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Ny tv-serie åbner nye muligheder for grønlandske politikere

maj 3, 2022 • Af

Danske tv-seere er netop nu udsat for et aldrig tidligere set Grønlands-bombardement. For politikere og andre med noget på hjerte giver det nye muligheder.

Den ny DR-series to værter: Nukaka Coster-Waldau og Mads Mikkelsen.

Først kan vi spekulere over, om en tv-serie kan fortælle hele sandheden om, hvordan Grønland og Danmark har påvirket hinanden i de seneste 300 år? Nej, naturligvis ikke, og folkene bag DRs nye tv-serie “Historien om Grønland og Danmark,” der havde premiere på DR1 for nylig, understreger da også flittigt i disse dage, at serien blot er “et bud”. 

DRs egen fortælling om den ny tv-serie er med andre ord, at andre udmærket kan have lige så vigtige udlægninger af, hvordan historien har formet sig. 

Ved forpremieren, som fandt sted simultant i Nuuk og i København, sagde DRs repræsentanter, at DR ligefrem glæder sig til den debat og kritik, som serien ventes at skubbe i gang. Umiddelbart efter hvert af seriens afsnit inviterer DR selv til debat i en halv time på DR2.  

Ikke desto mindre er der al mulig grund til at tage den ny serie fra DR dybt alvorligt. 

Der findes ikke andre institutioner i kongeriget, der med samme kraft som DR kan levere budskaber til danskerne, som bliver hørt og som per definition, fordi de kommer fra DR, accepteres som troværdige og tæt på sandheden. 

Danske tv-seere har vænnet sig til at tro på DR. Derfor lyder det måske nok beskedent og ydmygt, når DR siger, at den ny serie blot er “ét bud,” men vi skal huske, at det er det mest magtfulde bud på historien, der vil blive produceret i meget lang tid. 

Den ny serie bygger på et kolossalt budget og er produceret af DRs dygtigste tilrettelæggere, fotografer og andre fagfolk. Serien er lækkert produceret og beriget med dygtigt udførte dramatiseringer (instrueret af filminstruktør Inuk Silis Høegh, der ifølge ham selv særligt har søgt at fremhæve grønlandske perspektiver). Med dramatiseringerne gøres historien levende af skuespillere, så vi ikke bare stimuleres intellektuelt af de medvirkende historikere og arkæologer, men også påvirkes følelsesmæssigt på et dybere plan.

 Den ny serie er ikke den fulde sandhed, men den vil påvirke hundredtusindvis af danske tv-seeres forståelse af den dansk-grønlandske historie, som ingen anden tv-serie før har gjort, og som ingen anden tv-serie vil gøre i mange, mange år frem.  

Borgen oveni

Læg dertil, at over en halv million danskere i de seneste måneder hver søndag aften har fulgt DRs fiktionsserie “Borgen”. Som mange vil vide, cirkler “Borgen” i alle otte afsnit om Danmarks og Grønland aktuelle, politiske relationer: Om dansk hovmod men også voksende indblik, om grønlandsk snilde, ambitioner og afmagt, om bloktilskuddet, råstofferne og stormagternes interesser. 

Om kort tid følger så, som det også fremgik af forpremieren på DRs ny serie i sidste uge, en times tv-dokumentar om kongehusets relationer til Grønland. )Mange husker sikkert også stadig den glade tv-serie på DR “Gennem Grønland” med Nikolaj og Nukaka Coster Waldau fra 2017 – mere end 600.000 seere så det første afsnit). 

Danske tv-seere er med andre ord netop nu udsat for et enestående, aldrig tidligere set Grønlands-bombardement. 

Hvis nogen i Grønland skulle have lyst til at bidrage til danskernes forståelse af Grønland – eksempelvis for at udvide det billede af historien, som den ny DRT-serie bringer –  er det derfor svært ved at forestille sig et bedre tidspunkt end netop nu. Det usædvanlige mediefokus har med stor sikkerhed skabt en akut nysgerrighed overfor Grønlands betydning for Danmark, for den komplekse historie og for, hvad folk i Grønland mon selv går rundt og tænker. 

Blandt politikere i Inatsisartut og andre i Grønland tales der ofte om den manglende dialog på tværs af Atlanten, om danskernes uvidenhed om Grønland, om danske mediers lemfældige dækning af Grønland. Tænk blot på Múte B. Egedes meget omtalte konflikt med TV2.

For dem, der har lyst til selv at gøre noget ved de problemer, er der også netop nu gyldne muligheder.  

For formanden for Inatsisartut, eller for Vivian Motzfeldt, ny Naalakkersuisoq for Udenrigsanliggender, eller for andre fra Grønland med noget på hjerte, vil det eksempelvis netop nu være nemmere end normalt at taletid og reel opmærksomhed i Danmark. TV-stationer, de store aviser, højskoler, foredragsforeninger m.v. vil være mere end glade for at åbne døre og spalter for grønlandske repræsentanter – og publikum har tv-serierne allerede varmet op. I juni afholdes det årlige Folkemøde på Bornholm, hvor over 20.000 danskere samles med toppolitikerne og andre meningsdannere for at diskutere politik – herunder arktisk politik og forhold af direkte relevans for Grønland. Jeg er ganske overbevist om, at Folkemødets ledelse med glæde vil byde ethvert medlem af Naalakkersuisut velkommen på hovedscenen. Grønlands politiske ledelse har aldrig tidligere optrådt på Folkemødet. 

I Danmark udnyttes interessen for Grønland flittigt. For nylig var organisationer og institutioner samlet på Christiansborg for at sikre mere undervisning om Grønland i Danmark – hidkaldt af ildsjælen Lisbeth Valgreen. Flere højskoler har haft udsolgt til ugelange kurser om Grønland. Kulturhuset Nordatlantens Brygge meldte udsolgt til en aften med de to grønlandske folketingsmedlemmer. Grønland er på hitlisten mange steder!     

    DRs nye serie fortjener al mulig opmærksomhed. Den udgør, som DR selv siger, blot ét bud på historien, og der er i disse dage enestående muligheder for at sikre opmærksomhed om andre bud og supplerende perspektiver.   

Martin Breum er journalist og har fungeret som rådgiver på to af afsnittene i “Historien om Grønland og Danmark.” Han producerer i øjeblikket en tv-dokumentar om kongehusets forhold til Grønland sammen med tv-dokumentaristen Jakob Gottschau. De to producerede i 2016 tv-serien “Rigsfællesskabets Historie” for DR. Martin Breums lydbog “Taamani Donald Trumpip Kalaallit Nunaat pisiarinialileraluallermagu” (“Da Trump ville købe Grønland”) er netop udkommet på grønlandsk, oversat og indtalt af Mariia Simonsen. Den er gratis tilgængelig på bibliotekernes “E-reolen”.

Teksten her er let revideret – teksten blev først bragt i Sermitsiaq i Grønland fredag 29. april 2022

 


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As tension builds over Ukraine, Norway grows increasingly worried about neighboring Russia

februar 11, 2022 • Af
In January, the commander of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, Lieutenant General Yngve Odlo, arranged a Skype meeting with the commander of the Russian Northern Fleet, Admiral Aleksandr Moiseev, regarding an upcoming exercise Cold Response 22. in Norway (Preben Aursand / Norwegian Defense)

Before you begin to read this story, you may wish to look up the Russian naval base at Gadzhiyevo in Russia’s Arctic northwest on Google Earth.

This will help to illustrate why Norway is particularly worried about the current standoff with Russia over Ukraine and the prospect of a possible armed conflict there.

At Gadzhiyevo, and at the main naval base of Severomorsk — which are both very close to Norway — one can zoom in directly on the nuclear submarines and naval vessels of Russia’s Northern Fleet. They are blurry but visible like steely eels to anyone with a laptop.

The Northern Fleet is the largest and potentially most lethal hammer in Russia’s arsenal, its ultimate means of foreign policy pressure.

In the fjords on the coast of Russia’s Kola Peninsula just east of Russia’s Arctic border with Norway lies the core of the nuclear arsenal that Russia sees as its final instrument of nuclear deterrence or balance of power with the United States and its NATO allies.

Norway’s particular pain comes from an understanding that increased tension or actual conflict in Ukraine will sharpen Russia’s desire to protect this nuclear arsenal — and that this might lead to unwanted fallout in Norway.

The authorities in Oslo are understandably cautious not to create unnecessary public fear and apprehension in Norway — which might increase the effect of any further Russian moves to destabilize Norway’s resolve — but in January prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre aired his concerns in an interview with The Times in London.

The prime minister said that Russian-backed hackers were already targeting Norway’s government institutions; his government’s computer systems had been badly hurt by an outage.

“Cold winds blowing in the Arctic often spill over from other geopolitical conflicts. Today those cold winds are coming out of Ukraine,” he said. “I am very concerned about it. We now experience hybrid operations, sometimes aimed at companies and technological research, but also [at] key institutions such as the Storting.”

Norway’s parliament, Stortinget, was targeted by hackers in 2020 and 2021 while radio-jamming has hampered air traffic in the vicinity of Norway’s Arctic border to Russia several times.

