naiv, og Poul Nyrup Rasmussen regering havde efter alt at dømme den stik modsatte — en magtens strategi, der løb med sejren. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen truede fra forhandlingernes første dag med at afvikle bloktilskuddet til Færøerne på fire år, og kortsluttede dermed reelt forhandlingerne. Vi kan ikke vide, om det var fra start var regeringens beregnede hensigt at skræmme færingerne til at droppe løsrivelsen, men meget tyder på det. Ifølge Sjurdur Skaales bog erkendte de færøske politikere i hvert fald hurtigt efter denne første dag, at spillet var tabt. De ville aldrig kunne samle et flertal for løsrivelsen, når vælgerne på færingerne vidste, at bloktilskuddet ville forsvinde på bare fire år. 

Sjurdur Skaale har sine egne grundige notater at støtte sig til, men vi har ikke de danske aktørers udlægning af, hvad der skete. Vi kan kun forsøge at forstå ud fra det foreliggende. Jeg havde selv fornøjelsen at dække forhandlingerne i 2000 for Danmarks Radios TV-avis. Jeg var politisk reporter på Christiansborg, og husker alvoren og en stålsat statsminister overfor den færøsk delegation, der hurtigt blev splittet og forvirret. I dag ved vi fra Sjurdur Skaales bog, at i hvert fald en del af færinger vitterligt troede, at et kompromis var muligt, mens andre måske var mindre troende. Nyrup spillede dygtigt på forskellighederne: Ved et af forhandlingsmøderne trak han helt uventet pludselig den besindige Annfinn Kallsberg ind i et sideværelse og fastholdt ham der i en stiv halv time, mens resten af forsamlingen sad måbende tilbage og ventede. Det er ifølge Sjurdur Skaale aldrig kommet frem, hvad de to talte om i denne mystiske halve time.  

Færøerne fik ikke held med forhandlingerne. Intet kompromis viste sig muligt. Man kan til nød hævde, at udvidelsen af Færøernes muligheder inden for rigsfællesskabet, der blev gennemført i 2004, herunder retten til at indgå visse bindende aftaler med andre lande, var resultat af det pres, færingerne lagde på regeringen i 2000. Men i det store hele var forhandlingerne i 2000 en traumatisk fiasko for Høgni Hoydal og alle andre, der mente, at selvstændighed ville være godt for Færøerne. Sjurdur Skaale viser, at fiaskoen i tilbageblikkets optik var forudsigelig, fordi færingerne undervurderede netop sagens alvor, sådan som den tog sig ud fra København.

Det er Sjurdur Skaales fortjeneste, at vi har fået et grundigt indblik i de fortrolige forhandlinger. Sjurdur Skaale, der i dag er folketingsmedlem for Javnadaflokkurin, Socialdemokratiets søsterparti på Færøerne, var fra første færd tæt indrulleret i Høgni Hoydals republikanske løsrivelsesprojekt som embedsmand. Han tabte selv troen på projektet undervejs, og er i dag kritisk tilhænger af rigsfællesskabet.

Sjurdur Skaale har valgt at offentliggøre sine egne noter og erindringer fra forhandlingerne mellem færingerne og Poul Nyrup Rasmussens regering. Det er i strid med alle sædvaner på Christiansborg, hvor fortrolighed er en absolut nødvendighed for det politiske arbejde. Skaale har vurderet, at sagens vigtighed for offentligheden giver ham moralsk ret til at bryde fortroligheden, og indtil videre ser det ud som om, at han slipper uden straf. Ingen af datidens danske aktører har endnu reageret offentligt. 

 Teksten her stod i Sermitsiaq d. 24. oktober 2020. Jeg har bistået Sjurdur Skaale med at forkorte det danske manuskript til “Da Færøerne ville løsrive sig” og modtaget et mindre honorar fra forlaget. Bogen er oversat fra færøsk af Sjurdur Skaale. Forlaget Torgard, 395 s. 349 kr. 


Hård russisk anklage mod Jeppe Kofod varsler ny ufred — også for Grønland

oktober 20, 2020 • Af

Et klassisk dilemma tegner sig: Kan USA’s og Danmarks militære aktivitet i Grønland øges, uden at Rusland protesterer og opruster yderligere? Kan Danmark på en og samme gang deltage i USA’s forstærkede militære indsats i Arktis og bevare det gode forhold til Rusland? 

Det var et dansk Challenger-fly som dette, der fik den russiske ambassadør til tasterne. (Foto: Forsvaret)

Senest anklagede den russiske ambassadør i København, Vladimir Barbin, i en skriftlig meddelelse til Ritzaus Bureau udenrigsminister Jeppe Kofod for at bruge falske argumenter til at bortforklare den danske deltagelse i en stor militærøvelse, som Rusland fandt provokerende. Barbin reagerede på Danmarks deltagelse i en militærøvelse tidligere i september, hvor amerikanske, britiske og norske krigsskibe sejlede tættere på de russiske militærbaser på Ruslands nordkyst end nogensinde tidligere siden 1980’erne.

De vestlige krigsskibe blev assisteret af et overvågningsfly fra det danske forsvar – en Challenger, der også ofte bruges af Arktisk Kommando i Grønland. Ifølge det norske medie Barents Observer sejlede krigsskibene ind i Ruslands eksklusive økonomiske zone; det er farvande, som Rusland betragter som essentielle for Ruslands egen sikkerhed.

Operationens kontroversielle karakter blev understreget af det danske flys opførsel. Piloten holdt sig ifølge mine oplysninger efter norsk ønske uden for  den russiske ekslusive økonomiske zone, selvom fartøjerne på havovefladen altså sejlede ind i zonen og tættere på Ruslands nordkyst. Norge må have vurderet, at selv et så lille, ubevæbnet fly ville øge provokationen af Rusland i uheldigt omfang.  

Rusland værner nidkært over et arsenal af atommissiler på Kola-halvøen og på sine muligheder for at føre ubåde og andre fartøjer fra baserne i fjordene vest for Murmansk ud på verdenshavene, hvor de forsøger at opretholde en militær atombalance med USA. 

