Greenland announced on Thursday that it had decided to accept the aid, which will be allocated to a range of civil projects.
“This good news has confirmed that our work on building a constructive relationship with the United States is bearing fruit,” Greenland's Prime Minister Kim Kielsen said in a press release
. “It is positive that the increased cooperation between Greenland and the US has been reflected in a tangible result in the form of funding for projects.”
US President Donald Trump left Denmark's government aghast last August when he suggested the US might buy Greenland from the Danish Realm, in what he described as “essentially a real estate deal”. He then abruptly cancelled a long-planned state visit to Denmark after Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen described the offer as “absurd”.
Rasmus Jarlov, a Conservative party MP and former foreign affairs minister, on Twitter described the US's latest gambit as “completely unacceptable”.
“The USA is working quite openly to undermine the Unity of the Realm,” he wrote. “They have always been on a long leash, but there is a limit, and in the end they may not be present at all in Greenland unless they put this agenda on the shelf.”
Karsten Hønge, a politician for the Socialist People's Party, said the aid deal was a continuation by other means of Trump's failed plan to purchase Greenland.
“This clearly over the line. The Prime Minister must take steps to ensure that we establish some clean boundaries in relation to the US, ” he told parliament on Wednesday. “Because this simply isn't OK. They need to draw a line in the ice.”
“They cannot threaten Greenland. They cannot buy Greenland. Now they are trying to woo the Greenlandic public, so that at some point they will naturally choose the US as a partner,” he added later on the public broadcaster DR. “It's completely unheard of.”
Denmark's foreign minster Jeppe Kofod, welcomed the deal, saying it was just the first portion of an $83m package.
“This is a first step in this cooperation, and it is also something that the Greenland Government welcomes,” he said.
While, he said there was “no secret that the US has an interest in Greenland”, he argued this need not threaten the Danish Realm.
“On the contrary, I feel that the Unity of the Realm is being strengthened here,” he said.
Greenland has its own parliament, but foreign relations are run by Copenhagen and its economy relies heavily on Danish subsidies.
Along with the Faroe Islands and Denmark, Greenland forms part of the Danish Realm, or the Kingdom of Denmark, with all three under the same monarch Queen Margrethe II.
The US, which received the green light from Copenhagen in December to set up a consulate in the Greenlandic capital Nuuk, said that it wanted to develop close links to the country.
“We want a secure and stable Arctic where US interests are safeguarded,” a senior US state department official said during a press briefing.
Because of its natural resources — including oil, gas, gold, diamonds, uranium and zinc — and the prospect of new maritime routes as a result of global warming, Greenland has attracted the interest of major powers, mainly the United States, China and Russia.
“We also have concerns about Russia's military buildup in the Arctic. Its presence has grown dramatically in recent years”, the US official said.
He added that the economic aid should not be taken as “designed to pave the way to purchase Greenland”.
Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen, a professor at the Royal Danish Defence College, told AFP that the money would be a welcome aid to help Greenland's “precarious economic situation,” while allowing the US to protects its interests in the Arctic.
“By investing in education, tourism, and resource extraction, Washington hopes to strengthen its relationship to Greenland in order to counter what it sees as Russian and Chinese encroachments,” Rahbek-Clemmensen said.