Great power thinking

To understand the underlying currents, I called Tormod Heier, a lieutenant colonel who serves as a professor at the Norwegian Defense Command and Staff College and knows intimately the depth of Norway’s worries:

“Luckily, we are not at that point yet, but the Norwegian authorities fear that in the event of a war in Europe that involves a NATO country, Russia will move troops into northern Norway and onto (the Norwegian islands of) Svalbard, Bear Island and Jan Mayen because Russia will need greater strategic depth and room to shoot down U.S. missiles before they hit the base complexes on the Kola Peninsula or the government structures in Moscow,” Heier explains.

Tormod Heier speaks on NRK, Norway’s public broadcaster.

In anticipation, Norway has assumed a larger role in the military developments in the Arctic, and not surprisingly, Russia has made known its displeasure with the close military cooperation between the U.S. and Norway and with the growing number of U.S. military assets in Norway. From the Russian perspective, the enemy is moving far too close for comfort to its nuclear arsenals and to Moscow — precisely as Russia fears its adversaries will move closer to Russia in Ukraine, if Ukraine becomes a NATO country.

Modern U.S. missiles can reach Moscow in seven to 17 minutes, says Heier – whether from Ukraine or Norway:

“It is classic great power thinking. In a conflict situation you need room to move and act and that means that your counterpart must be kept as far away as possible. The U.S. would think in exactly the same way if Russian missiles were in place in Cuba or in Mexico,” he says.

Wrong path?

Heier has just published the very timely and lucid book: “En randstat på avveie? Norges vei inn i den nye kalde krigen 2014-2021” (”A Border-State on the Wrong Path? Norway’s Way Into the New Cold War” 2014-2021, only in Norwegian).

He explains to me why Oslo has been so eager to move personnel and military equipment closer to the border with Russia in recent years. Norway wants an alarm so fool-proof, that it simply cannot fail. Any Russian incursion onto Norwegian soil must be immediately followed by fighting so heavy and calamitous that no one in Washington or at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels will consider for a second not throwing themselves at Norway’s defense.

“What our authorities fear the most is a fait accompli where Russian soldiers are suddenly operating in northern Norway without causing any U.S. or NATO reaction,“ Heier says. In his book he calls this scenario “a conflict too big for Norway but too small for NATO.”  One can envision northern Norway violently transformed into some sort of Scandinavian Crimea: occupied by Russian troops and the subject of heated global protests, but without any military response from any western power.

Heier stresses that this is absolute worst case scenario — hopefully never to be realized. But something less dramatic may also hurt:

“We want to stand up and be counted right alongside the U.S. when it comes to the sovereignty of Ukraine and its right to choose its own alliances, but for Norway it is also important to avoid further tension with Russia,” he says.

“Norway does not want a militarization of our North, our strategically most important regions, where we haul in the enormous amounts of oil, gas and fish that make Norway one of the richest countries on Earth.”

Stronger defense

In his book Heier poses difficult questions about Norway’s ever more intensive partnership with the United States. It is not all parts of the U.S. military presence in Norway that are in Norway’s own national interest, he finds. In his book, he explains that when the U.S. military moves so close to Russia’s nuclear bases that it causes Russia to further boost its own military in the waters, skies and territories closest to Norway, it has no positive effects in Norway.

“Norway sees Russia as a difficult, but legitimate and necessary collaborative partner in the North, while the USA most of all sees a strategic competitor and rival,” he tells me.

His point is that while increased Russian jitters in the North, caused by U.S. maneuvers ever closer to Russia’s bases, may not cause any immediate trouble back in the U.S., Norway may experience plenty of unwanted Russian reactions.

Heier argues for a much stronger Norwegian defense that would enable Norway to operate more forcefully on its own in the regions closest to Russia, thus dampening U.S. wishes to do the patrolling with U.S. planes and vessels.

“If the U.S. and Russia continue to militarize the North, it will create greater risks of mistakes, misunderstandings and unwanted clashes. This could have very adverse consequences for Norway,” Heier says.

“Military leaders will gain more influence. Politicians will find it harder to maintain control. Mistrusts among the countries will grow, diplomatic channels close and the security margins disappear. That is what we fear: A conflict between the great powers escalating in the midst of our northern regions, because the crisis is not handled in our Norwegian, more cautious ways.”

Two-legged strategy

Meanwhile, Norway continues to increase its cooperation with the U.S.

Støre met recently with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington to talk Russia.

Norway’s strategy towards its Russian neighbor has rested for decades on two legs: A strong military capacity for immediate response to any Russian aggression but always coupled with never-ending, pragmatic dialogue and cooperation with Russia: Fish stock management, environmental protection, civilian exchanges, border-region collaboration and so forth.

Norway and Russia have been neighbors for an eternity and as Norway’s leaders have been keen to stress no wars have been fought between the two for more than a thousand years.

Also importantly in this context — and as any Norwegian will know — Russian soldiers have been in northern Norway before. At the close of World War II, when Norway — and its northern regions in particular — were bloodily occupied by forces from Nazi Germany, Soviet troops crossed Russia’s Arctic border into Norway and pushed the Germans out. The Soviet troops liberated northern Norway and soon after withdrew peacefully to positions on their own turf. Russia had no wish then, and has shown no intentions since, to violate Norway’s sovereignty.

Military build-up

As Heier points out in his book, however, a serious military build-up in Russia’s Arctic in recent years has coincided with an equally serious deterioration of Russia’s relations with the West —  and the military leg of Norway’s Russia-strategy has grown visibly longer than that of dialogue and pragmatism.

Norway collects intelligence on Russia with sophisticated equipment and financing from the U.S. In 2017, Norway received the first of 40 F-35 fighter planes bought in the U.S., planes that are suited to operate side-by-side with the U.S. Air Force. From 2017 to 2020, several thousand U.S. marines were rotated in and out of Norway on six-month training tours. In September 2020 ,U.S., British and Norwegian warships cruised along Norway’s northern coast and then crossed into Russia’s economic zone — right outside Severomorsk, the main base of Russia’s Northern Fleet. The ships remained in international waters, and therefore wasn’t a breach of international conventions, but it was still a signal as tall as Russia’s own snowiest peaks that the U.S. presence in these parts is expanding.

This year, Stortinget, the parliament in Oslo, is expected to ratify an arrangement with the U.S. which will allow U.S. forces unhindered access to build and station troops, fighter planes, ships and munitions at four Norwegian bases, two of which are in Norway’s Arctic.

Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Sam Rodriguez uses a shovel to clear snow from a frozen lake in Skjold, Norway as part of Exercise Cold Response 2020 on Feb. 21, 2020. (Mark Andrew Hays / U.S. Navy)

Come March this year, some 35,000 NATO troops, bolstered by the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman and the British carrier HMS Prince of Wales will take part in Cold Response 2022a bi-annual military exercise in Norway. Much of this will take place within easy shooting range of both Gadzhiyevo and Severomorsk. A spokesperson at the Norwegian Joint Operations Headquarters told High North News that “this will be the largest Norwegian-led exercise conducted in Norway since the 1980s.”

Listening for subs

Any Russian observer would add to this, of course, the several U.S. and Norwegian P-8 Poseidon planes that are particularly equipped to track and destroy the Russian nuclear submarines — the very cornerstone of the nuclear arsenal of the Northern Fleet.

U.S. Poseidon planes, until recently operating from an airstrip at Andøya, an island 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, have recently been paired with the first of five similar planes which Norway bought in the U.S.

These highly sophisticated planes may for instance be called into action by news from the sensor-rich cables that Norway’s defense forces operate on the seabed north of Norway as part of a 24-hour look-out for Russian submarine activity.

“Norway is an important listening- and warning-post for the U.S. We have sound profiles on basically all Russian submarines and we try to find out which crew are operating and when they plan to travel,” Heier says.

[A year into Biden’s presidency, U.S. military plans for Greenland remain unclear]

Russian submarines departing from Kola Peninsula bases must sail for about 20 hours in the relatively shallow waters of the Barents Sea parallel to Norway’s northern coastline before they can hide in the much deeper Atlantic Ocean. Thus, for many hours close to Norway the submarines are particularly vulnerable, and while the whole world is watching what happens in Ukraine, mobilization continues in the North.

On the last day of 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Northern Fleet had successfully test fired a number of the so-called Tsirkon missiles, the hypersonic missiles that are the latest and fastest ever in Russia’s command, and that this missile was now installed on both frigates and submarines of the Northern Fleet.

As I write this, the Northern Fleet is completing a highly visible exercise in the Barents Sea — even as other units of the Russian Navy do so in the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the Pacific and the Sea of Okhotsk.

 

This article has been slightly modified from its first appearance on ArcticToday.com February 5th 2022. 

 


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A year into Biden’s presidency, U.S. military plans for Greenland remain unclear

januar 19, 2022 • Af
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet fighter, RCAF CH-19 Cormorant long range search-and-rescue helicopter, and a United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker air-to-air refueler are seen positioned on the ramp at Thule Air Base in Greenland on June 11, 2021, ready for Exercise Amalgam DART 21-1. (3 Wing Imaging)

 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion in 2019 that he wanted to buy Greenland signaled an intense strategic U.S. interest in the island, an autonomous country in the Danish realm. But, now, a year into his successor Joe Biden’s tenure, it is still not clear what Washington really wants in Greenland.

The latest news in that regard reached the public only indirectly in late 2021. It was in Danish and woven into an answer from the Danish minister of Foreign Affairs, Jeppe Kofod, to a member of the Danish parliament who had asked what the Danish government knew of any U.S. plans for an upgrade of Thule Air Base in the far north of Greenland.