Her er tale om russisk hjerteblod. Ruslands Nordflåde, der udgør kernen i det russiske atomarsenal, har hovedsæde på Kolahalvøen, og det er også her Ruslands ny generation af missilbærende ubåde har hjemme. Den vestlige flådeøvelse, som Danmark deltog i, forstyrrer i russisk optik den prekære balance ikke bare længst mod nord. Det handler om dominans på havene hele vejen ned langs Grønlands østkyst, rundt om Island og Færøerne og langt ned i Europa.

Falsk forklaring?

I Danmark forklarede Jeppe Kofod efter et møde i Folketingets Udenrigspolitiske Nævn, at Danmark deltog i øvelsen, fordi der er behov for at sikre alles ret til at sejle uhindret i de internationale farvande nord for Rusland. Den forklaring afviser Rusland: “Sådanne øvelser tæt på den russiske grænse fremprovokerer en tvivl om, hvor reelt vores arktiske naboer mener det, når de siger, at de vil fastholde regionen som et lavspændingsområde. Disse flådeøvelser bliver afholdt under det falske påskud, at de opretholder den frie navigation, som aldrig har været i fare og som der aldrig er sat spørgsmålstegn ved i Barentshavet,” skrev Barbin.

Afvisningen blev ekstra slående, da en dansk militæranalytiker, Anders Puck Nielsen, ekspert i flådeoperationer på Forsvarsakademiet i København, straks erklærede sig enig med den russiske ambassadør.  Nielsen afviste ifølge Ritzau straks Jeppe Kofods forklaring: “Det er et fjollet argument. Freedom of Navigation-operationer forudsætter jo, at den frie sejlads på en eller anden måde er udfordret, men det er jo på ingen måde sådan, at russerne har indikeret, at der var lukket oppe i Barentshavet. For mig at se handler det om militær afskrækkelse og stormagtspositionering”. 

Den danske deltagelse må altså ifølge en af Danmarks egne analytikere forstås i forlængelse af den strategi, som især USA har argumenteret for. De amerikanske beslutningstagere forklarer gerne, at USA’s indsats sigter på at imødegå den russiske militære udvikling i Arktis og øget kinesisk tilstedeværelse i regionen. Regeringen i København deler tilsyneladende nu fuldt ud denne bekymring for Rusland og Kina i Arktis, og høster til gengæld russisk kritik for den tilhørende militære adfærd. Det afgørende spørgsmål i Grønland er, hvordan Danmark og USA vil øge deres militære aktiviteter på de kanter, uden at provokere Rusland til yderligere oprustning. Måske får vi svar i rigsfællesskabet nye arktiske strategi, der ventes i 2021. 

Kim Kielsen, Mette Frederiksen og andre beslutningstagere deler ønsket om at bevare freden i Arktis, men uroen vokser. De militære analytikere har endnu ikke for alvor slået alarm, men antallet af varsler om uro er voksende. Udvekslingerne mellem de arktiske stater handler i stadig højere grad om krigsskibe, missiler og provokationer, og stadig mindre om økonomisk udvikling, fred og miljø – præcis som den seneste dansk-russiske udveksling viser.

USA’s arktiske fokus

Vladimir Barbins kritik følger en serie af vestlige magtdemonstrationer tættere og tættere på det russiske Arktis. USA har siden 2017 haft tropper fast udstationeret i Nordnorge; antallet svinger. Det amerikanske forsvars brug af den tidligere base i Keflavik på Island vokser. I 2018 signalerede USA et ønske om mere lufthavnsinfrastruktur i Grønland, i 2019 foreslog den amerikanske præsident som bekendt, at USA ville købe Grønland. I maj i år sejlede fire amerikanske og et britisk krigsskib, inklusive destroyerne Donald Cook, Porter og Roosevelt for første gang siden den kolde krig langt ind i Barentshavet fulgt at et hurtigtgående støtte-fartøj. I juni fløj en gruppe norske F-16s og F-35 jagerfly på øvelse med et af USA’s største bombefly, et B-52H Stratofortress, tættere på russisk luftrum i Arktis end noget andet fly i den klasse i mange år. I juli sejlede destroyeren Roosevelt igen i Arktis, nu ved 78 grader nord, i mere end 28 dage. Kaptajnen skrev i en pressemeddelelse om “vedholdende amerikansk maritim tilstedeværelse i de arktiske farvande”. En amerikansk destroyer sejlede fornylig forsigtigt ind i Godthåbsfjorden i Grønland, amerikanske officerer instrueres ombord på danske krigsskibe i Grønland og der forhandles om nye amerikanske militære installationer i Grønland.

Jeg blev igen mindet om, hvordan Vladimir Barbin allerede i 2019 på et offentligt møde i København forklarede, at Ruslands opbygning af nye baser i Arktis, inklusive den vigtige, nybyggede Nagurskoye Air Base relativt tæt på Thulebasen, netop er nødvendige på grund af militær amerikansk aktivitet tæt på Rusland. Holdbarheden i den påstand kan selvsagt diskuteres, men den repræsenterer altså det russiske syn på sagen.

Et klassisk sikkerhedsdilemma, der i høj grad omfatter det danske kongerige, synes således at være undervejs: Ingen af parterne har nødvendigvis aggressive hensigter. Men den gensidige mistillid er så intens, at ingen synes villig til at stoppe den militære eskalering, før man har opbygget større militære muskler i Arktis end rivalen. Herefter vokser risikoen for misforståelser, fejl og øget spænding. For nogle iagttagere ser det allerede sort ud;  herunder for Enhedslistens sikkerhedspolitiske ordfører Eva Flyvholm: “Vi står jo i en sindssygt skrøbelig situation lige nu, hvor det er vigtigt, at alle tænker meget grundigt over, om det er fornuftigt, det vi laver,” sagde hun efter det omtalte møde i Udenrigspolitisk Nævn. 

