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Territorial dispute between NATO members

by ask Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 07:27:59 AM EST

Promoted by Sirocco.

No - not between Greece and Turkey.

It's summertime. The media, always ready to ignore the real stories in politics (DSM, Plame, etc.) are even lazier during this season. Which is probably why this story pops up again in the media this July; it's actually a long standing conflict. More below:

So, where is the feud?
Relations are getting slightly testy between Denmark and Canada!

In a conversation today with Canada's ambassador to Denmark, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted with regret that the Canadian Minister of National Defence had paid a visit to Hans Island without prior notification of the Danish Government. At the meeting the head of the Danish Foreign Ministry's Legal Service handed over a note to the Canadian ambassador reiterating the Danish Government's regret.

Hans Island = Hans Ø in Danish, and is located just about midway between Greenland and Ellesmere Island at almost 81° north (link to map).

On July 13, 2005 Canadian soldiers landed on Hans Island and erected an Inuit Inukshuk along with a Canadian flag. One week Later Canada's Defence Minister Bill Graham flew by military helicopter to the island and walked about in an obvious symbolic gesture. Five days later Denmark announced that it would be issuing a formal letter of complaint to Canada which stated in part Denmark's regret that Canada had visited Hans Island without prior notification to the Danish government. Tha next day Greenland's Deputy Premier issued a statement declaring that Canada had occupied Hans Island.

Here's another article from Canadian media, somewhat tongue-in-cheek as far as I can determine - Canada finally faces a real challenge.

Bill Graham has now tossed a rock -- or more specifically, an Arctic boulder -- into that placid pond. Along with creating a most amusing summertime diplomatic diversion, the defence minister's unopposed occupation of Hans Island effectively challenges the notion that Canada can achieve its personal best without raising a sweat.

It's summer - what do you make of this?  Who will prevail?

The serious angle to this is obviously the potential for (yet) undiscovered natural resources and the struggle to control these.
How should such resources in uninhabited areas be managed?
My own country has made claims in Antarctica and is signatory to the Antarctic Treaty which endeavours to protect the extremely fragile environment that exists in Arctic and Antarctic areas.
But what will happen when (rather that 'if') substantial natural resources such as hydrocarbons are discovered in these fragile areas.  The US was willing to go to war with a country which was no immediate threat in order to get a better handle on the resources  of the middle-east - at great human and financial cost.  If the neo-cons become entrenched in the administration I doubt that a treaty will stop potentially harmful exploration and development. See what happened to ANWR.
by ask on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 04:29:14 AM EST
they had a pretext of sorts for Iraq (a known villain, doubts on his intentions, and some usable history at the UN. This ended up not being enough, legitimacy wise. Any other military "adventure" will now need to meet much more stringent criteria - inside the US (the only place that matters).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 07:57:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Danes make better havarti, but the Canadians are better at hockey. Who will prevail, and more importantly, what are the odds in Vegas?

Seriously though, any land up in those parts belongs to the Inuit. This is just another example of Europeans (or their North American progeny) planting flags where they don't belong.

by US Blues on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 11:08:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I predict all out war, myself -- that is, if either side can find it again.

"I must create a system or be enslaved my another man's." -- William Blake
by urizon (braincramp39@hotmail.com) on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 09:02:40 AM EST
Canada fought in WWII and had a token presence in Korea. I think the Danish army last fired a shot in anger during the Napoleonic wars. Or was it the 18th century?
by gracchus on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 09:15:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You forgot Iraq!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 10:03:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iraq aside, they also had a spat with Prussia in 1864, which they lost.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 10:31:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, whose side is Norway on in this dispute? And what about the other naval power(s) of the region (NATO or not)?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 07:24:18 PM EST
I have not seen any official Norwegian stance on this.  Nor any debate in the public domain after a quick google search (but try to search 'Hans Ø' in 'any language' - and you'll find many Danish pages).
I suspect that most Norwegians will have some sympathy for the Danish position since Greenland (along with Iceland and the Faroes) were Norwegian possessions from viking times until the union with and later integration into Denmark.  Upon Norwegian independence from Denmark, the overseas possessions remained with Denmark.  Iceland has obviously later become independent, while Greenland and the Faroes have a large degree of autonomy.
As observed in comments above, this resource really belongs to the indiginous population.
AFAIK, Denmark and Canada are the only naval powers in that area - unless the US wants to meddle (?).
by ask on Sun Jul 31st, 2005 at 01:20:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
10 frigates or something? Used to have a lot of minesweepers because keeping harbors clear was part of Canada's assigned task in old the Nato war plan. Some diesel subs. Never struck me as all that frightening.
by gracchus on Sun Jul 31st, 2005 at 06:14:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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