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The last time Americans felt hostility to anything remotely Danish was when the pompous old Duke of Weselton launched a trade-war-turned-palace-coup against the warm-hearted ice queen known as Elsa. Even the prepubescent fans of Frozen know that trade wars are doomed and that strong female leaders are unstoppable.
It’s tempting to look at Donald Trump’s ludicrous desire to buy Greenland – and the Danish spat that followed – as just another sick joke of the Trump presidency: an aberration that the world will forget with tomorrow’s distracting tweets on some other outrage.
But after two and half years of this corrosive nonsense, it’s time to admit some unpleasant truths. The madness of Donald Trump is getting worse, not better. The presidency has not normalized him, it has only normalized our numbed reaction to his excesses. We cannot see through the fog of disinformation and distraction how much of the world’s instability is directly linked to his abject failure as a president.
Let’s just pause to look at Greenland, shall we? On the face of it, the notion of buying the Arctic autonomous territory seems like just another brain fart from the cavities inside Trump’s cranium: “an absurd discussion”, as the new Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, put it on her trip to Greenland on Monday. “Thankfully the time where you buy and sell countries and populations is over. Let’s leave it there. Jokes aside, we will of course love to have an even closer strategic relationship with the United States.”
Sadly, the days of buying and selling other countries are far from over because Trump himself seems to be easily bought by his Russian and Saudi friends. He’s so cheap you only have to dangle the idea of a Trump Tower in Moscow to win his undying support for lifting sanctions imposed after Russia invaded and annexed part of Ukraine.
Greenland doesn’t just bubble into Trump’s mind randomly, unless Fox News is airing obscure weekend segments on Arctic politics. But it is very much on Russia’s radar. Earlier this year, Russia revamped its Arctic circle military base on the tiny Kotelny Island, which sits close to the shipping routes that are opening up as the polar region warms catastrophically.
There are unknown quantities of oil, gas and rare earth metals in the arctic, and the region’s powers – Denmark among them – can either green light a global free-for-all or restrain the usual human plunder of one of the last pristine frontiers on the planet. You can guess where Russia sits on this spectrum of environmental concerns in the middle of our climate crisis.
It is one of the sickest Trump jokes that his half-baked idea of buying Greenland should be seen as American machismo when it is yet another sign of Putin’s puppet American presidency at work.
Denmark is a loyal ally within the organization that Russia loathes: Nato. So the downside to trashing a state visit, complete with a royal dinner, is not what it normally would be for an American president who supposedly leads the greatest global alliance in military history. He did, after all, suggest withdrawing US troops from Nato just last year.
One of the many gobsmacking cons of our current crop of so-called nationalist leaders is how happy they are to surrender their national interest in subordination to any foreign strongman who offers to grease their personal interest. It’s almost like they’re not serious about America First or Global Britain at all.
It is too much to expect rational public thought from the 45th president of the United States. But you have to wonder if he ever admits to himself that the only reason the Arctic is opening up is because of the climate crisis he used to call a Chinese hoax.
More recently he told CBS News that “something’s happening” to the climate that probably isn’t a hoax but definitely has nothing to do with human actions.
“I wish you could go to Greenland, watch these huge chunks of ice just falling into the ocean, raising the sea levels,” Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes told him. Maybe Trump just wanted to buy Greenland to make sure nobody could there to see the ice melting.
“You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley,” Trump said, fabricating yet more lies to cover up his own political agenda. In other words, another day in the Oval Office.
As the world knows full well with each passing day of this presidency, Trump cannot project national strength because he is so chronically, personally weak. He told reporters on Wednesday that he dropped out of his Denmark state visit because its prime minister was “nasty” and “not nice” in rejecting his advances on Greenland.
On a playground full of pre-schoolers, this language might make sense. On the world stage, as the Danish would say, it’s absurd.
Like so many weak souls who never grew out of the playground chapter of their lives, Trump tries to pick on other weak souls to demonstrate the strength he so clearly lacks.
The weakest of those victims are the children fleeing for their lives from Central America.
Trump is not content with ripping them from their parents, orphaning some of them by losing track of their parents forever, and exposing others to unspeakable abuse in so-called shelters. He now wants to ignore the courts and detain them indefinitely in private for-profit prisons with or without their families.
His administration claims the old court-ordered Flores agreement is “outdated and fails to account for the massive shift in illegal immigration to families and minors from Central America”, according to a written White House statement.
That conveniently ignores the fact that the “outdated” court agreement is named after Jenny Lisette Flores, who was a 15-year-old fleeing El Salvador in the 1980s when she was arrested by US officials, handcuffed and strip-searched and placed in a for-profit prison for two months. The US refused to release her to family members, claiming they were protecting her, but the ACLU said the Reagan administration was just trying to arrest parents and punish children.
So obviously there are no similarities to Trump’s policies at all.
From the self-inflicted crisis at the border to the self-inflicted spat with Denmark, so much of the global chaos that numbs us all is the product of this mindless and malignant American leader.
The world is staring at a global recession triggered in large part by Trump’s pointless trade wars. It’s watching mini-Trumps grasp for power in Britain and Italy, inspired by his own undemocratic example, including all his trademark incompetence and ignorance.
Without Trump, how much of the stupefying sense of chaos would evaporate?
Perhaps not all of it, but enough for Scandinavia to return to sleeping soundly. Villy Søvndal, a former Danish foreign minister, said that Trump was “a narcissistic fool” because of his decision to cancel his trip. But he explained that this clown wasn’t funny. “The problem is that he is the president of the most powerful nation in the world,” he said.
That’s a problem for the whole world to suffer. But it’s a problem that only American voters can solve.