Norsk tvivl

I Norge har den kontroversielle flådeøvelse skabt alvorlig debat om den fortsatte kurs. I maj undlod Norge at deltage, da de tre amerikanske og et britisk skib sejlede ind i Barentshavet. 

“Norge vil ikke provokere Rusland,” sagde Rune Jakobsen, chef for det norske forsvars operative hovedkvarter i Bodø. “Vi er nødt til at fastholde lavspænding i nord. Hvis vi opererer sammen med amerikanske styrker eller allierede styrker uden for de russiske ubådsbaser på Kolahalvøen, vil det bidrage til øget spænding,” sagde han ifølge avisen VG. 

Den holdning er tilsyneladende nu lagt på hylden – indtil næste uenighed. Norge deltog ligesom Danmark aktivt i den kontroversielle øvelse tidligt i september, der fik Vladimir Barbin til tasterne. 



How a US pivot to the north changes the European Arctic

august 22, 2020 • Af

President Trump’s idea of buying Greenland is no longer on the table, but Denmark and Greenland are preparing for a sustained increase in U.S. attention.

Sec. of State Mike Pompeo meets Denmark’s prime minister Mette Frederiksen, Copenhagen 22 July 2020. 

It was a tiny piece of news, almost no news at all.

Denmark’s national news agency put out only the slightest of items — I almost missed it — when Danish Defense minister Trine Bramsen announced on her way to Nuuk in early August that she would bring with her a political advisor who was to remain in Greenland’s capital as a new intermediary between the minister, her staff in Copenhagen and the administration in Greenland, 3,500 kilometers to the north.

She flatly rejected a suggestion that this unusual arrangement had anything to do with the fact that the U.S. consulate in Nuuk has just reopened after more than 60 years of deep sleep.

“I made this decision long ago, so it does not have anything to do with that. This is about cooperation between Denmark and Greenland,” the minister said.

“I have decided that from now on we will have a political advisor in Greenland. This is in light of the increasing developments in the Arctic security- and defense-wise,” she said.

This was deftly put. The minister managed to remain truthful and at the same time diplomatically obfuscate the issue. In fact, the placement of a political advisor of this sort in Nuuk has very much to do with the mushrooming U.S. involvement in Greenland, but the minister was also right to indicate that the great change in the Arctic, which has now necessitated her placement of a special Danish advisor on military affairs in Nuuk, happened long before the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Greenland this summer.

The rapid increase in U.S. attention to the Arctic has long manifested itself in our European part of the Arctic and it is has in many ways direct impact on the political environments, as indicated not only by the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Nuuk, but also, for instance, by the stationing of U.S. marines in northern Norway since 2017 (although this will soon be discontinued), the return of the U.S. military to Keflavik, the former air base in Iceland, or, as in this recent case, by the placing of a political advisor to the Danish minister of defense in Nuuk.

In May, four U.S. naval ships, accompanied by a British vessel, sailed into the Barents Sea north of Norway to conduct maritime security operations closer to Russian waters than any exercise of its kind since the Cold War in the mid-eighties. According to a U.S. Navy press release, the operation included three Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers, Donald Cook, Porter and Roosevelt, all designed to launch guided missiles, supported by a fast combat support ship.

U.S. Navy ships conduct a photo exercise during operations in the Arctic Ocean on May 5, 2020. (Dan Rosenbaum / HMS Kent via U.S. Sixth Fleet)

In June, a school of Norwegian F-16s and F-35s fighter jets trained with one of the largest bombers in the U.S. Air Force, a B-52H Stratofortress, during a long-range, long duration strategic bomber task mission throughout Europe and the Arctic region. The flying fortress flew closer to Russian air space in the Arctic than any other of its kind in recent years.

In late July the Roosevelt, one of the destroyers mentioned, was back in the Arctic, sailing as far north as 78 degrees:

“Today my crew has operated above the 66th parallel for twenty-eight days and counting, and I am thrilled to award them the Navy Arctic Service Ribbon. This ribbon symbolizes Roosevelt’s exceptional maritime operations in the high north and a sustained U.S. naval presence in Arctic waters, ” said Ryan R. Kendall, commanding officer aboard Roosevelt, according to the Barents Observer.

“Maritime operations by USS Roosevelt are the most visible and persistent demonstrations of the Navy’s commitment to Arctic security,” he added.

I was reminded of a public speech by the Russian envoy to Copenhagen Vladimir Barbin last year, where he suggested that the impressive increase in Russian military spending in the Arctic, including the massive refurbishment of the Nagurskoye Air Base further north than any Russian military outpost, was spurred not the least by exactly such U.S. missions. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, statements like that from Russian representatives are often dismissed as half-truths or less, but the recent increase in western and U.S. military activity in the Arctic is indeed noteworthy.

No more talk of buying Greenland

Not long after the Roosevelt’s travels in the Far North, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Copenhagen. To many in the U.S., it may be hard to imagine how big an event such a visit is for a small country like Denmark, but take my word for it. A visit by the secretary of state of the U.S. is not taken lightly here at all. I was invited to sit on an all-day panel of commentators on one of our national broadcasters which provided non-stop coverage for more than eight hours of television. Pompeo was received by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, and not only — as would normally be the case when a foreign secretary visits — by his Danish counterpart, Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, with whom he had talks only after meeting with Frederiksen.

The secretary’s visit came less than a year after president Trump’s confirmation on TV that he and his staff had discussed for some time how the U.S. could perhaps buy Greenland, complete with its 57,000 inhabitants, from the Danish government.

“A large real estate deal” that would be “strategically nice for the US”, as the president put it in August 2019. Our prime minister dismissed the discussion as absurd, and president Trump consequently cancelled a state visit to Denmark.

In Copenhagen, Pompeo made no mention of Trump’s purchase suggestion, but it has, of course, hardly been forgotten here. Trump in essence indicated that the U.S. was no longer satisfied with running Thule Air Base in the north of Greenland or working with Denmark and semi-autonomous Greenland as the U.S. and its defense forces have done since the Second World War. This suggestion sent shockwaves through Copenhagen and Nuuk, and it led to rapid action. It was now clear that the U.S. strategic interest in Greenland has grown to a degree where status quo is no longer an option, and that Greenland is likely to remain a strategic U.S. priority long after the current U.S. administration is eventually replaced.

