School of Transnational Governance

There Is Much to Gain from a Peaceful, Transnational Arctic Region, Says Fabrizio Tassinari

Trump's bid to purchase Greenland might seem surreal, but it illuminates a challenging geopolitical paradox, writes the Executive Director of the School of Transnational Governance on The World Post.

“The sea,” wrote the 16th-century Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, “since it is as incapable of being seized as the air, cannot be attached to the possessions of any particular nation.” This elementary precept seems to have been lost on President Donald Trump in his gambit to increase access to the Arctic Ocean by seeking to purchase Greenland from Denmark.

Aside from the legitimate considerations about the nature of this proposition (Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark’s, is not for sale) or about how diplomatic relations among allies are being conducted, this episode illuminates a challenging geopolitical paradox. As regional stakeholders publicly restate their commitment to peacefully resolve any dispute in the high north, some policymakers seem to conclude that the Arctic is descending into a zero-sum competition.

As regional stakeholders publicly restate their commitment to peacefully resolve any dispute in the high north, some policymakers seem to conclude that the Arctic is descending into a zero-sum competition.

Massive changes in the Arctic ecosystem are occurring due to global warming, opening up previously inaccessible opportunities. Greenland alone is estimated to hold almost a quarter of the world’s reserves of rare earths — minerals used in everything from magnets to electric car motors and wind turbines. The U.S. Geological Survey calculated in 2008 that the Arctic holds about 13 and 30 of the world’s undiscovered resources of oil and gas, respectively. The opening of the Northeast Passage may reduce the sailing distance from Asia to Europe by some 40 percent.

Episodes like Trump’s stunt underscore a sense of urgency about how potential disputes arising from exploration and trade will be resolved. [Continue reading on The World Post]