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Why China and the USA are Fighting Over Greenland

Greenland: The Arctic Military Build-Up and its Implications

  • Greenland is the largest island in the world and home to abandoned American military equipment from World War II and the Cold War
  • Increasing tensions in the Arctic Circle have sparked a massive military build-up, which could have far-reaching implications for all
  • Johnny Harris, sponsored by Storyblocks, traveled to Greenland to explore firsthand and gain knowledge of ice which is more complicated than what people think
  • Storyblocks provides video makers with unlimited access to visual assets, footage, templates, sound effects and animation templates for a reliable rate each month.

Arctic Superpowers Race for Strategic Potential and Resources

  • The Arctic is becoming a more geopolitically active region
  • Canada is laying claim to the Northwest Passage
  • Russia is claiming all of the ocean up to the North Pole
  • The US is spending over a billion dollars to build icebreakerships for patrols
  • China is working with Russia to create an ‘ice silk road’
  • Greenland has become a valuable location due to its strategic potential and proximity to new, enticing shipping lanes
  • It has been given renewed attention from global superpowers as resources and opportunities arise
  • The US now has a diplomatic presence in Greenland since 2020.

Greenlanders Split on Chinese Investment Amid US-China Power Struggle

  • Greenland is of strategic importance to the US and China
  • The US has used diplomatic pressure, military presence, aid and blocking Chinese trade deals in order to increase its influence in the region
  • There are mixed views among Greenlanders about Chinese investment in their country, though many view China’s growing global power positively.

Greenlanders Seize Opportunities in Global Resource Competition

  • Greenlanders are recognizing their power in the new global competition for resources
  • They are conscious of injustices done to colonial and de-colonial nations, and are looking for the best deal for their country
  • Greenlanders are open for business to investors from like-minded and other nations, as they have leverage due to a new ocean that is forming
  • Finally, Greenlanders should be more aware of their power and be proud of it in order to secure better outcomes in the future.