The Danish government acted firmly on this knowledge. Shortly after Trump’s suggestion, the government announced a hefty increase in funding for Denmark’s Arctic Command in Nuuk, a commitment reconfirmed by Kofod in a press briefing during Pompeo’s visit to Copenhagen.

The practical examples of such Danish follow-ups on the renewed U.S. focus on the Arctic keep coming. Only last week, Maj. Gen. Anders Rex, commander of Air Command Denmark for the Royal Danish Air Force, wrote in Defense News, a U.S. based news outlet, how several of Denmark’s newly acquired F-35 fighter jets will be equipped to work in the Arctic.

“The F-35 will be pivotal in the execution of Danish air defense and sovereignty. Whether it will also perform missions in the Arctic is undecided, but some of the Danish F-35s will have provision for a drag chute to enable operations from icy runways. Coupled with the Greenlandic decision to extend a number of air fields to more than 2,000 meters, it gives vastly increased operational opportunities for fighter operations,” the commander explained.

During Pompeo’s visit to Copenhagen, the idea that the U.S. might indeed buy Greenland was all but invisible. It has clearly been shoved firmly back on the shelf, but it served as an ever-present reminder and left nobody in doubt of Secretary Pompeo’s seriousness when he spoke of Greenland:

“Quite simply, it’s a new day for the United States and Greenland. Reopening the U.S. consulate in Nuuk reinvigorates an American presence that was dormant for far too long,” he said during the press briefing.

“The United States has also signed new memorandums of understanding to cooperate with our partners in the Kingdom of Denmark that cover a wide range of areas, like growing Greenland’s mining and energy sectors through transparent investment, helping manage land and fisheries, increasing tourism, and much, much more,” he added, indicating again how significant the renewed U.S. engagement in Greenland is.

At no point before 2019 has the U.S. been involved like this in civil affairs in Greenland. Now, with an initial input of $12 million in aid, technical advisors from the U.S., including USAID, are to manage civil development projects in several locations in Greenland, all based on a set of deals entered into directly between Nuuk and the Trump administration in Washington without any direct involvement of the Danish government in Copenhagen. Many see this more direct U.S. approach to Greenland as a host of new opportunities; others are busy ruminating about possible hidden U.S. motives.

During his visit to Copenhagen, Pompeo announced that one of the next steps in the renewed U.S. involvement in the Arctic will be the opening of similar political avenues of formal communication between Washington and Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, which like Greenland is a semi-autonomous part of the Danish kingdom that has never before enjoyed such attention from the U.S.

Only days before, after a visit to Tórshavn by the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, the media reported that U.S. naval ships would likely become much more frequent in Faroese ports. In a nation with only 51,000 inhabitants, this is important news, both politically and from a business perspective, and while Pompeo did not comment in Copenhagen on this issue of potential U.S. military use of the Faroese ports, he did highlight the formalization of new U.S.-Faroese links:

“I’m pleased to announce today that the United States and the Faroe Islands have agreed to start a formal dialogue to talk about key issues like healthy fisheries and enhanced commercial engagement,” he said.

During his one-day visit to Copenhagen, Pompeo met directly with representatives of the administrations in Nuuk and Torshavn. Steen Lynge, the minister of foreign affairs of Greenland, and Jenis av Rana, his Faroese colleague, were both invited to parts of the meetings by the Danish government — which brings us back to the new Nuuk-based political advisor to Denmark’s defense minister.

As Bramsen indicated in her announcement last week, her new advisor is to bring up to speed coordination between Nuuk and Copenhagen. Also, it is fair to assume, the advisor is to make sure that the administration in Nuuk feels that it is  fully informed about all relevant negotiations between the U.S. and Copenhagen — a matter which was not previously always resolved to Nuuk’s satisfaction.

According to the intricate ways of the Danish Kingdom, Greenland and the Faroe Islands cannot pursue their own separate policies when it comes to matters of defense or security. And since Pompeo and Sands have been very clear that the U.S. engagement in the Arctic is very much designed to defend the U.S. itself against Russian aggression and to counteract Chinese advances in the Arctic, it is not always easy to find out exactly what the Faroese and Greenlandic leaders are authorized to talk to the US envoys about and what they are not.

The new political advisor in Nuuk is there to sort out exactly such questions and to make sure that upcoming military developments in Greenland — whether funded by U.S. or Denmark — happens in tight coordination between Copenhagen and the Nuuk’s self-rule government. This is a must if the leaders in Greenland are to remain satisfied with the existing power-sharing within the Kingdom of Denmark and it is important for the maintenance of both Denmark’s and Greenland’s vital relations with the U.S. at this time of the American pivot to the North.

This piece appeared first on on August 12 2020


Grønlands og Færøernes krav om mere udenrigspolitisk magt udfordrer Mette F.

april 10, 2020 • Af

Britternes Brexit, Kinas pres på Færøerne og Donald Trump’s tanker om at købe Grønland har skærpet de færøske og grønlandske krav om større udenrigspolitiske beføjelser. Det har givet den danske regering et vanskeligt dilemma, der næppe forsvinder under corona-krisen. Regeringens egne juristerne siger, at Grundloven ikke tillader overførsel af mere magt over det udenrigspolitiske hverken til Nuuk eller Thorshavn.

Mette F. mødtes med Trump i London uden at Grønland var repræsenteret – det blev straks noteret i Nuuk

Dilemmaet blev udstillet i særlig grad i kølvandet på Donald Trumps tanker om at købe Grønland fra august 2029.