The reason for this exchange was an article I had written a few days earlier in Weekendavisen, a Danish broadsheet, highlighting how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in November 2020 — still in the Trump era — launched a market survey to identify private engineering companies interested in providing architectural and engineering services for a seemingly rather large upgrade to Thule Air Base.

It was a non-binding market survey, not a formal tender, but it mentioned a sum that must have had people in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere reaching for their phones. The public announcement of the market survey explained that the plan was to award five-year contracts to five companies to the total tune of $250 million — a quarter of a billion dollars just for architectural and engineering services. The object here was obviously not any small time upkeep of existing facilities at Thule.

There was no indication as to how large the budget for the actual construction at Thule Air Base would be, but there was a neat list of what would most likely be needed — and please allow now a somewhat lengthy quote:

“Construction of new and renovation/upgrade of multiple hangar/buildings, maintenance, training facilities (hands-on/simulators), Aviation facilities, Runways and Taxiways, Aircraft Fueling facilities/distribution, Industrial facilities, Vehicle Maintenance facilities, Research & design facilities (Armament, Munitions and Communications), Munitions and Storage facilities, Dining facilities, Academic Labs, Barracks/dormitories, Academic Facilities, Administrative Office Buildings. Arctic/Cold Region Construction and repair of airfields, runways, taxiways, aprons and Apron refueling systems. Whole building renovations which address interior re-configuration, life/safety, energy conservation, and utility systems.”

The list went on and on:

“Fire suppression and water supply systems, fire alarm and mass notification system, cybersecurity, fire detection/protection/monitoring and controls, heating and ventilation systems, plumbing systems, electrical systems, telecommunication and cabling systems, closed circuit television (CCTV), alarm and card access systems, and public address systems”.

“Topographic surveys, geological surveys, geotechnical investigations, environmental investigations, Master Planning Studies, Value Engineering Studies, Field Investigation Studies, construction support services”.

Even the caretaking of historical buildings at Thule Air Base was mentioned.

When?

A year later, well into Biden’s presidency, when I asked if there was any news as to when all this would happen in Greenland, the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen had no comment. Only when the Danish minister of Foreign Affairs had to answer in writing a question from Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, one of the two Greenlandic members of the Danish parliament, who was surprised that neither she nor her government in Nuuk had heard anything, did a message from Washington seep through.

“The U.S. authorities have informed (the Danish government) that the market survey has not till now resulted in any concrete tenders, and that it has therefore not led to any construction at the base. Neither is there on the American side any expectation that this will likely happen in the near future,” the answer from the Danish foreign minister read (this translation is mine).

Thule Air Base was established by the US army in the very north of Greenland in the 1950’s. The goal was to bring US military aircrafts as close to the Soviet Union as possible. The base covers a total area of some 620 square kilometers.

That was all. And I assume that the most likely interpretation by those who live in Greenland and by many others who follow U.S. military activity in the Arctic with mounting interest would read something like this: In 2020, the US Corps of Engineers had very serious thoughts about upgrading Thule Air Base, but now — well into the Biden days — these thoughts are no longer current and there is no immediate political desire to pursue them.

It seemed to be a straight and precise message. But it ran, as I will try to explain, somewhat contrary to a string of other U.S. actions in Greenland and in the rest of the Arctic.

Crucial relations

I should add first, though, that the question of U.S. military activity in Greenland is of course of immense interest first of all to the 57,000 inhabitants in Greenland but also to the rest of the Danish Kingdom of which Greenland is still a part. The ways in which the U.S. decides to pursue its strategic interests in Greenland will impact, for instance, directly on Greenland’s and Denmark’s standing with regard to other countries — Russia in particular, at a time when tension with Russian already at a peak. It will impact Greenland’s economy, its infrastructure, and — especially if more U.S. soldiers are to be stationed in Greenland, even temporarily — the social fabric of Greenland.

In Copenhagen, relations with the U.S. are considered crucial to basically all Danish security and many foreign policy issues. Denmark’s government considers the permanent maintenance of a close military alliance with the U.S. to be at the very core of its responsibilities.

As an example, in December, the head of the Danish Defense Intelligence was put under arrest allegedly accused of leaking information to the press. His arrest followed revelations by the media that — among other related issues — the security service had long cooperated much more deeply with those of the U.S. than most Danes had ever anticipated. The connection to Thule Air Base, I admit, is slight, but I mention this illustrate how the advancement of U.S. military ambitions in any part of the Danish Kingdom will play more or less directly into many other strands of politics, including intelligence issues, military budgets, the question of how to calibrate the Danish defense forces in Greenland and the delicate issue of how to handle internal differences between Denmark and Greenland (as well as the Faroe Islands, the third part of the kingdom).

The U.S. wants, for instance, increased “situational awareness” in the Arctic and Denmark has promised to finance and build a large, new radar in the Faroe Islands. The local politicians in Torshavn, the Faroese capital, however, have shown little enthusiasm for this increase in the military infrastructure on their islands. And Pele Broberg, Greenland’s foreign minister until recently, talked openly of his desire to limit Denmark’s military presence in Greenland while strengthening ties to the U.S.

Meanwhile, it is not forgotten how Trump’s idea to buy Greenland seemed to reflect a firm and steadfast U.S. wish to counter Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic and China’s economic and diplomatic inroads in the region. Both are clearly considered to be real and current threats to the U.S., — thus positioning the Faroe Islands and Greenland smack in the center of U.S. strategic concerns.

The recent message from Biden’s Washington that there are no current plans to upgrade Thule Air Base therefore leaves a more basic question still baying for answers: What then does the U.S. military plan in Greenland?

If the Trump administration — including its foreign service and the Pentagon — was so eager to embrace Greenland, reopening the U.S. consulate in Nuuk, investing for the first time ever in Greenland’s civil society and sending frequent signals about about Greenland’s strategic importance, what then are the Biden-administration’s plans for follow-ups?

Mapping Greenland

While we wait, a string of related U.S. actions in Greenland and the rest of the Arctic are keeping observers in both Nuuk and Copenhagen on their toes.

The first recent signal of U.S. intent to invest in additional aviation facilities in Greenland was advertised through the U.S. Embassy in Denmark in 2018.

Since then, high ranking U.S. officials have repeatedly expanded on this theme. According to my sources both in Greenland and Denmark, this has included briefings by U.S. officials in the secret so-called Permanent Committee, where high-ranking U.S., Danish and Greenlandic officials exchange views and information on U.S. military matters in Greenland.

Joe Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken (second from right) in Greenland last summer – with Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod (far left), Greenland’s premier Mute B. Egede and climate researcher Mie Winding. Photo: Leiff Josefsen, Sermitsiaq

Also, a team of technical experts from the U.S. defense forces have been to Greenland to assess whether two new civilian airports under construction in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, and in Ilulissat, a town further north, could potentially be useful for the U.S. Air Force. Others have speculated that a deepwater port in Greenland will soon be among U.S. naval priorities.

According to other sources in Denmark and Greenland, including military sources, U.S. satellites under the auspices of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Springfield, Virginia, one of the arms of the U.S. intelligence community,  have lately been steadily collecting data about every inch of Greenland not covered by ice; this is territory the size of Norway or two-thirds the size of Afghanistan. In an effort that also involves the Danish and Greenlandic authorities, this immense amount of data will be turned into electronic, seamless maps (think Google Maps, just better). These maps will enable smoother and safer operations by U.S. and other military forces in Greenland and, as an extra bonus, also indirectly benefit the making of maps for Greenland’s civilian life.

The runways at Thule Air Base have recently been equipped with extra so-called tail-hooks; wires fastened to concrete structures which can help fighter planes brake more rapidly when landing. Long-planned demolition of older structures at the base have been canceled and among Danish military brass, rumors of upcoming larger-scale upgrades have been circulating for some time.

In 2020 and in 2021 — bridging the Trump and the Biden presidencies — the U.S. and the Canadian air forces conducted two major exercises in the Arctic dubbed Amalgam Dart. According to Skies Magazine, the exercise in June 2021 involved more than a thousand troops, 60 fighter jets and other aircraft and Thule Air Base played a key role.

“The exercise went very well and provided an excellent opportunity for our Airmen to work in a deployed location to refine Agile Combat Employment processes for maturing the C-17 capability for future wet-wing defueling missions,” said Chuck Keasey, CONR-First Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Branch Chief. “Our proven ability to conduct wet-wing refueling enhances our capability to defend North America,” he said.

In 2021, the US defense forces were granted unhindred access to four military installations in Norway; underscoring the importance of access to the Arctic close to Russia’s large bases west of Murmansk on the Kola peninsula  / Graphics: Business-Insider

In another illustration of increased U.S. focus on the Arctic, the U.S. last year in a deal with the Norwegian government was awarded “unhindered access” to four military installations in Norway, two of which are in the Norwegian Arctic. From there, U.S. fighter planes, military vessels and submarines now conduct maneuvers in the North Atlantic ever closer to Russia’s main Arctic bases. And in a few weeks, the mighty USS Harry Truman, an aircraft carrier, will team up with HMS Prince of Wales, a British equivalent, for one of the largest military exercises ever in the Arctic parts in Norway; military cooperation with Sweden and Finland are also on the rise.

Several of the most recent Arctic strategies from various branches of the U.S. military talk about new and growing threats to the U.S. from the north, and Thule Air Base — even if some structures there date all the way back to the 1950s — is listed as a key U.S. asset in this regard.

