On March 30, 1867, the United States acquired Alaska from the Russian Empire for $7.2 million. Since then, the acquisition has paid off tremendously for the United States, Alaska having since been found rich in natural resources such as gold and oil, as well as being strategically positioned for modern geopolitics.
It is my opinion that the acquisition of territory is, in nearly all instances, beneficial to that nation which is doing the acquiring. Seeing as it has been 120 years since the United States made a significant territorial acquisition (Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines from Spain in 1898), I believe it is time for the United States to acquire a new territory.
That territory which I believe the United States should acquire is Greenland.
Greenland is a massive island northeast of Canada. Presently, it is owned by the Kingdom of Denmark. The vast majority of its land is covered in ice and is, therefore, uninhabitable. It has a tiny population of only 56,483 people, and a nearly microscopic GDP of $1.8 billion, approximately 6% the size of Vermont’s, the US state with the lowest GDP.
Given this, one would reasonably wonder why it is worth acquiring. How could it possibly pay off for the United States?
The value of Greenland is not in its population nor its production. Rather, it is in its location, and what may come of its acquisition.
It is certainly no secret that global tensions are currently very high. The United States is on the brink of conflict with Russia, and could soon find itself without strong allies in Europe given current trends within many of the continent’s most powerful governing bodies.
Given this, controlling a massive territory between the continental United States and Europe would be a tremendous benefit. Although we do maintain military bases on Greenland presently, who’s to say this would continue without issue if a major conflict broke out? The only way to ensure our bases remain in this area, and expand as they need to, is to control the territory ourselves.
Additionally, acquiring Greenland would result in the United States surrounding Canada on all sides. A nation whose government could, if present trends continue, become problematic if not outright adversarial towards the United States in the future.
I have a great fondness for Canada, but the issues of its current government are undeniable. The current Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is not only bad for Canada, but for the United States as well.
On July 7th, 2017, Mr. Trudeau’s government issued an apology and payed $10.5 million dollars to Omar Khadr, a terrorist convicted of murdering U.S. Army Delta Force Sergeant Christopher Speer. A country – one that shares a border with us, no less – who claims to be our ally made a millionaire out of a man convicted of murdering an American war hero.
The Prime Minister has also been a great embarrassment to Canada on the international stage. A prime example of this can be found in his February 2018 trip to India, where he was poorly received by the Indian government and universally criticized at home and abroad.
Also in February 2018, Mr. Trudeau scolded a young Canadian woman for using the word ‘mankind’ in a question posed to him. He instructed her to use the word ‘peoplekind,’ instead, saying, “We like to say ‘peoplekind’, not necessarily ‘mankind’, as it’s more inclusive.”
If Prime Minister Trudeau and his ilk are allowed to continue running Canada into the ground, it will not be long before the United States and Canada find themselves diametrically opposed to one another. Trudeau and his Liberal Party are a blight not only on Canada, but the whole of North America, in large part because of the near irreparable damage being done to US-Canada relations.
And even if this turn for the worse weren’t to happen with Canada, Greenland being a part of the United States would still be a great benefit with regards to US-Canada relations. As the issue at hand is the acquisition of territory, the acquisition of Greenland could potentially lead to the annexation of Canada which, beyond any doubt, would cement the United States as not only the most powerful nation in the world, but a power which not even the rest of the world combined could successfully oppose.
With the rise of China, the reemergence of Russia, and the current adversarial tone of the European Union, the United States must do something drastic so as to signal to the world that it is not to be trifled with. The acquisition of Greenland and the annexation of Canada would most certainly be drastic and, as such, would signal the intended message to the world.
In order to more effectively demonstrate the reasons the United States should take these steps, and the benefits which would come as a result, I am going to break down each aspect in detail.
We should first deal with the historical benefits of the acquisition of territory.
The natural place to start is the Louisiana Purchase. In 1803 the United States, led by then President Thomas Jefferson, acquired a large swath of territory west of the Mississippi River from France for $11.25 million and a cancellation of debts worth $3.75 million. This acquisition included land from 15 current US states, including Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and, of course, Louisiana.
In modern figures, this acquisition cost the United States approximately $300 million. The collective GDP of the states involved in this purchase is, as of this writing, approximately $3.8 trillion. In purely monetary terms, this acquisition is likely one of, if not the, greatest in the history of the world.
This is not the only great purchase in American history, though.
The Adams–Onís Treaty, otherwise known as the Florida Purchase Treaty, ceded Florida to the United States from Spain in 1819. The acquisition cost the United States $5 million. Florida has gone on to become one of America’s greatest states, containing a number of world-class cities, incredible attractions, and a $926 billion economy. This was undoubtedly a tremendous acquisition by the United States.