Den 3. december samme år offentliggjorde statsministeriet et PR-foto af Mette Frederiksen (S), forsvarsminister Trine Bramsen (S) og udenrigsminister Jeppe Kofod (S). Ministrene fremstår dynamiske og handlekraftige på vej til NATO-topmøde i London i en af forsvarets Challenger-jets. Jeppe Kofod er i energiske skjorteærmer. Højt på programmet står også et møde med Donald Trump i London, hvor Grønland og Arktis vil indgå i drøftelserne. Her skal regeringen rydde op efter det akavede og historiske forløb i august 2019, hvor Mette Frederiksen kaldte Donald Trumps ide om at købe Grønland “absurd,” og Trump angiveligt af samme grund aflyste et besøg i Danmark. 

Statsministeren havde inden afgang via Berlingske uventet meddelt, at regeringen vil  øremærke 1,5 mia. kr. i forsvarsbudgettet til forstærkede indsatser i Arktis. Mette Frederiksen brugte i avisen en række centrale kodeord fra USA’s nye tilgang til Arktis, hvor stormagtsrivalisering har afløst årtiers fokus på samarbejde, klima og fred. Hun talte om flere skibe, fly,  ubådsovervågning og truslen fra Rusland. Hun ville noget nær tredoble Arktisk Kommandos budget, og pengene skulle bruges, forklarede hun, i nøje samarbejde med USA. Efter Donald Trumps købstanker i august understregede hun igen og igen, at regeringen ser frem til øget strategisk samarbejde med USA i Grønland og i øvrigt vil øge forsvarsbudgettet; i London kunne hun nu lægge beviser på bordet.

I billedets yderste højre rand ses endnu et hvidt skjorteærme; et par fingre, en anonym person. Det er ikke Kim Kielsen, formand for Naalakkersuisut, Grønlands landsstyre, der sjældent optræder i hvid skjorte og i øvrigt mangler en finger på venstre hånd. Ej heller er det Ane Lone Bagger, den politisk ansvarlige for Grønlands udenrigsanliggender, som Jeppe Kofod kort forinden ellers omhyggeligt inviterede med til Washington til sit første møde med Mike Pompeo, USA’s udenrigsminister.

De to’s fravær blev straks bemærket i Grønland. Som Sermitsiaq, Grønlands politiske ugeavis, skrev på lederplads efter mødet med Trump: “Grønland er ikke med til er møde om, at Grønland inddrages i våbenkapløbet i Arktis (…) Grønland er ikke informeret eller inddraget i dette. Udenrigs- og Sikkerhedspolitisk Udvalg i Inatsisartut (det grønlandske parlament, red.) vidste ikke, at man ville bruge halvanden milliard kroner til forsvaret i Grønland (…) Tilsyneladende er det vigtigere for statsministeren at have penge med til Donald Trump end at informere Grønland om, hvad man vil bruge pengene til (…) Der er partier i Inatsisartut, der er imod, at Grønland er med i en oprustning. Hvor er respekten for demokratiet og det grønlandske samfund? (…) Igen er vi tilbage i den gamle politik, som vi har kendt, siden USA opstillede raketter med kernevåben på Thule Air Base uden at orientere grønlænderne”.

Mette Frederiksen havde før rejsen til London informeret Kim Kielsen; de to har et tæt arbejdsforhold, men her stoppede inddragelsen tilsyneladende. Det historiske møde med Trump og regeringens beslutning om at flerdoble Arktisk Kommandos budget kan dermed føjes til et voksende udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitisk dilemma, der plager rigsfællesskabet og forholdet til omverdenen. 

På den ene side har de grønlandske og færøske beslutningstagere i en årrække været stadig mere fokuserede på deres stærkt begrænsede muligheder for at føre selvstændig udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitik, og kravene om forandringer vokser i takt med omverdenens eksploderende interesse for de to ø-samfund. 

På den anden side har skiftende danske regeringer, inklusive VLAK-regeringen og den nuværende, udvist forståelse og velvilje over for de grønlandske og færøske frustrationer, men samtidig stringent holdt sig til den analyse, som regeringens jurister har stået for siden Selvstyrets indførelse i Grønland i 2009: Grundloven kan ikke strækkes yderligere på netop dette punkt. Rigets udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitik føres af regeringen i København, og det kan ikke lade sig gøre at overføre flere beføjelser på dette punkt til hverken Thorshavn eller Nuuk. 


Til Jerusalem!


Dilemmaet er presserende; behovet for afklaring, koordinering og rene linjer mellem de tre rigsdele bliver stadig mere påtrængende. Som det er fremgået i de seneste måneder, kræver stormagternes interesse klare, umisforståelige svar, og det kan blive fatalt, hvis de tre dele af riget agerer modsætningsfyldt. 

I november søgte det færøske landsstyres udenrigsminister Jenis av Rana penge på den færøske finanslov til åbning af en færøsk repræsentation i Israel i 2020. Kontoret skal efter den kristne ministers mening ligge i Jerusalem, ikke i Tel Aviv ved den danske ambassade. “Det er en de facto anerkendelse af Jerusalem som Israels hovedstad,” sagde han. Forslaget står formelt stadig i skrivende stund ved magt, dog ikke støttet at noget nær et flertal i landstinget og direkte modsagt af lagmand Bardur Nielsen. 

Færøerne eksporterer hvert år laks for milliarder til Rusland, og har tidligere direkte undsagt EU’s sanktionspolitik mod Rusland efter Krim. Landsstyret har desuden i nogle år arbejdet på en frihandelsaftale med Rusland og de fire øvrige medlemmer af Den Eurasiske Union, til flere danske politikeres forundring.

Færøerne har øget lakseeksporten til Rusland, selvom det strider mod ånden i de europæiske sanktioner mod Rusland efter annekteringen af Krim

“Færingerne skylder sig selv at tænke sig rigtig godt om, før de tager et så ultimativt skridt, som det er at indgå en frihandelsaftale med Rusland. Det er helt fint, de handler med Rusland ligesom os andre, men derfra og så til at binde sig op i den tætteste interessesfære skal man tænke sig godt om. Det siger jeg ikke af hensyn til Danmark, men af hensyn til dem selv,” som MF, tidl. udenrigsminister Martin Lidegaard (RV) sagde til Kristeligt Dagblad i november.