As associate professor Rob Huebert, an Arctic security expert from the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary, told me in December:

“An upgrade to Thule Air Base would basically mean that the U.S. was investing precisely as they have written in their strategies that they would over the last couple of years. It would fit nicely into the pattern that has already been drawn by the U.S. in northern Norway and at the U.S.’s own military facilities in Alaska,“ Huebert said.

“It is a simple analysis. You have a shorter reaction time today than previously,” in case of a Russian attack, he said. ”And the Americans think they need to do something about it.”

Strategic minerals

To sum up, there are no signs that U.S. interests in Greenland are diminishing. Quite the contrary. When Trump announced his wish to buy Greenland, he talked of the strategic minerals in Greenland’s subsoil, and this particular priority seems to also still have Washngton’s keen interest; the U.S. is also keen to thwart any risk that China might gain control over Greenland’s resources.

As an example, on December 7 the Australian mining company Ironbark happily announced that the U.S. investment bank EXIM, the Export-Import Bank of the United States’ government, had formally confirmed its interest in investing some $657 million in a huge zinc mine at Citronen Fjord in a remote part of extreme northeastern Greenland which Ironbark has worked on for years.

Zinc is on the U.S. list of strategic minerals; in increasingly short demand while still crucial for, among other things, galvanizing iron. According to Ironbark’s announcement, EXIM’s investment would basically finance the entire mine in Citronen Fjord. Also, it would effectively kill Ironbark’s previous intention to let the Chinese state-controlled mining giant China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group finance the project.

According to the Financial Review EXIM’s financing is a result of a U.S. government lender’s special “402A program” designed to help companies compete with China. Australia’s former foreign minister Alexander Downer, one of Ironbark Zinc’s directors, told Financial Review that: “the 402 program was set up, in a sense, as a way of competing with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

The site of the Ironbark Zinc’s Citronen project is accessible by sea for 12 weeks a year. (Ironbark Zinc)

“It has strategic intention, and it has been legislated by Congress and then implemented by regulation by the EXIM Bank. And we’re the first standalone project to get approval as a 402A project,” Downer said.

Next in line may be Greenland’s large deposits of minerals from the so-called rare earths, which are of particular significance to the U.S. arms industry.

In July 2019, only a few weeks prior to his admission that he would like to buy Greenland because it would be “strategically nice,” Trump issued a presidential memorandum to his Defense Secretary explaining that domestic production of rare earth minerals was no longer sufficient to secure U.S. supplies, and that foreign sources would have to be pursued.

That same summer, Greg Barnes, an Australian miner with a license to mine rare earths in south Greenland, was summoned, as he told me in 2021, to the White House with short notice and questioned for several hours by a panel of more than 10 people from the president’s staff and the U.S. intelligence community on how he intended to proceed.

Later the same year, an airborne survey of mineral resources in south Greenland was carried out with U.S. funding. And according to sources in Nuuk, a delegation of high-ranking officials from the U.S. State Department that visited Greenland in late 2019 and included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s chief adviser, Thomas Breckbull, was especially preoccupied with Greenland’s rare earths.

Biden’s administration has not yet exercised the same zeal on the ground in Greenland, but it is obviously aware of the pressure to secure ample supplies of rare earth minerals for the U.S. And Greenland just happens to be home to sizable, proven deposits.

In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense announced an investment of some $30 million in a rare earth refinery in Texas. In June 2021 the Biden administration established a “Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force” to combat a range of potential shortfalls, including that of rare earths: “China accounts for an outsized share of the world’s refining capacity, meaning that even if the United States were to diversify our sources of critical minerals or increase domestic extraction, we would still be reliant on China for processing before use in end-product manufacturing,” a fact sheet from the White House said, heralding much action and investment. A White House background report was equally adamant: “The United States must secure reliable and sustainable supplies of critical minerals and metals to ensure resilience across U.S. manufacturing and defense needs” it said. In December 2021, Biden issued his own presidential memorandum focused, like Trump’s, singularly on rare earths:

“Shortfalls”, Biden wrote, “would severely impair national defense capability.”

Again, Greenland’s rare earth deposits are most likely still blinking visibly on the radar of the planners and strategists in Washington. However, like in the military sphere, it might be that at this point in time nobody in the new administration has yet figured out exactly how to proceed.

 

This article first appeared on ArcticToday.com on January 19. 2022. It has been slightly edited for this homepage. 

 

 


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Nationalismen i Grønland skærpes med Aleqa Hammonds comeback

november 8, 2021 • Af

Aleqa Hammond meddelte søndag 24. oktober på Facebook, at Siumuts ledelse har opfordret hende til igen at melde sig ind i partiet, og at hun har takket ja. Formanden for Siumut, Erik Jensen, bekræftede forløbet, da jeg ringede til ham i Nuuk. Det var ikke Aleqa Hammond, der bad om mulighed for et comeback. Det var Erik Jensen selv, der opfordrede en af Grønlands mest skarptungede og insisterende fortalere for løsrivelse fra Danmark til at melde sig ind i Siumut igen.

Politisk splittet

Erik Jensens parti er i øjeblikket i opposition, og det er uvant og ikke nemt. Siumut har regeret i Grønland i alle årene minus fem siden Hjemmestyrets indførelse i 1979. Desuden har Siumut siden et valg i Grønland i april døjet med en række kedelige personsager, og samtidig taler kritikerne om et parti, der stadig er politisk splittet efter et overrumplende formandsopgør i 2020. Her blev formanden, den mere pragmatiske Kim Kielsen med en snæver margin skiftet ud. Hans evne til forlig med København reddede ham ikke. Kielsens indgik markante aftaler med Lars Løkke Rasmussen, ikke mindst om et stort dansk kapitalindskud i de nye lufthavne i Grønland, og hans tætte kontakt og venskab med Mette Frederiksen blev essentiel, da Donald Trump ville købe Grønland.

Sidst i 2020 blev Kielsen skiftet ud, og samtidig blev hovedparten af Siumuts hovedbestyrelse erstattet med nye ansigter, hvoraf flere, herunder partiets nuværende folketingsmedlem Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam, advokerer ivrigt for omkalfatring af rigsfællesskabet.

Opgøret har ikke været gratis: Den detroniserede Kim Kielsen har taget orlov; en anerkendt Siumut-borgmester i Nordgrønland har efter årtiers tro tjeneste meldt sig ud af partiet i protest. Samtidig har Erik Jensen, lidt som Venstres Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, døjet med at projicere et politisk projekt, og han mangler ifølge flere iagttagere i Nuuk endnu at manifestere sig som samlende lederprofil.

Opgør på national-fløjen

Endelig gør det ondt på Siumut, at et af de to regerende koalitionspartier, Naleraq, siden magtskiftet i april har fået fremstillet sig selv som betydeligt mere kompromisløst og grænsesøgende end Siumut, når det gælder opgøret med Danmark. Især har partiets oratoriske spydspids Pele Broberg løftet anslagene til nye højder; så højt at han til sidst i Berlingske antydede, at det måske kun burde være borgere med inuit-baggrund, der fik lov at stemme ved en eventuel afstemning om løsrivelse.

Etnisk forskelsbehandling er også i Grønland langt over den røde streg; Broberg mistede sin post som Naalakkersuisoq, landsstyremedlem for udenrigsanliggender, men han er stadig medlem af landsstyret med ansvar for Grønlands handel og erhverv. Flere iagttagere i Nuuk gætter formentlig med rette, at det især er for at dæmme op for Pele Brobergs og hans partis indhug i Grønlands mere nationalistiske vælgere, at Aleqa Hammond nu igen indrulleres i Siumut som kuglestøbende kraftværk. Siumut-toppens tænkning rækker muligvis også udover næste valg: Løsrivelsesprojektet lider under det tonstunge dilemma, at bloktilskuddet fra Danmark stadig dækker godt 50 procent af de offentlige udgifter i Grønland.

Erik Jensen har lovet, at Siumut vil fremskynde hjemtagelse af mere ansvar fra Danmark, hvis hans parti igen vinder regeringsmagten, men pengene mangler. I vælgernes øjne kan stilstanden hurtig blive betænkelig, og nye ideer og Aleqa Hammonds velkendte stridslyst kan derfor også til den tid vise sig nyttige.

Uden tøven

Erik Jensen i Nuuk og en del aktører på Christiansborg og på Slotsholmen vil huske, hvordan Aleqa Hammond som landsstyreformand flere gange uden tøven stødte frontalt sammen med Helle Thorning-Schmidts regering.

Hun argumenterede for “selvstændighed i min levetid” på et tidspunkt, hvor kun få grønlandske politikere så behov for en tidsramme om selvstændighedsprojektet. Hun åbnede for uranudvinding i Grønland i lodret strid med Helle Thornings-Schmidts og udenrigsminister Villy Søvndals gentagne men forgæves bønner og krav.

Det kostede embedsværket tre års hårdt arbejde bag kulisserne af finde et brugbart kompromis. Aleqa Hammond krævede også at blive hørt i udenrigspolitiske anliggender, der blot i det mindste vedkom Grønland; det var lang tid før den slags inddragelse af Grønlands ledere blev normen i København.

Hvad med skandalerne?

