Staunton, April 27 – Pro-independence parties won local elections in Greenland this week, a development that some in Europe are blaming on Russia or even the USSR, Yevgeny Krutikov says. “This isn’t the case,” he says, but “Greenland’s independence really can be potentially profitable for us.”
In a Vzglyad commentary today, the Moscow analyst says that the pro-independence vote was hardly unexpected: six of the seven parties taking part in the elections are in favor of separation from Denmark. Now, after the elections, he says, that development is only a question of time (vz.ru/world/2018/4/26/919711.html).
Until 1953, Greenland was officially a Danish colony; but after that, it was declared a self-governing territory so that the term “colony” was not used, Krutikov says. Denmark subsidized the island, enormous in size but tiny in population; but its heavy-handed approach – insisting on Danish and Protestantism – offended the indigenous population.
Many of the locals were radicalized, even to the point of becoming Maoist in orientation. And last year, the Inuit established a constitutional commission “which openly declared that it would take from the experience of other former Danish colonies – Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands” – to design its independent future.
(Interestingly but coincidentally, this past week, the Faroe Islands government delayed a scheduled vote on moves toward independence there, apparently because Copenhagen or the European Union was worried about the outcome (thenational.scot/news/16187742.Faroe_Islands_delay_their_referendum_on_more_independence/).)
Because of the Soviet Union’s support for the numerically small peoples of the North, “the USSR was for the Inuits something like a role model,” Krutikov says. “But no one in Moscow even thought of supporting Greenland separatism. The USSR was not inclined to destroy the borders of other countries as that would lead to unpredictable consequences.”
“And after the Helsinki Accords, the preservation of the territorial status quo became for Moscow almost a fetish,” the analyst continues.
Now, however, Greenland appears headed toward independence on its own, largely the result of Danish mismanagement and oppression, and Moscow must begin to think about how to react to this new situation. On the one hand, the island is rich in natural resources that only Russia has the capacity to mine, according to Krutikov.
And on the other, there is the American airbase at Thule, which rarely has attracted much attention except when it once in 1968 “lost an atomic bomb and since then hasn’t been able to find it,” a case that Russian media have often returned to in the decades since (vz.ru/society/2008/11/11/228009.html).
According to Krutikov, “the Danes themselves are guilty” of provoking the Greenlanders to seek independence, given their tight control over the island and rumors that they are even allowing pharmaceutical companies to conduct experiments on the population there that no one would allow to happen in Europe.
Europeans haven’t reacted to the Greenland vote yet, the Moscow analyst says, probably because they don’t want to call attention to another move by part of the EU to leave that group. But Russia will be compelled to recognize that an independent Greenland creates a new situation in the North, one that Moscow can readily exploit given its icebreaker fleet and interests.