Efter Brexit skal Færøerne selv forhandle ny fiskeriaftale med Storbritannien og sikre sig, at øernes øvrige handel med briterne ikke går tabt. Imens vil skotterne arbejde hårdt på at løsrive sig fra England og oprette en uafhængig stat i Nordatlanten — langt tættere på Færøerne end Danmark.  

Begge processer vil øge Færøernes og også Grønlands krav. Færøerne er ikke medlem af EU, og som folketingsmedlem Sjurdur Skaale fra det socialdemokratiske Javnaðarflokkurin forklarede mig i december: “Danmark vil få en fiskeriaftale med Storbritannien gennem EU, men vi skal selv forhandle en helt ny fiskeriaftale, og det er helt afgørende med en god handelsaftale med Storbritannien efter Brexit. Det er en ny stor partner, som vi skal samarbejde med uden om Danmark.” 

Den færøske lagmand Bardur Nielsen inviterede et par dage efter valget i England i december Boris Johnson til Færøerne; det bliver så i givet fald opfølgning på det møde de to havde allerede før Brexit-afstemningen i London 5. november. En britisk fiskeriminister var på Færøerne både i 2017 og 2018, og som for at understrege forbindelsen købte Færøernes største virksomhed Bakkafrost i september lakseproducenten The Scottish Salmon Company for mere end 3 mia. kr. – den største færøske investering i udlandet nogensinde. 

Det ligger formelt set alt sammen inden for Færøernes ret til at føre selvstændig handelspolitik, men det illustrerer også udmærket, hvor vanskeligt det er og vil være for både færøske og grønlandske repræsentanter at navigere uden om det udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitiske.  

I november lagde Kinas ambassadør i Danmark angiveligt og som flittigt beskrevet i medierne betydeligt pres på Færøernes landsstyre for at sikre, at den kinesiske teknologivirksomhed Huawei bliver leverandør af 5G-mobiltelefoni på Færøerne. Sjurdur Skaale mente, at Huawei-sagen, som også den amerikanske ambassadør Carla Sands involverede sig i, illustrerede, hvorfor Grønland og Færøerne bør have mere kontrol over egne udenrigsaffærer: 

“Sagen viser den store forskydning i det danske riges betydning, hvor Grønland og Færøerne efterhånden får større betydning end Danmark. Internationalt, geopolitisk og strategisk har Grønland og Færøerne i dag fået større betydning end Danmark, så det er helt uholdbart, at beslutningerne skal træffes i Danmark, når det handler om Færøerne og Grønland,” sagde han.  

Når der er så kraftigt pres fra USA og Kina, viser det, at sagen handler om mere end bare Kinas handel med et mikroskopisk teleselskab på Færøerne. Vores 60.000 indbyggere kan jo være i en enkelt bygning i Beijing. Det handler om geopolitik. Der er stadig større økonomisk og militær aktivitet i Arktis, og Færøerne ligger på tærsklen mellem Europa og Arktis. Derfor er det godt at have foden indenfor.” 

Ingen vej udenom

I Grønland er selvfølelsen og frustrationerne på samme niveau. 

Sara Olsvig, tidligere folketingsmedlem for Inuit Ataqatigiit og tidligere viceformand for Naalakkersuisut, anser det for helt nødvendigt, at de nordatlantiske ø-samfund får større udenrigspolitisk råderum:

“Jeg kan ikke se nogen vej udenom. Vi tager allerede beslutninger i dag, som har konsekvenser for udenrigs- og sikkerhedsområdet, så hvis ikke det skal fortsætte med at være noget værre rod, kan man lige så godt sætte sig ned nu og finde en løsning,” siger hun.

“Som det er nu, savner vi transparens og lige adgang til informationer. Samtidighedsprincippet, som tilsiger, at parlamenterne i København og Nuuk har samme adgang til information samtidig, efterleves ikke, og meget af det materiale, der er relevant for beslutningnerne i Grønland, foreligger ikke i Grønland,” siger hun. 

Hun fandt den dansk-grønlandske arbejdsdeling på udenrigsområdet dysfunktionel allerede fra sin entre i Folketinget i 2011: 

“Det er som om, man fra dansk side stadig ikke er opmærksomme på, at man har en ny udfordring, og at man er nødt til at finde ud af, hvad man gør ved den. I al den tid, jeg var politiker, har det været sådan, at beslutninger, der umiddelbart ser ud til at være indenrigspolitiske beslutninger i Grønland og på Færøerne, også har haft udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitiske konsekvenser. Systemet er bare stadigvæk ikke gearet til, hvad man så skal gøre ved det,” siger hun. 

Sara Olsvig var under sin tid i Folketinget formand for foreningen af arktiske parlamentarikere, der samler parlamentsmedlemmer fra alle de arktiske nationer. Hun trak sig fra det politiske liv i 2018 og er i dag chef for UNICEF i Grønland, men hun deltager stadig i den politiske debat. 

I forrige udgave af Udenrigs skrev hun sammen med lektor ved universitetet i Nuuk, cand.scient.pol, ph.d. Rasmus Leander Nielsen under overskriften Da Trump ville købe Grønland

“Sat på spidsen er det ikke længere muligt blot at fastslå, at forsvars- og udenrigspolitikken er et dansk anliggende, jfr. Grundlovens § 19, for de facto spiller Grønland qua den geostrategiske placering en stigende rolle, når beslutninger tages, diplomater mødes og arktiske sikkerhedsdynamikker ændres.”

Diskussionen handler altså om udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitikken og ikke nødvendigvis om øgede færøske og grønlandske ønsker om egentlig løsrivelse fra Danmark. Sjurdur Skaale og hans parti på Færøerne er tilhængere af Færøernes rigsfællesskab med Danmark, mens Sara Olsvig ligesom andre moderate tilhængere af visionen om et uafhængigt Grønland insisterer på, at Grønlands social- og økonomiske sammenhængskraft skal øges markant, før et mere grundlæggende opgør med rigsfællesskabet vil være relevant. Begge holder de dog fast i, at behovet for nye greb om udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitikken er akut.    

