Greenland wants a Nato envoy of its own | Polarjournal
Command, but also control (Photo: Nato)

Greenland is a part of Denmark, and Denmark is a member of Nato. Greenland, thus, according to the maths of collective defence, is a member of Nato. That means that, were Greenland ever attacked, the other members of the alliance would be obliged to come to its rescue. But with the region again entering into the thinking of military commanders — and as Greenland itself is seeking more influence over its foreign affairs — Nuuk is now looking to station an envoy at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters, in order to be a part of the discussion before the fighting begins. 

Greenland already has a representative office in Brussels that is headed by a de-facto ambassador; adding a Nato envoy would allow it to have access to immediate, “unfiltered” information about defence issues. “That would mean that, if a (military, ed) situation arises, we won’t need to hear it from others,” Naaja Nathanielsen, the finance minister, said on Wednesday during presentation of the government’s proposed 2023 budget that includes funding for a Nato office.

Nato has no operational presence in Greenland, but, since 2020, Denmark’s Arctic Command, which is headquartered in Nuuk, has co-ordinated its activities with the alliance’s UK-based maritime command. The relationship involves sharing information and participation in exercises. 

On the same page, literally, but not always figuratively (Photo: Naalakkersuisut)

The proposal to dispatch a Nato envoy comes a week after Nuuk and Copenhagen finalised the details of an agreement that secures Greenland a say in negotiations over Denmark’s 2024-2029 defence policy. The agreement ensures that lawmakers from Greenland are fully informed about aspects of the policy relating to Greenland and the Arctic and can take part in deliberations.

The agreement is the most recent effort by Greenland to formalise its role in Danish foreign and defence policies that relate to the Arctic. Though its devolution agreement with Copenhagen gives Nuuk broad powers of self-governance, foreign affairs and defence remain Denmark’s remit. In recent years, however, it has successfully asserted that it should speak on Denmark’s behalf at the Arctic Council, and it, together with the Faroe Islands, another former Danish colony, signed an agreement with the Danish government to set up a committee of cabinet members from all three countries that discusses foreign policy and defence issues. Greenland’s foreign-policy forays are adding up.

Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal
Featured image: US Navy / Sara Eshleman

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