Erik Jensen siger, at han henter Aleqa Hammond tilbage i folden “for at give partiet et boost” – ingen i Nuuk har glemt, at Aleqa Hammond i 2013 høstede intet mindre end 6818 personlige stemmer ved det valg i Grønland, der bragte hende helt til tops. Det kan lyde af lidt i Danmark, men i Grønland var det et historisk resultat: Så mange stemmer har ingen anden grønlandsk politiker været i nærheden af hverken før eller siden.

Det betyder selvsagt ikke, at Hammond nødvendigvis nu kan returnere til fordums glans; det vil hun muligvis aldrig kunne. Ved valget i Grønland i april i år fik hun kun 271 personlige stemmer; det rakte end ikke til en plads i Inatsisartut, parlamentet i Nuuk. Som det fremgår af de grønlandske medier i disse dage, husker mange stadig med gru de bastante fadæser, der bragte hende til fald.

Ydmyg afstand til toppen

Men med Erik Jensens omfavnelse og genindmeldelsen i Siumut er hun nu igen frit stillet til sigte mod tillidsposter internt i sit gamle parti, opstilling ved kommunalvalg og valg til Inatsisartut, og bliver hun opstillet, vil hun vel at mærke igen kunne trække på partiets veltestede kampagnemaskine. Uden den kan det være uhyre tungt og dyrt at føre valgkamp i den vidtstrakte, tyndt befolkede nation. Det er altså ikke længere utænkeligt – omend i den spekulative ende – at Aleqa Hammond igen vil ende som kandidat til topposter internt i Siumut såvel som i Naalakkersuisut, det grønlandske landsstyre.

Siumut tabte regeringsmagten ved valget i april, men partiets høstede isoleret set flere stemmer end ved forrige valg; altså ikke noget egentligt katastrofalt resultat. Og der er ingen tegn på, at Aleqa Hammonds egne politiske ambitioner har lidt overlast af den tid, hun har tilbragt på mere ydmyg afstand af toppen.

Misbrug af offentlige midler

På Facebook og i kommentarsporer på Grønlands webmedier har Aleqa Hammonds genindmeldelse i Siumut som nævnt afstedkommet en heftig debat, ikke mindst på grund af to notoriske skandaler, der klæber til hendes politiske historie.

De skandaler har partiformand Erik Jensen til gengæld valgt at lægge til side, så partiet kan høste af de potentielle gevinster, Aleqa Hammond vil bringe med sig: “Det er fem år siden, det skete. Jeg ved, hvem Aleqa er, og hvem hun støtter – nemlig det grønlandske folk. Hun har en stærk identitet og profil. Jeg er overbevist om, at hun kan give os et stærkt boost med den slagkraft, hun har,” lyder hans enkle analyse.

Aleqa Hammond meldte sig ud af Siumut i 2016, hårdt presset af de to skandaleforløb. Fra 2014 blev det gradvist afdækket, at hun havde undladt at tilbagebetale mere end 200.000 kr., som Selvstyrets administration havde lagt ud for rejser til hende og hendes samlever og familie, forbrug på minibar, ferieophold i Paris og Island m.v..

Hun blev aldrig sigtet eller dømt for ulovligheder, men den politiske straf faldt prompte og hårdt: Tre af hendes egne ministre nægtede at fortsætte under hendes ledelse, og da vrede demonstranter i Nuuks gader også krævede hendes exit, måtte hun chokeret først opgive posten både som leder af landsstyret og som partichef.

Hun var forinden blevet kendt som konfronterende og hårdtslående, Grønlands første kvindelige politiske leder, et forbillede for nogle, ubehagelig og uforsonlig for andre. Kritikerne mente bl.a., at hun var alt for uopmærksom over for de smerter, som forskelsbehandlingen mellem de grønlandsksprogede i Grønland og det mindretal af borgere, der hellere taler dansk eller måske ser mere danske end grønlandske ud, kan afstedkomme.

I 2015 gav Siumuts ledelse Aleqa Hammond lov til at stille op og blive valgt til Folketinget, men da hun i 2016 blev grebet i misbrug af et kreditkort udstedt af Folketinget for i alt 12,953 kroner, krævede partitoppen, at hun opgav sin plads i tinget. (Misbruget var i mellemtiden ved en fejl i Folketingets administration sluppet ud i Ekstra Bladet).

Hammond nægtede at forlade sin taburet, i stedet meldte hun sig ud af partiet. Hun fortsatte som løsgænger, siden som folketingsmedlem frem til Folketingsvalget i 2019 for det lille grønlandske parti Nunatta Qitornai.

Ved et valg til Inatsisartut i Grønland i 2018 stillede hun op for Nunatta Qitornai, men hun fik kun 171 stemmer; ikke nok til en plads i parlamentet. Hun strøg dog ind som stedfortræder, og blev hurtigt bl.a. formand for parlamentets Udenrigs- og Sikkerhedspolitiske Udvalg. Aleqa Hammond taler udmærket tysk og engelsk og trækker på en erfaring ikke bare som landsstyreformand, men også som finans- og udenrigsansvarlig. Sine hyppige communiquer på Facebook skriver hun dog næsten udelukkende på grønlandsk.

Aleqa Hammond har sjældent spildt en chance for at søge øget indflydelse; det er næppe et vildt gæt, at hun også har budt denne seneste chance for et politisk comeback varmt velkommen.

Teksten her er en let redigeret udgave af en nyhedsanalyse på Altinget/Arktis 3. november 2021. 


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How we discovered the northernmost island on Earth

september 2, 2021 • Af

In July 2021 I participated on the scientific, climate-oriented Swiss-Danish Leister Expedition Around North Greenland 2021. Then, on July 27 five of us incidentally discovered what turned out to be the northernmost island on Earth. We landed in a helicopter in perfect weather a few kilometers north of the very uppermost tip of Greenland.  

Our expedition leader Henrik Lassen, a former Siriuspartrol member, collects samples from the new island. In the background Greenland’s coastline a mountainranges. (Photo: Christiane Leister)

Here is coverage from CBC in Canada, including a radio-interview:

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-the-wednesday-edition-1.6161181/what-it-was-like-accidentally-discovering-the-world-s-northernmost-island-1.6161184

Some of us took a short ceremonial swim to celebrate the special occassion – the air temperature was well beyound zero, the sun was up and shining.   (Photo: Morten Rasch).

Our discovery eventually created a significant amount of media attention. Reuters, the BBC, Associated press and others from around the world published their own versions of the story; using amongst others some of the video footage done by Swiss Artist Julian Charrière, who was also part of the team. 

Reuters published this piece, where some of Julian’s video is embedded:  

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/greenland-expedition-discover-worlds-northernmost-island-2021-08-27/

I wrote about the discovery in Weekendavisen in Denmark, you can read my piece in English here on ArcticToday.com, in Sermitisiaq in Greenland and on Sosialurin.fo in the Faroe Islands. What happended? Why is the island suddenly there? What happened to the other islands previously discovered in these waters? And what will be the name of the new island?

You can also read my piece from ArcticToday elsewhere on my website. 

 

 


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Derfor er Norge og Grønland afgørende for USAs tænkning om sin egen sikkerhed

maj 21, 2021 • Af

Grønland og Arktis var varslet øverst på dagsordenen, allerede før USAs udenrigsminister Anthony J. Blinkens besøg i København midt i maj. 

USAs prioriteter i Arktis blev bekræftet den 5. maj af Arktis-koordinator i Blinkens ministerium, James P. DeHart, der talte online fra sit hjemmekontor på et seminar om Kina og Arktis: 

“Status quo holder ikke. Rusland og Kina udgør særlige udfordringer på grund af de voksende geopolitiske spændinger og konkurrence. Rusland i den mere hårde sikkerhedsmæssige forstand, Kina som en blødere, sikkerhedspolitisk udfordring,” sagde DeHart, der blev udnævnt under Trump, og som Blinken ikke har udskiftet. 

Blinkens kom på besøg på vej til et ministermøde i Arktisk Råd den 20. maj på Island. Her var USA syn på truslerne i Arktis velkendte.

Ruslands flybase Nagurskoye på Franz Josef Land har øget USAs bekymring

Moskva har genåbnet en række baser langs Ruslands arktiske kyst — herunder Nagurskoye-basen på øgruppen Franz Josef Land i Barentshavet. Herfra kan russiske jagerfly hurtigt nå Thule Air Base og ødelægge radaren, der skal advare USA mod nukleare missilangreb. Kina arbejder sig ind i Arktis med penge og tålmodighed, og USA føler sig truet — også med Biden og Blinken ved roret. 

 Trumps administration indledte en diplomatisk offensiv i Norge, Grønland, Island og på Færøerne, og amerikanske flådeenheder sejlede tæt på Ruslands arktiske baser. Joe Bidens har ikke ændret USAs politik på det område. Målet er i dag som i går at bremse Kinas økonomiske og politiske indtog i Arktis og at dæmme op for Ruslands genoprustning i regionen. 

USA i Norge

Alvoren mærkes i Norge netop nu. Den norske regering og USA underskrev 16. april en aftale, der giver USAs forsvar uhindret adgang til at bygge, bemande og forhåndsudruste militære anlæg til fly og flådefartøjer på fire norske militæranlæg — herunder på flådestationen i Ramsund og på Evenes Flystasjon. Begge ligger tæt ved Narvik i det norske Arktis. 