Nødvendigt samarbejde

Regeringen og statsministeren har hårdt brug for et smidigt og operationelt samarbejde med både Thorshavn og Nuuk. Man behøver blot at forestille sig furoren, hvis Kim Kielsen på vegne af Naalakkersuisut modsatte sig øget amerikansk militær tilstedeværelse i Grønland eller åbningen af et amerikansk konsulat i Nuuk. Eller hvis Færøerne i fremtiden vil føre en anden kurs over for Kina, end den, som København ville foretrække — sådan som Færøerne allerede gør, når det gælder det europæiske sanktionsregime mod Rusland efter Krim-krisen i 2014.

Grundlovens §19 siger, at “kongen handler på rigets vegne i mellemfolkelige anliggender”, hvorfra regeringens sikkerheds- og udenrigspolitiske mandat og monopol så trækkes. Med loven om Grønlands Selvstyre fra 2009 og den såkaldte Fuldmagtslov for Færøerne fra 2005 har Nuuk og Thorshavn fået ret til at forhandle og indgå folkeretligt bindende aftaler med andre lande og internationale organisationer på sagsområder, som er fuldt hjemtagne, altså hvor Grønland eller Færøerne har overtaget det fulde politiske ansvar, men sådanne aftaler kan kun indgås på vegne af det samlede kongerige og efter detaljeret, forudgående orientering af regeringen i København. Skriver den færøske lagmand eksempelvis under på en ny fiskeri- eller handelsaftale, gør han/hun det som “Kongeriget Danmark, på vegne af Færøerne”, og forholdene er ens for Naalakkersuisut i Nuuk.     

I stats-, udenrigs-, og justitsministeriet er analysen som nævnt, at grundloven ikke kan strækkes yderligere på dette punkt. Enkelte private jurister har anfægtet analysen, men der er ikke sprækker at spore i centraladministrationens holdning, selvom presset fra Nordatlanten er voksende.

Hverken i Grønland og på Færøerne accepteres regeringens juridiske argumenter som fyldestgørende. Som Sjurdur Skaale siger: “Grundloven beskriver en enhedsstat, som forlængst er sprængt, og som bliver det stadig mere. Det må man forholde sig til, og ikke fastholde den meget legalistiske tilgang, man har fulgt hidtil. Danmark har jo f.eks. også tilladt, at vi har et parlament på Færøerne, at vi opkræver skatter og alt muligt andet, som vi mener ligger klart uden for grundlovens rammer. Beslutningerne har fra gammel tid ligget i Danmark, hvor befolkningen og økonomien har været stærkest, men nu kommer geografien ind som et nyt, afgørende element, og der spiller først og fremmest Grønland, men også Færøerne i kraft af sit store havområde en stadig vigtigere rolle.” 

Som svar tog man under VLAK-regeringen fat på en række tillidsskabende foranstaltninger, designet til at fremme koordineringen og udveksling af information og synspunkter. Sikre kommunikationskanaler anlægges over Atlanten, flere folk i Thorshavn og Nuuk sikkerhedscleares, en årlig samarbejdsdag mellem de tre udenrigstjenester er indført, Politiets og Forsvarets Efterretningstjenester betjener i stigende grad Thorshavn og Nuuk (PET har nu en fast mand i Nuuk, der rådgiver om aflytningsrisici m.v.). Forsvarsakademiets analytikere har holdt både lukkede og åbne møder i Nuuk, og Mette Frederiksen og andre ministre siger, at de inddrager grønlandske og færøske beslutningstagere mere i regeringens udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitiske overvejelser. 

I mellemtiden får vi løbende tegn på, hvordan Færøernes og Grønlands udenrigs- sikkerheds signifikans vokser. 

Som da Mette Frederiksen øremærkede de 1,5 milliarder til Arktisk Kommando i Nuuk. Eller som da forsvarsminister Trine Bramsen kort forinden bandt det danske forsvar til udgifter på omkring en halv milliard til vedligehold af den store lufthavn i Kangerlussuaq i Grønland, der blev bygget af USA under 2. verdenskrig. Den danske regering er fortsat forpligtet af “Aftalememorandum af 13. marts 1991”, som blev indgået da de danske myndigheder med få ugers varsel overtog lufthavnen fra USA. Her står, at “de Forenede Staters militære fly og fly chartret af militæret skal fortsat uhindret have overflyvnings- og landingsrettigheder.”

Eller da Mette Frederiksen i Folketinget 10. december 2019 fastholdt, at det udelukkende er en færøsk beslutning, om det offentligt ejede Føroya Tele vælger Huawei som 5G-leverandør eller ej. Statsministeren undlod at gøre sagen til et spørgsmål om rigets udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitik, selvom sagen har klart sikkerheds- og udenrigspolitisk indhold, og selvom den stadig i skrivende stund hæver som et gærbrød midt i den uregulerede, besværlige gråzone mellem handelspolitikken, som er et færøsk anliggende, og udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitikken, der sorterer under den danske regering. 

Lars Løkke Rasmussen (V), valgte efter et møde om Huawei-sagen i Udenrigspolitisk Nævn 12. december at skære Mette Frederiksens dilemma ud i pap: “Hvis den danske regering mente, det var et problem, at den færøske regering valgte én leverandør frem for en anden, så ville den danske regering kunne gribe ind allerede nu. Derfor nytter det ikke noget, at den danske regering står og tørrer ansvaret af sig,” sagde han til de forsamlede journalister.

 Udenrigsminister Jeppe Kofod fastholdt, at regeringen ikke agter at blande sig: “Det her er en kommerciel beslutning, som ligger på Færøerne. Det er et hjemtaget område, som Færøerne har, hele teleområdet. Vi har Center for Cybersikkerhed, som kan være med til at rådgive Færøerne og det konkrete selskab i forhold til sikkerhed, IT-sikkerhed, cybersikkerhed, telesikkerhed, og det er det, vi også stiller til rådighed,” sagde han. 

