Protecting Greenland’s external borders is one of the few areas for which Denmark is responsible. Greenland has created appropriate structures for this purpose, including the Joint Arctic Commando. But a statement by Greenland’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pele Broberg, made both Copenhagen and other Arctic states sit up and take notice. He envisages a separate coast guard similar to the one in Iceland. A hot potato, not only for Denmark, but also for Russia and the USA.
In an interview with the newspaper Sermitsiaq Pele Broberg said that Greenland was aiming to establish its own coast guard, but that, as in Iceland, it would not be subordinate to the military but would be a civilian authority. “The Arctic Council, for example, has the Coast Guard Forum, of which the US and Iceland are members. If Greenland has its own coast guard, we can also be part of the forum,” he said during an interview with the newspaper. As a civilian agency, the Coast Guard could be attached to the Ministry of Justice, like the police, as is the case in Iceland.
Denmark as a domestic power is responsible for all military matters in Greenland and this includes the coast guard. Two ships are currently deployed in Greenland for this purpose, both under the command of the Joint Arctic Command in Nuuk. In addition, the well-known Sirius Patrol uniton land is responsible for border patrols. Since 2012, Denmark has operated the Joint Arctic Command to secure the coastal waters of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. That is why Denmark reacts with astonishment to the Greenlandic politician’s statements. For Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, Greenland’s security and foreign policy are closely linked to that of Denmark, as he had confirmed to Greenlandic media. But Pele Broberg, who sits in the government as a member of the Naleraq party, wants nothing to do with it. “Greenland, that’s us. The Arctic, that’s us,” he told Sermitsiaq . Naleraq is campaigning for independence from Denmark.
Greenland’s efforts to turn international interest in itself into even more independence are not only met with confusion in Denmark, however. Already under the previous government of Kim Kielsen, the local government had gone its own way without prior consultation with Copenhagen. And the Russian ambassador in Copenhagen, Vladimir Barbin, had also strongly criticized some of the Greenlandic advances in the past. The sensitivity of the whole issue is also shown by the fact that a statement made by Pele Broberg on Danish television was interpreted and reproduced in such a distorted way that even official Russia had to intervene.
What happened: In a broadcast, Broberg explained that he had in mind a system similar to Iceland’s in terms of defense. This would mean that there could also be a bilateral agreement with the USA. Shortly thereafter, a Danish newspaper published that the statement had provoked a “strong reaction” from the Russian ambassador in Copenhagen, who immediately saw more U.S. troops in Greenland. Only an official statement by Russia smoothed the waters somewhat and Broberg also stated that there was a good dialogue between Russia and Greenland. He got on well with Foreign Minister Lavrov at the Arctic Council meeting, Sermitisaq quotes him as saying. But how the mood is in his own house between him and Denmark remains open.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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