Evenes Flystasjon er Norges mest fremskudte flybase mod nord. Herfra kan  amerikanske jagere, bombefly og rekognosceringsfly fremover frit overflyve Nordnorge, Norskehavet og Barentshavet tæt på de russiske flådebaser på Kolahalvøen, hvor den russiske Nordflåde, inklusive en ny generation af ubåde og en væsentlig del af Ruslands atomvåben befinder sig. 

Det er atommissilerne på ubådene, USA særligt frygter. Ubådene kan på kort tid sejle fra Barentshavet ud i Nordatlanten og true USA, forklarer Tormod Heier, oberstløjtnant, professor og forskningschef på Forsvarets Høgskole i Oslo: 

“Det er herfra den største trussel mod USA kommer. Den korteste rute for missilerne til USA fører på grund af jordens krumning hen over Norge og/eller Grønland. For USA er Norge og Danmark med Grønland derfor to af de vigtigste lande i Europa. Vi er lytte- og varslingposter for amerikanerne. Grønland og de to støttepunkter i Evenes og Ramsund er vigtige for USAs eget forsvar,” siger Heier til Weekendavisen. 

Norge vil selv udstationere et større antal F35-jagerfly plus fem nyindkøbte P8 Poseidon-fly til ubåbdssporing på Evenes Flystasjon. Her vil de efter planen arbejde tæt sammen med de amerikanske enheder. 

I Ramsund får USA uhindret adgang til et militært havneanlæg med direkte adgang til Nordatlanten, servicefaciliteter og brændstof. I Tromsø lidt længere mod nord har de norske myndigheder udvidet havnen, så amerikanske ubåde nu kan skifte mandskab, tanke og blive serviceret. 

USA får nu uhindret adgang tl fire norske militæranlæg. Grafik: Business-Insider

Ved Rygge syd for Oslo og ved Sola nær Stavanger får USA adgang til militære lufthavne, hvorfra amerikanske fly ifølge Heier særligt vil fokusere på russisk trafik i Østersøen og Kattegat. 

Støttepunkterne i Norge skal sikre, at USAs militære operationer opnår maksimal uforudsigelighed:  

“De vil bruge norsk territorium til at agere langt mere overraskende og uforudsigeligt for at afskrække russerne,” siger Tormod Heier. “Det gør det vanskeligt for Norge både at være en god allieret i vest og en god nabo i øst. Norge bevæger sig mod mere afskrækkelse og mindre beroligelse af Rusland,” siger han. 

Moskva i oprør

Rusland mente i forvejen, at der var rigeligt at ærgre sig over i Norge. USA har længe drevet efterretningsvirksomhed fra den lille fiskerby Vadsø tæt på Norges grænse mod Rusland i nord. Fra 2016 til 2020 kunne Moskva ærgre sig over, at grupper på 700 amerikanske marinesoldater fast roterede i det centrale Norge. I februar i år kom 200 specialister fra Dyess Air Force Base i Texas til Norge for at bistå fire amerikanske bombefly af typen B-1. Flyene, der hører til de største i USAs arsenal, fløj missioner lige vest for Rusland. 

Norges koordinering med USA vokser, og Norge har også haft held til at få NATO til at engagere sig mere i Arktis. Rusland utilfredshed med den ny aftale er mærkbar:

“Det er endnu et bevis på, at Oslo gradvist opgiver sin politik med bevidst at fastholde en hvis tilbageholdenhed. Vi anser sådanne aktiviteter, især så tæt på Ruslands grænse, som Oslos bevidste og destruktive hang til forstærket aggression i den europæiske del af Arktis og til ødelæggelse af forholdet mellem Rusland og Norge,” lød det fra udenrigsministeriet i Moskva i sidste uge. 

På kant med grundloven

Den ny aftale placerer ifølge Tormod Heier også Norges konservative regering på kanten af den norske grundlov: “Spørgsmålet er, om de norske myndigheder stadig vil kunne opretholde national kontrol, hvis USA frit kan operere fra norsk territorium. Der opstår en klemme mellem hensynet til operativ effektivitet og hensynet til opretholdelsen af national suverænitet,” siger han. 

Kritikerne beskylder regeringen for at bringe freden i fare ved at undergrave den fast politik, der siden 1949 har forhindret fremmede tropper på norsk jord i fredstid: “Det er ikke sådan, at russerne frykter Norge med vores 5,3 millioner indbyggere. Det, de derimod frygter, er, at norske politikere skal lade amerikanerne benytte norsk territorium som opmarchområde for offensive operationer mod russiske interesser,” skriver historielektor Ivar Espås Vangen på organisationen “Nei til Atomvåpen”s hjemmeside. 

Regering i Oslo fastholder, at den ny aftale alene giver USA adgang til at bygge og drive militære installationer, ikke til fast udstationering af tropper. Aftalen skal godkendes af Stortinget i Oslo, før den kan træde i kraft. 

Grønland i samme båd

I København vil Anthony Blinken givetvist søge bekræftelse på, at USA også i Grønland og på Færøerne kan udvide uden problemer, og der er grund til at tro, at Mette Frederiksens regering vil anse det for en relativt enkel sag. 

Allerede i 2019, da Trump satte tingene på spidsen med sit købstilbud og ved at aflyse et planlagt statsbesøg, forsikrede Mette Frederiksen på både dansk og engelsk, at Danmark uanset købs-sagens bizarre forløb så frem til udvidet militært samarbejde med USA i Grønland og på Færøerne. 

Arktisk Kommando i Nuuk fik en ekstraordinær indsprøjtning på 1,5 milliarder kroner, og forsvaret indkøber nu droner for 750 millioner til bedre overvågning af farvandene øst for Grønland og ny radar til farvandsovervågning ved Færøerne. USA kan desuden se frem til brug af havnefaciliteter på Færøerne. 

Nuuks indstilling til USAs endnu uspecificerede ønsker i Grønland er lidt mindre klar. En ny koalition, der overtog styringen i Grønland i april, har efterlyst ‘demilitarisering’ i Grønland, men man ser tilsyneladende ikke noget problem ved et stærkere amerikansk engagement: 

“USA har gjort det klart, at Grønland er vital for USAs egen sikkerhed, og vi ser generelt ikke noget problem i, at USA vil øge sin militære tilstedeværelse,” siger Pele Broberg, der er koalitionens udenrigsansvarlige, til Weekendavisen. Pele Broberg tilhører det løsrivelsesivrige parti Naleraq, der er juniorpartner i den ny koalition. Som tidligere beskrevet her i avisen ser han store muligheder i samarbejdet med USA. Ønsket om demilitarisering dækker snarere over modvilje mod nye danske tiltag, herunder en planlagt militær uddannelse for unge grønlændere. Grønlands unge kan gøre mere gavn på andre måder, mener Broberg. 

Ny kolonialisering?

Sara Olsvig, tidligere formand for partiet Inuit Ataqatigiit, der er det førende parti i den ny koalition, efterlyser en mere præcis grønlandsk politik på området: “Jeg ser en fare for en ny form for kolonialisering, fordi sikkerhedspolitikken bliver så fremherskende. Vi ved, at det bliver sværere for de små spillere, når sikkerhedspolitikken spidser til,” siger Olsvig, der skriver ph.d. om Grønlands forhold til USA. 

 

“Grønland bør have en politik, som kan overleve også når nye koalitioner kommer til. Man kommer længere, hvis man ved, hvad man selv vil,” siger hun til Weekendavisen.

Men er det ikke naivt at tro, at USA overhovedet vil lytte til, hvad grønlænderne ønsker sig? 

“Måske. Men de siger, at de ønsker et tæt samarbejde med Grønland, og historien viser, at det går nemmere, hvis de viser oprigtig vilje til samarbejde,” siger hun. 

 

Teksten optrådte første gang i en lidt anden version i Weekendavisen 12.5

 

 

 

 

 


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Hvad mener danskerne egentlig om rigsfællesskabet?

maj 12, 2021 • Af

Glæden bredte sig på Christiansborg, da en ny meningsmåling om danskernes syn på rigsfællesskabet blev offentliggjort forleden. 

Det viste sig, at 37 procent af danskerne mener, at rigsfællesskabet skal bestå, men at det bør ændres, så Grønland og Færøerne får mere selvstyre. 27 pct. mener, at rigsfællesskabet skal fortsætte uændret. Ialt 64 pct. af de adspurgte støtter altså en bevarelse af rigsfællesskabet. 

Både fra højre og venstre side af Folketinget lød der klapsalver: ”Det glæder mig langt ind i hjertet,” sagde tidl. udenrigsminister Martin Lidegaard fra de radikale til netmediet Altinget/Arktis. Lidegaard var særlig glad for de 37 procent, der ønsker at bevare men også ændre rigsfællesskabet, så Grønland og Færøerne får mere selvstyre. Det samme var SF’s grønlands- og færøordfører Karsten Hønge: “Det er efter min mening den rigtige vej at gå,” sagde han. 

Partiet Venstres grønlandsordfører Christoffer Aagaard Melson var fornøjet over det store flertals ønske om at bevare rigsfællesskabet: “Jeg er glad for at et flertal af befolkningen ligger samme sted, som vi selv gør,” sagde han til Altinget. 