Regeringen slap på den måde for at sige ligeud, at Huawei er så tæt forbundet med den kinesiske statsmagt, at Danmark af sikkerhedsmæssige årsager ikke ønsker, at Huawei får kontrol med 5G-netværket. Samtidig slap man for endnu en konflikt med det færøske landsstyre om magtens deling. (Landsstyret i Torshavn fastholdt, at man ikke ville blande sig i, hvilken leverandør Føroya Tele vælger til sit 5G-netværk. Et dansk indgreb, hvor statsministeren insisterede på regeringens mandat til at blande sig, fordi sagen har sikkerhedspolitiske implikationer, ville følgelig blive betragtet som et alvorligt, politisk overgreb i Torshavn og skadeligt for landsstyrets autoritet). 

I 2018 stod Lars Løkke Rasmussen som statsminister midt samme gråzone, da hans regering efter dialog med Washington fandt, at udsigterne til, at Kina måske ville få en rolle i opførslen af to nye lufthavne i Grønland, udgjorde en sikkerhedsrisiko for hele riget. Kim Kielsen og andre fra Nuuk havde under besøg i Beijing over for kinesiske finansinstitutioner luftet muligheden for kinesisk medfinansiering af lufthavnene, og et kinesisk entreprenørselskab var inviteret til at byde på konstruktionsarbejderne.

Udsigten til dansk indblanding udløste skarpe protester i Nuuk, indtil Lars Løkke Rasmussen i stedet for at aktivere sit sikkerhedspolitiske mandat greb til baglommen. Løsningen blev et dansk indskud i lufthavnene på 700 mill. kr og 900 mill. kr. i lån til de to lufthavne i Grønland, hvormed kineserne blev irrelevante. (Samtidig sikrede Lars Løkke Rasmussen stærk dansk medindflydelse på det hidtil største infrastrukturprojekt i Grønlands historie). 

Tilsvarende løsninger bød sig ikke til for Mette Frederiksen i Huawei-sagen. Her ville penge ingen forskel gøre, og at insistere på regeringens sikkerhedspolitiske monopol var politisk umuligt. At dømme ud fra det offentligt tilgængelige, valgte statsministeren i stedet at stole på færingernes egen dømmekraft og på den givetvis vedholdende rådgivning,  Center for Cybersikkerhed har ydet landsstyret. 

Skotland ny nabo i Nordatlanten

Brexit vil som nævnt forstærke dilemmaet, især fordi Færøerne af økonomiske årsager efter Brexit får hårdt brug for tætte forbindelser til London, men også på grund af løsrivelsestrangen i Skotland. Det EU-venlige parti SNP fik 45 pct. af stemmerne i Skotland ved valget i Storbritannien i december, og partiet slås nu for en ny folkeafstemning om Skotlands løsrivelse. En del færingerne fulgte tæt med i den forrige i 2014, og færingerne har fra gammel tid et tæt forhold til Skotland, der er øernes nærmeste nabo mod syd. 

              Af de 8000 tropper, der opholdt sig på Færøerne under 2. verdenskrig for at holde tyskerne væk, kom store dele af dem fra Skotland. Den britiske ledelse havde med omhu valgt tropper, som man mente ville gå godt i spænd med færingerne. Det kom der en del ægteskaber og børn ud af, samtidig med at færøske fiskere sejlede i lukrativ men livsfarlig pendulfart mellem Færøerne og Skotland med fisk til de sultne englændere. 

Lederen af SNP, Nicola Sturgeon,  har i de seneste år bejlet til både Færøerne og Island, der kan blive nyttige naboer til et frit Skotland. I to år i træk har hun eksempelvis holdt keynote speeches på Arctic Circle, en årligt tilbagevendende Arktis-konference i Reykjavik, hvor hun har talt varmt om “vores arktiske naboer”. 

Også i denne forbindelse vil kravet om udvidede udenrigspolitiske beføjelser trænge sig på. 

Ligesom det gør i Beijing, hvor Færøerne åbnede repræsentationskontor i oktober 2019. 

Og som det gør i Grønland, hvor politikerne snart vil møde diplomater fra USAs nye konsulat i Nuuk igen og igen — i Brugsen, på fisketure og andre steder året rundt.

Og som det gør for Færøernes milliard-eksport af laks til Rusland, der er i lodret strid med ånden i de europæiske sanktioner mod Rusland efter Krim.

Og som det gør, fordi landsstyret i Thorshavn arbejder hårdt på en handelsaftale med Rusland og de øvrige fire medlemmer af Den Eurasiske Union.

Og som det gør, når grønlænderne skal forhandle med USA om det amerikanske forsvars brug af den lokale infrastruktur.

Og som det gør, når Grønland forhandler med udlandet om sjældne jordarter, uran og andre strategiske mineraler. 

Og som det gør, når de nordatlantiske politikere mødes med folk fra CIA, USA’s  kongres, NATO-ledere og andre beslutningstagere i udlandet. 

Og som det gør, når de færøske og grønlandske forhandlere i internationale fiskeriforhandlinger skal tale med én stemme, selvom de har forskellige mål. 

Og som det gør, når Færøernes vil være medlemmer af Nordisk Ministerråd, men Danmark sætter sig imod. 

Og som det gjorde i 2017, da Grønland, Færøerne og Island indgik en samarbejdsaftale, som den danske regering straks annulerede.

 Til daglig fungerer samarbejdet angiveligt fint. Tonen på embedsmandsniveau er ifølge flere involverede bedre end tidligere, og den seneste tids pres fra USA og Kina har illustreret alvoren for alle involverede. Mette Frederiksen og Jeppe Kofod har i deres korte tid i regering flittigt besøgt både Torshavn og Nuuk.

Problemet er, at disse og de øvrige tillidsskabende foranstaltninger ikke nødvendigvis løser det grundlæggende dilemma, at en række beslutningstagere i Grønland og på Færøerne i dag ønsker noget nær fuld kontrol over deres egne udenrigsanliggender. Og at ønskerne vokser i takt med omverdenens interesse.


Teksten her blev optrykt i let redigeret form i tidsskriftet Udenrigs nr 1 2020.