Greenland and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Speech by Inga Dóra G. Markussen, Vice Chair, Siumut – to Arctic Circle Assembly, Nuuk, 27th August to 29, 2022. Inga Dóra gave a speech under Arctic Circle Greenland Forum session; The Return of Asia: The Arctic and Greenland.

Thanks to the organizer for giving me the opportunity to express my opinion on developments in the Arctic region and Greenland in particular.  My name is Inga Dóra Gudmundsdottir Markussen and I am Vice Chair of Siumut, a social democratic party.

I have chosen to focus a bit on North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, in context with our path to independence. We are no different from any other peoples. We want to be independent just like other independent nations, who by the way are doing fine.

Greenland is a member of NATO because in 1949, Denmark was one of the founding members of the defense alliance. At that time, we were a colony with no democratic say in matters relating to our country, yet alone foreign and security policy. Those elements are still a problem in our democracy today. Because the State does not want our democracy to contain elements that have anything to do with defense and security policy. That is a democratic deficit for the Greenlandic people. In our path to independence, I think the time has come for us to decide for ourselves, through our parliament, whether to become a full member of NATO and not just as an appendix to the decision that Denmark took in 1949.

A study published last year from University of Greenland shows, that the people of Greenland wants to be a member of NATO (75, 5 pct.) and considers our neighbors Iceland (90 pct.), Arctic Council (87 pct.) and Canada (85 pct.) as the most natural to cooperate with when it comes to defense.  In Greenland, we are indeed aware of our special geopolitical position and that Denmark is under no circumstances able to defend us without the United States being involved. It is indeed a geopolitical reality. In the study the US comes on a fourth place (69 pct.) followed by Denmark in the fifth (68 pct.)

In fact, we know quite a bit about how the US political system views Greenland. In 2017, the Center for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen, published a report titled “The Greenland Card” which examines how Greenland can contribute to Denmark’s ability to influence the policies of the United States. In it, senior US military officials describe, in stark honesty, how they view the relationship between Greenland and Denmark, and Greenland in particular. The overall message in the report is, that the Americans ‘just’ has an interest in political stability in Greenland and that the US will not interfere in the Danish-Greenland relationship or in how the Greenlandic people exercise their right for independence. We also know that the Americans themselves are aware of, that the Danish defense budget for NATO is tolerated due to the ‘Greenland Card’. So the presence of the United States in our land, meaning the presence of NATO, is perceived as a contribution from Denmark. This is our land, this is our interest and we are a democracy.

Who does seriously imagine that we in Greenland will tolerate simply being relegated to a card as if we where a subject to interests of another country, and that we are unable to take care of our own interests. We need to take the responsibility as any other peoples takes a responsibility, and there is no such as a free lunch. We are a people like all other peoples in the world who have the right to self-determination and a full democratic process on our own international position.

Therefore, I believe that our parliament, should apply for membership of NATO independently. I would imagine that we would position ourselves like Iceland, that is to say that we would be members of NATO with all the duties and rights that that implies, without however, contributing either with military power or a Ministry of Defense of our own. I therefore welcome the fact that our government now actively and independently is approaching NATO by establishing a permanent presence. We are at last on the doorstep and really take full responsibility on all matters that concerns us.

We are talking about our security and we need a strong partner as NATO especially Unites States, Canada and our good friends in Iceland and Denmark.

We have an obligation to defend the values as a western democratic country.  A small population is not an excuse for not taking the full responsibility. Our geopolitical position demands of us to take exactly that responsibility.

The card of Greenland is our card and not a card of another government. Our own security is at stake here and therefore in our interest to be a full member of NATO, with all what that implies.

Thank you.