Flertallet i Danmark mener altså ikke, at fællesskabet bør reformeres i så voldsomt omfang, at det går i opløsning. Målet for er primært at forandre for at bevare eller bare bevare. Færingerne og grønlænderne må gerne få “mere selvstyre”, men “mere selvstyre” er ikke nærmere defineret i undersøgelsen. Grønland har ifølge Selvstyreloven allerede rige muligheder for at hjemtage en stribe opgaver fra Danmark; måske er det blot denne eksisterende ordning, der nu kan spores en hvis opbakning til.

Der er ikke i Danmark nogen egentlig debat om de grønlandske eller færøske tanker om egentlig løsrivelse, og slet ingen debat om de hybrider eller alternativer til rigsfællesskabet, der diskuteres i Thorshavn og Nuuk. Der er derfor ingen grund til at tro, at 37 procent af danskerne pludselig har fattet interesse for tankerne om free association, langstrakt løsrivelse efter islandsk model, unionstanker eller andre af de konstruktioner, der tales om i Nordatlanten. 

Intet nyt under solen

Skal man være lidt polemisk, viser den nye undersøgelse kun en anelse nyt under solen. Lagtinget på Færøerne blev genoprettet i 1854 for at imødekomme den øgede færøske trang til selvbestemmelse. Forstanderskaberne i Grønland blev indført fra 1850’erne af beslægtede årsager; senere fulgte som bekendt landsråd, Hjemmestyre og Selvstyre. Ønsket i København har aldrig været at bane vej for selvstændige nordatlantiske stater, men at sikre, at alle rigets dele følger med tiden og fungerer godt sammen under dansk styring. 

Færøerne og Grønlands skal helst forblive en del af kongeriget, uanset at et flertal i Grønland og et svingende mindretal på Færøerne i en del årtier har talt om at udvikle suveræne stater — måske i fortsat forbindelse med Danmark, men uden for det eksisterende rigsfællesskab. Den vision har stadig kun få tilhængere i Danmark, — men dog nogle.

I den nye meningsmåling, som er foretaget af Epinion for DR og Altinget, siger  18 procent af de adspurgte, at “rigsfællesskabet bør ophøre, så Grønland og Færøerne bliver selvstændige nationer”. Det skal så sammenholdes med de 64 pct, der vil bevare rigsfællesskabet (16 procent svarede “ved ikke”, mens to procent ikke ønskede at svare). 

Sjældne tal

Tallene er værd at notere, især fordi det er så sjældent, at danskerne bliver spurgt.

Vi skal tilbage til 1999 for at finde en bred undersøgelse. Dengang foretog en række forskere anført af den nu afdøde samfundsforsker Lise Togeby fra Aarhus Universitet en magtudredning i Danmark, hvor rigsfællesskabet også sneg sig ind. 

Forskerne undersøgte, hvad danskerne mente om Grønlands og Færøernes ønske om mere selvstyre. Fra 1999 til 2002 blev 5.155 danskere fordelt på stadig nye grupper, der skulle tage stilling til følgende udsagn: ”Hvis Grønland og Færøerne ønsker selvstyre, kan de for min skyld få det med det samme.” Svarpersonerne blev ringet op: ”Er du enig, uenig eller delvist enig?”

Resultatet forelå i 2002, og det var helt entydigt. Hver fjerde måned i tre år blev en ny gruppe ringet op, og hver gang svarede 90 procent uden slinger, at de var enige i det kontante udsagn – enten helt eller delvist. 

Et overvældende flertal af danskerne mente altså i 1999, 2000, 2001 og 2002, at færingerne og grønlænderne fint kunne påtage sig selvstyre, når det passede dem. Forskerne læste også aviser og konstaterede, at der heller ikke i den politiske debat blev argumenteret imod øget selvstyre. Enigheden i Danmark var nærmest total.

Lise Togeby konkluderede: ”Tilslutningen til den formulerede påstand varierer kun mellem 90 pct. og 93 pct. Opinionen fremtræder således som meget stabil. Denne høje stabilitet afspejler formodentlig, at kun de færreste danskere interesserer sig for emnet. Der ser ikke ud til at være mange, der er bekymret over, at færinger og grønlændere vil være selvstændige. Synspunktet er, at det for så vidt er grønlænderes og færingers eget problem.”

Blandede bolcher

Lise Togeby sammenblandede på uheldig vis “selvstyre” og det at ville “være selvstændige,” men tallene var klare nok: 90 pct af de adspurgte svarede, at selvstyre måtte være øboernes “eget problem,” som Togeby lidt hånligt kaldte det. Desværre undersøgte forskerne ikke, hvad danskerne mente om egentlig løsrivelse eller statsdannelse, som flere kalder det i dag. Dog kan vi alligevel sammenligne med Epinions seneste undersøgelse. 

Dengang som nu overlader mange danskere på den ene side principielt gerne mere styring af de interne anliggender til borgerne på Færøerne og Grønland. Det er som nævnt det samme som at være enig i Selvstyrelovens indhold og i den beslægtede selvstyreordning på Færøerne. 

Det indebærer dog ikke, at de samme danskere nødvendigvis vil se positivt på en opløsning af rigsfællesskabet, selvom egentlig suverænitet eller statsdannelse i sidste ende skulle vise sig at være det store flertal af færingernes og/eller grønlændernes ønske. 

Tværtimod viser den seneste undersøgelse, at de fleste danskere stadig hælder til den gældende ordning, hvor den danske regering i yderste fald har magt, pligt og ret til at rette op på skuden, hvis noget skulle gå alvorligt galt. 

Det er ikke overraskende. Samme holdning gør sig gældende på Christiansborg på tværs af de politiske partier. Samarbejdet hen over Nordatlanten kan udmærket udvides på mange områder — f.eks. med den ny, IA-styrede koalition i Nuuk, men i Danmark vil det ske med udgangspunkt i ønsket om at bevare rigsfællesskabet. Det går både kongehuset, regeringen, forsvaret, alle de store partier og — det ved vi nu — et stort flertal af danskerne ind for. Rigsfællesskabet behøver ikke at være statisk. Tværtimod ved vi også nu, at der er folkelig forståelse for, at det må moderniseres løbende, men der er ingen appetit på at opløse det. 

1000 danskere over 18 blev spurgt. Tallene viser, at der ikke er stor forskel på, hvad kvinder og mænd i Danmark mener, eller hvad ældre og yngre danskere mener. Blandt de 27 pct., der mener, at rigsfællesskabet bør fortsætte uforandret, er der en lille overvægt af vælgere, som stemmer på borgerlige partier. Overordnet set er fordelingen af holdninger dog stort set uafhængig af køn, alder og politisk overbevisning. 

 

Først offentliggjort i Sermitsiaq 7.5 2021 – let redigeret. 

 


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Grønlands nye landsstyre lover stabilitet men fødes med indre spændinger

april 19, 2021 • Af

Med tydelige adresse til de seneste års hyppige politiske sporskifte i Nuuk lover Múte B. Egede både stabilitet i regeringsførelsen, brede forlig med inddragelse af hele det politiske spekter, og ikke mindst langtidsholdbare forlig, der rækker udover den aktuelle valgperiode.

Múte B. Egede skal nu lede en koalition af IA, der læner mod venstre, og Naleraq, – et liberalt, nationalistisk parti. Foto: Martin Breum

 

Grønland har stærkt brug for det hele, men sprængfaren ligger latent i konstruktionen: Múte B. Egedes parti, Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) er SF’s tidligere søsterparti, og Egede selv taler gerne om både bæredygtighed, kampen mod ulighed og behovet for sociale reformer til gavn for de svageste, men han har nu mønstret et flertal ved at indgå en koalitionsaftale med partiet Naleraq (Pejlemærket), der i kortform er liberalt-nationalistisk.

De to partier råder tilsammen over 16 af de 31 pladser i Inatsisartut. Det giver blot en enkelt stemmes overvægt, men koalitionen styrkes yderligere af to stemmer fra støttepartiet Atassut, Grønlands engang så indflydelsesrige, borgerlige parti.

God kemi
Mosaikken giver rigeligt grundstof til ideologisk tumult, men man skal huske realiteterne: IA og Naleraq sad i dele af den forrige valgperiode i koalitionsregering sammen og fandt hinanden på en række områder. I koalitionsaftalen er der enighed om at søge forbedringer for de udsatte børn, hjemløse og pensionister blandt andet med en skattereform og en fattigdomsgrænse. Endelig er der efter sigende fin kemi mellem flere af topfolkene.

Ikke mindst har IAs næstformand Aqqaluaq Egede, der nu placeres på den afgørende post som ansvarlig for fiskeri og fangst, længe dyrket et tæt kollegialt forhold til Hans Enoksen, formanden for Naleraq, der i hele sin politiske karriere har anset de grønlandske fiskeres og fangeres vilkår for topprioritet. Fortsætter de to’s parløb ind i fiskeriets nervecenter, vil det muligvis kunne sikre sammenholdet i koalitionen et godt stykke ad vejen.

Hans Enoksen, der altså nu er Múte B. Egedes hovedpartner, er selv tidligere landsstyreformand, en politisk gesvindt veteran, der nu bliver formand for Inatsisartut. I Grønland er det ikke blot er en ærefuld men også en magtfuld post. Enoksen har ved at indgå i koalitionen altså fået både en ven i spidsen for fiskeripolitikken og indflydelse på selve den politiske procedure plus endnu en trumf: Enoksens partifælle Pele Broberg bliver ansvarlig for Grønlands stadig vigtigere relationer til udlandet; ham vender vi tilbage til – her er hele rigets interesser i spil.