The Mexican Cession established the modern US-Mexico border, solidifying Texas’ status as an American state. It cost the United States $15 million, equivalent to $394 million in modern figures, and resulted in the acquisition of a state which has come to house some of the greatest cities in America, a unique and celebrated culture, and an economy worth $1.63 trillion.
The aforementioned Alaska Purchase ceded Alaska to the United States. We paid $7.2 million to Russia, and it has paid off handsomely since. Alaska was found to house copious amounts of natural resources such as gold and oil and, further, holds a very strategic position in relation to Russia and Canada.
Clearly, the United States has a storied history of successfully acquiring territory. In the long-term, nearly all territorial acquisitions are net positives for that country which is doing the acquiring, and a net negative for that country whose territory is being acquired
For this reason, even if the acquisition of Greenland is costly and seems superfluous in the short term it will, in the long term, pay dividends for the United States.
As I mentioned before, Greenland’s immediate purpose would be to serve as a buffer between Europe and the continental United States. We could greatly expand the military bases which we currently operate on the island, and further integrate them into the communities which they border. Further, new bases could be opened on the island to transform it into a staging-point of sorts for any potential mobilization against a European-based threat. A missile defense system could even be set up on the island in order to protect the continental US from a potential nuclear strike.
This plan is not without historic precedent. In 1946, the United States attempted to purchase Greenland from Denmark. American diplomat John Hickerson said at the time, “our real objective as regards to Greenland should be to acquire it by purchase from Denmark.” The thought process was that troops stationed on the island could spot any incoming missiles and warn the mainland well in advance.
The proposal didn’t go any further, however, with Denmark essentially ignoring the United States’ attempt to acquire Greenland. But things have changed since then.
In the modern day, Greenland offers next to no benefit to Denmark. It is largely autonomous, offers nothing with regards to economic output, and has a miniscule population. Denmark’s military is essentially non-existent, and the country certainly has no imperialistic desires that would prevent it from agreeing to part with the territory. Given this, the United States could easily make an offer that is simply too good for Denmark to refuse.
How much would the United States have to offer Denmark for Greenland, though? As ridiculous as it may sound, a good starting point is Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion. In 2016, Whole Foods’ revenue was $3.5 billion, and the company currently employs 91,000 people. This constitutes an economy and population almost double that of Greenland.
Greenland does, however, have one thing Whole Foods does not: land. For that reason, I believe Whole Foods’ acquisition is a reasonable comparison despite the significantly higher numbers with regards to revenue and employment (a stand in for population, in this comparison). Considering Amazon paid $13.7 billion for Whole Foods, I believe a fair price for the purchase of Greenland would be $15 billion.
In this deal, the Danish would be receiving a sum equivalent to approximately 13% of its annual budget for 2018. All this, in exchange for a piece of land which offers very little, if anything at all, to the country. This offer would likely be impossible for Denmark to refuse.
While I realize this is a rather simplistic way to come up with a purchase price for Greenland, especially considering land cost isn’t being factored in, there isn’t much else that can be done. It is impossible to purchase private land in Greenland, as the people collectively own the land through the government, so an accurate price per acre cannot be found or calculated. As such, coming to a purchase price is admittedly a lot of guess work.
If the territory of Greenland were acquired, the United States would instantly become the 2nd largest country in the world in terms of land area. Presently, the United States is the 4th largest country in the world behind Russia, Canada, and China.
As previously mentioned, after this acquisition the United States would wholly surround Canada. This, combined with the immense military, economic, and cultural power the United States holds over Canada, could very well be enough to persuade the country into allowing itself to be annexed by the United States.
While some may recoil at the idea of the United States annexing an entire country, especially one as large and prominent as Canada, it isn’t nearly as crazy as it may sound. Canada has a population of 36 million and a GDP of $1.53 trillion. Meanwhile, the State of Texas has a population of 28 million and a GDP of $1.63 trillion, and the State of California has a population of 39 million and a GDP of $2.45 trillion. If Canada became a state, it would be #2 in terms of population and #3 in terms of GDP.
It also isn’t without precedent. Four US states were at one time independent countries, or at least claimed to be: Vermont, Texas, California, and Hawaii.
The Vermont Republic existed from 1777 – 1791. In 1777, Vermont declared independence from Quebec, New York, and New Hampshire, and thereafter acted as an independent country. This ended in 1791 with its admission to the Union. Since becoming a state, Vermont has been one of the best places to live in America because of its economic stability, immense natural beauty, and relative seclusion.