Lange forlig
Stemningen var høj, da den ny 17-sider lange koalitionsaftale blev underskrevet fredag foran et større publikum i Nuuk. Den tv-transmitterede ceremoni bød udover politik også på trommedans og højtidelig tænding af en spæklampe af fedtsten; en hyldest til kulturarven og historien.

Fornyelsen er markant: Múte B. Egede er den yngste landsstyreformand i Grønlands historie, og det er kun anden gang siden hjemmestyrets indførelse i 1979, at et landsstyre ikke skal ledes af Siumut, Socialdemokratiets søsterparti.

IA havde magten første gang fra 2009-2013; Selvstyrets første år blev anført af landsstyreformand Kuupik Kleist, der i dag har forladt den politiske scene. Múte B. Egede var ikke med dengang, men der er folk i hans nye landsstyre, der vil huske, at IA’s regeringsførelse dengang mere blev kendt for analytisk skarphed end handlekraft. Det var muligvis en uretfærdig dom, men genvalg blev det ikke til, og Múte B. Egede virker nu opsat på at se længere end blot til næste valg.

Hans løfte om bredde i forligene skal ses i den sammenhæng: Det slagne Siumut kæmper med gedigne, interne problemer, herunder dyb uenighed mellem den nuværende og den tidligere formand, men partiet fik trods de indvortes problemer et relativt godt valg med flere stemmer og ét mandat mere end ved valget i 2018. Lykkes det at samle Siumut igen, står den nye koalition overfor en potentielt ganske stærk opposition; Múte B. Egede gør givetvis klogt i at samle, ikke at sprede.

Múte B. Egede og det ny landsstyres nye finansansvarlige, Asii Chemnitz Narup (tv) og Naaja Nathanielsen, ny Naalakkersuisoq for boliger, infrastruktur, råstoffer og ligestilling. Foto: Martin Breum

Nej til Kvanefjeldet

I verdenspressen har det allerede givet genlyd, at den ny koalition vil stoppe mineprojektet på Kvanefjeldet ved byen Narsaq i Sydgrønland. Især IA er ubøjelig modstander af projektet, fordi den planlagte udvinding af sjældne jordarter, der er essentielle for både den grønne omstilling og militærindustrien, også vil bringe uran til overfladen.

Det er betegnende for den nye koalitions virketrang, at partnere allerede under valgkampen sagde kategorisk nej til projektet, uanset at den formelle offentlige høringsproces først slutter til juni. Kyndige iagttagere i Nuuk venter nu på mineselskabet Greenland Minerals reaktion; selskabet har angiveligt investeret mere end 100 millioner dollars i prøveboringer og anden forberedelse.

Múte B. Egede gentog fredag sin skarpe afvisning af projektet, og Naleraq er enig. Minen på Kvanefjeldet, hvis hovedaktionær i øvrigt er kinesisk, bliver ikke til noget i denne omgang; IA prioriterer miljøet højere end de potentielle økonomiske gevinster, og Naleraq vil hellere vente med så store mineprojekter til efter Grønlands løsrivelse fra Danmark.

Koalitionen anser ifølge den nye koalitionsaftale fortsat minedrift som en potentielt vigtig indtægtskilde i Grønland, men uranudvinding vil ikke blive tolereret; en politik, der givetvis også vil ramme det statsejede franske atomselskab Orano, som i februar vandt to licenser til uranefterforskning et andet sted i Sydgrønland.

Fiske-hovedpine
Koalitionens styrke vil blive tryktestet i de forestående forhandlinger om en ny fiskerilov. Loven har været på vej i flere år; behovet for indgreb er bredt anerkendt, men der er på ingen måde enighed om, hvordan de skal designes.

Fiskeriet skaffer over 90 procent af Grønlands eksportindtægter, men fiskebestandene er ifølge biologerne kritisk truet af overfiskeri. Så sent som i sidste uge udkom endnu en rapport om krisen: Hellefisken i Disko-området, der er en af Grønlands vigtigste forekomster, er grumt overfisket og truet af kollaps.

En fiskerikommission med deltagelse af både de store fiskerikoncerner og de små, men talrige og indflydelsesrige jollefiskere skal aflevere sine anbefalinger inden sommerferien. Kommissionens formandsskab har på forhånd råbt højt om overfiskeriet, men det fremgår af den nye koalitionsaftale, at Múte B. Egedes landsstyre ikke nødvendigvis vil føle sig forpligtet af kommissionens anbefalinger – på trods af Múte B. Egedes løfter om, at koalitionen vil fokusere på bæredygtighed.

Tværtimod understreger aftalen, at lovgivning må ske ved “bredt samarbejde med fiskeriets parter”, og fiskernes viden om fiskebestandenes tilstand vil blive vægtet side om side med biologernes også fremover. I Grønland har den opskrift hidtil betydet et fiskeri, der kun i begrænset omfang afspejler biologernes råd.

Løsrivelse
Set fra Christiansborg vil udpegelsen af den løsrivelsesivrige Pele Broberg fra Naleraq som det nye landsstyres udenrigsansvarlige være særligt bemærkelsesværdig; det er den tredje trumf, koalitionsdannelsen placerer i den garvede Hans Enoksens hånd.

Pele Broberg forklarede mig for nylig, at forhandlingerne med Danmark om Grønlands løsrivelse – eller statsdannelse, som han og stadig flere i Grønland kalder det – efter hans mening bør indledes snart. Han mener, at forberedelserne i Grønland vil kunne klares på et år eller mindre. Han vil gerne binde det uafhængige, fremtidige Grønland tæt til Danmark, men ikke for enhver pris. Efter Donald Trumps købstilbud anser han en tættere alliance med USA for en reel mulighed, hvis forhandlingerne med Danmark ikke fører til acceptable resultater.Her skal det understreges, at der ikke står ét ord om alt det i den nye koalitionsaftale. I modsætning til tidligere koalitionsaftaler i Grønland taler den nye hverken om løsrivelse, selvstændighed eller statsdannelse, og USA er ikke nævnt.

Det er muligvis udtryk for, at Múte B. Egedes partnere fra Naleraq har måtte dæmpet deres løsrivelsestanker under forhandlingerne. Omvendt indeholder koalitionsaftalen rigelig plads til fortolkning i den hverdag, der nu melder sig; aftalen indeholder bemærkelsesværdigt kun få detaljer om forholdet til Danmark.

“Selvstyreloven er den grundlæggende lov for vores samfund,” hedder det forsigtigt. Aftalen forudser hjemtagelse af stadig flere af de opgaver, som Danmark fortsat varetager for Grønland, men det er helt i tråd med selvstyreaftalen mellem Danmark og Grønland, og kun fødevareområdet nævnes specifikt.

Múte B. Egede og resten af IA, herunder folketingsmedlem Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, har i de seneste år markeret sig som stadig mere pragmatiske operatører i rigsfællesskabet uden synlig interesse for løsrivelse eller statsdannelse. Til gengæld er Pele Brobergs og Naleraqs varme ønske om et hurtigere tempo mod frigørelsen velkendt i Grønland, og det er rimeligt at antage, at denne kontrast vil præge både koalitionen og det dansk-grønlandske samarbejde.

Danmark og USA
Som politisk leder af landsstyrets Departement for Udenrigsanliggender, Handel, Klima og Erhverv får Pele Broberg det daglige ansvar for væsentlige dele af de løbende forretninger med Mette Frederiksens regering, især Trine Bramsens forsvarsministerium og Jeppe Kofods udenrigsministerium, men også Dan Jørgensens klimaministerium.

Pele Broberg vil eksempelvis straks overtage Grønlands forhandlinger med Jeppe Kofod om kongerigets arktiske strategi, der har vredet sig på tegnebordet i en del måneder. Han vil også straks indgå i de komplekse forhandlinger med USA om forsvarets indretning i Grønland, og han vil lede udvekslingerne med Washington om økonomisk samarbejde og om USA’s bidrag til den civile udvikling i Grønland; her forhandler Nuuk og Washington indbyrdes udenom København.

Han vil lede Grønlands fortsatte opbygning af relationer til Kina, hvor en diplomatisk repræsentation skal oprettes, og han vil deltage i de løbende forhandlinger med EU, der yder væsentlig støtte til Grønland. I koalitionsaftalen står der, at IA og Naleraq ønsker at sætte bremser på EU-fiskeriet i Grønland til gavn for Grønlands egne fiskere.

Også på denne måde lover den ny koalition ny dynamik – både internt og eksternt.

IA’s og Naleraqs alliance spejles i øvrigt af udviklingen i Grønlands største kommune Sermersooq, hvortil Nuuk og dermed en tredjedel af Grønlands indbyggere hører. Her blev der i fredags også indgået koalitionsaftale i kommunalbestyrelsen mellem IA og Naleraq – plus partiet Demokraterne. Samtidig er Nuuks tidligere borgmester, IAs Asii Chemnitz Narup blevet medlem af Múte B. Egedes landsstyre; hun bliver ansvarlig for Grønlands finanser og indenrigsanliggender. Det er muligvis signal om, at den ny ledelse for alvor vil kaste sig over de alvorlige spændinger mellem hovedstaden og resten af Grønland.

 

Teksten her optrådte først på Altinget /Arktis 19.4 2021

 

 

 


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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 EUobserver.com on 25 February 2021

 


blog

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 Highnorthnews.no on February 1st. 2021.