The Republic of Texas existed from 1836 – 1846, after fighting and winning the Texas revolution, and formally declaring independence from Mexico. Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845, and admitted to the Union in 1846. Since then, Texas has become one of the largest American states in terms of both population and GDP, has produced three presidents, and has maintained one of the most unique and vibrant cultures in the United States.
California was also a republic, the California Republic, for a brief period in 1846. It was shortly thereafter claimed by the United States, and officially admitted to the Union in 1850. Like Texas, California has produced three presidents since its becoming a state, is the largest state in terms of both population and GDP, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
The Kingdom of Hawai’i came into being in 1795 with the political unification of the Hawaiian Islands. The kingdom existed until the monarch was overthrown by American citizens in 1893. Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898, and admitted to the Union in 1959. Since becoming a state, Hawaii has become one of the most popular tourist spots in the United States for its natural beauty and unique culture.
Given these examples, it certainly isn’t insane to think Canada could function well as a state, especially given the shared history and culture of our two nations. Canada would retain a state government located in the current Canadian capital of Ottawa, would elect a set number of congressmen, and two Senators. Given that the size of the average congressional district is approximately 700,000, it would be reasonable to assume Canada would receive 51 congressmen. In presidential elections, this would give Canada 53 electoral votes, second only to California, which has 55.
This annexation would also represent the annexation of the (assuming a US purchase of Greenland) 3rd largest country in the world by the 2nd largest, making the United States the undisputed largest country in the world in terms of land area, surpassing Russia by a significant margin.
From an economic standpoint, this would cause the GDP of the United States to rise to approximately $20.1 trillion, further solidifying the US as the world’s foremost and undisputed economic power. Additionally, the economic integration of the US and Canada wouldn’t require an insurmountable amount of work as the two nations, due to the North American Free Trade Agreement, already trade freely amongst each other.
Through the North American Treaty Organization, or NATO, Canada also receives a solid amount of its national defense from the United States. Integration of the Canadian military into the American military wouldn’t be overly complicated, affording Canadian military personnel the opportunity to either join the correlating branch of the US military or, failing that, join the newly established Canadian National Guard.
The annexation of Canada would also allow for the addressing of an issue which has plagued North America for centuries: the status of Quebec. A province of Canada since 1867, independence movements have been a mainstay of Quebecer life throughout modern history.
Already recognized as a nation within Canada, the annexation of Canada by the United States would afford Quebec the opportunity to be separate from the newly formed State of Canada. Through this, Quebecers would be able to exercise their right to self-governance to the greatest extent possible without being a fully independent nation. Being a part of the United States would allow Quebecers a great deal of independence in their governance and culture, in the same way Hawaiians, Texans, and Californians have independent cultures and unique governing styles while still remaining a part of the United States.
The most recent referendum on Quebec sovereignty was held in 1995. It was rejected by a razor-thin majority, with 50.6% voting No and 49.4% voting Yes. Although these voting numbers are over 20 years old, I believe it can be reasonably discerned from them that many in Quebec would be in favor of having a great deal of autonomy in their governance, while remaining a part of a large, powerful country that can afford them security and prosperity.
If under this scenario Quebec were to become a separate state from Canada, the aforementioned governmental structure would certainly change. The Canadian capital would still be Ottawa, and the Quebecer capital would be Quebec City. Canada would have 40 congressmen instead of 51, and therefore its electoral vote total would be reduced to 42 from 53. Quebec would have 12 congressmen, and therefore 14 electoral votes.
Canada’s annexation would also afford it the opportunity to finally divorce itself from the British monarchy, an archaic institution which perpetuates the false notion that some individuals are better than others for no reason other than the family they were born into. The sooner the influence of the British monarchy is purged from the North American continent, the better.
If all of this were executed – the acquisition of Greenland from Denmark, the annexation of Canada and its subsequent split into the States of Canada and Quebec – the United States would not only be the most powerful nation in the world, but the most powerful nation in the history of the world.
The United States would be the largest nation in the world in terms of both land area and gross domestic product. Further, we would have united the entirety of the English-speaking (and, of a lesser significance, French-speaking) North America under one banner.
As I showed earlier, the acquisition of territory benefits that nation doing the acquiring in nearly all cases. In this case, I believe the benefit would come not only in a financial sense, but in a psychological sense as well. We would rightfully strike fear into the hearts of our main adversaries – China and Russia – due to our surpassing them far beyond even their wildest dreams. This is more important now than ever, as the aforementioned totalitarian nations cannot be allowed to spread their influence around the world.
For this reason, it must become the policy of the United States to acquire strategically significant territory like Greenland and continue to aggressively expand our borders. Additionally, the United States should look to, in the long term, annex Canada as the 51st state and Quebec as the 52nd so as to create a nation well positioned to compete with, and defeat, China in the 21st century.