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(dramatic music)- [Johnny] Whoever controlsthe oceans has the power,and here in the high north,a new ocean is being born.(tense music)- I am wandering through a graveyardof American military equipment,on the largest island in the world.Like what I'm seeing hereis just a bunch of Americanmilitary infrastructurethat was set up during World War II,used during the Cold War,and now it's just abandoned.Like this massive dish that was a part ofthe Cold War defense in theArctic that the US used,creating a chain of radarso that if the Sovietsinvaded from the Arctic,they would be able to detect it.And this giant dish is oneof those radar boosters.After the Cold War,the US sold this townand all of its buildingsback to the Greenlandic government for $1.They didn't need it anymore.That's because the world was at peace,everything was good.And the Arctic was just a frozen place,that now with the SovietUnion falling apart,was not strategically that important;but,things are changing.I want to show you what this looks like,what it actually looks like onthe ground here in Greenland.Get you up to speed oneverything you need to knowto understand what iscertainly going to beone of the most importantgeopolitical issuesfor years to come.- Increasing tensions.- [Male News Anchor]Looming war in the Arctic,as a massive military build-up,- [Female News Anchor]Happens in the Arctic Circle,could have far-reachingimplications for us all.- I'm at an airport in rural Greenland.It's like in this Fjord system,near the village of Uummannaq.And I'm realizing that I needto let you in on something,which is today's video issponsored by Storyblocks.I've been using Storyblocks for a decade,long before I was ever a YouTuber.I was just a video makerand I was using Storyblocks;they used to be called Videoblocks,now they're called Storyblocks.So I'm able to go out here into the field,take all these beautiful shots, right?I'm taking all theseamazing shots of Greenland.Most of the time I'm not able to do this.This is an expensive thing,to come out here and get all these shots.Most of the time I'm in my office,making videos about the world.How do I do that?Storyblocks.Storyblocks is a giantrepository of visual assets,footage, templates, sound effects,that you can use tobring your story to life.So for me, mostly that's the footage.I go onto Storyblocks,I type in what I need andI get loads of results.And then the best part is,I can download unlimited clips.Like you pay one subscriptionand you can go buck wildand download as many clips as you want.This is a very good feelingfor anyone who's had topay to license footageper clip, or per second.Storyblocks is just likeyou pay a subscription,it's a very reliable, no hidden fees,reliable rate every monthand you get as many clips as you want.This works for individualcreators that are small, big,this works for big production companies,like when I was working atproduction companies or different places,I would use Storyblocks.It's for creators, productioncompanies of all sizes.I use Storyblocks all the time,and I'm really glad that they have decidedto sponsor one of my videos.I've actually thought about it,I was out here shootingand I was getting allthis amazing drone footageand I was like,I should get some ofthis up onto Storyblocks.So right now I'veactually uploaded a bunchof my own clips from this trip,from Greenland, to Storyblocks.These are gorgeous clips, I'm telling you.I got some of the best footage of my lifewhile I was here.And a bunch of that is up on Storyblocks.So, oh, and I didn't mention this,but Storyblocks also hasAfter Effects templates,like animation templates,that you can use to startoff your animations.I know how to do animation,I love animation,but I secretly use templates all the timebecause they make life so much easier.Oh, and they just put out this plug-in,right in Premiere and After Effects,where you can have likeStoryblocks inside of the editor.So you're not actually goingto a website and downloading,you're just browsing Storyblocksinside of the editor,which is a (emulating explosionnoise) like mind blowing.What is happening?Life is so much easierwhen you have unlimitedaccess to clips and assetsright inside of your editor.So, giant fan of Storyblocks over here,really grateful that they'resupporting today's video.There's a link in my description,it is that link helpssupport this channel,not surprisingly,but it also shows you howyou can get in on this.You can go find what thepricing looks like for you,you can go get a bunch of my clipsthat I've uploaded to Storyblocks,here from Greenland,and hopefully you'llbe a better, stronger,more versatile creator because of it.Let's get back to this storybecause there's a lot to cover.I have been moving through Greenland,exploring this massive island.Mostly I've been in the Fjordsin these rural communities,hunting for seals and birds,riding on dog sleds,getting to know how ice works.Ice is way more complicatedthan you can imagineand the people here know it very well.And filling in my gap of knowledge.It's a gap of knowledge thatI think a lot of people have.Like a lot of people know Greenlandfor memes about how littleis known about Greenland.Or maybe you know it as the islandthat is always exaggerated in its sizeby the Mercator map projection,but maybe that's probably just map nerdswho think of it that way.But anyway, the fact is this placeis not very well known or understood,but I'm telling youthat is about to change.The top of our planet is a giant ocean.For centuries, Empireswho control the oceansare the ones that had thepower, but not up here.This ocean has alwaysbeen frozen, desolateand inaccessible to powerful naviesin search of power and influence.So the Arctic has remained ageopolitically quiet place.This is one reason why Inuit traditionshave been able to stay alive here,though that's a whole nuanced subjectand I went on a deep divein another video I made from Greenland.The fact is that things are changing.A new man-made blanket ofcarbon is now in the airand it's been trapping moreand more heat on our globe and warming it.Just a few degrees,but somehow enough to change everything.Here's what the ice up here looked likeat its lowest point in the eighties,and here's what it looked likeat its lowest point last year.Yeah.And this new ocean in the high northis heating four times fasterthan the rest of the planet.And where there are liquid oceans,there will be countries lookingto control those oceans.The new shipping routes, theoil and gas, the minerals,and just generally the opportunityto control and influence a new place.So you've got Canada who's laying claimto the northwest passage,saying that this valuablenew shipping routecuts right through theirterritory and should be theirs.You've got Russia withall these military basesdotting their Arctic frontier.They're also claiming all of this ocean,all the way up to the North Pole.They even put a flag on theocean floor a few years ago.The US is spending over a billion dollarsto buy and build icebreakerships to patrol the Arctic.And even the rising super-power China,a non-Arctic nation,is trying to get in onthe influence up here.Working with their ally Russiato create an ice silk road,investing 10 billion in projectsacross the Nordic region.So yeah, lots of activityhappening all over this region,I've just scratched the surfaceon a few highlights here,but the fact is the Arcticis getting a lot of attentionand one major focus is here in Greenland;a place that has been prettyignored by great powers.Until, that is, there'ssomething they needor there's something to gain,which is exactly what's becoming the caseas the ice melts andthis new ocean appears.Are you a global super powerlooking to project influencein the newly opening Arctic?Look no further than Greenland,the gateway to the Arctic Ocean.Most of Greenland, this massive island,is located convenientlywithin the Arctic Circle.This is why it was thechosen jumping-off pointfor Arctic explorers who were tryingto be the first to reach the North Polein the early nineteen hundreds.In fact, the US recognizedthat this massive island wasa smart geopoliticallocation a long time ago,convincing Greenland's colonizersto help them evict an Inuit community,so that they could put an airbase up here.The top of the world turned outto be a perfect locationto traverse their growing empireand to spy on the Sovietsduring the Cold War.They even had nuclearweapons up here for a time.And it wasn't just one base;over the course of the 20th century,the US set up a handful ofmilitary bases in Greenland.They used this island to put upthese massive radar systems,which would serve as early warningin case a Soviet invasioncame from the North.And now it just lookslike a full-blown propfrom a "Star Wars" movie.I mean, look at these.So Greenland's strategicpotential was clear,but once the Soviet threat went away,the US mostly abandoned its presence here;though they still havethat base way up Northand they've turned it actuallyinto the base of their Space Force.But they eventually closed downtheir embassy in the capitol,and Greenland went back to beingnothing really useful to the great powers.Just a frozen island at thedoorstep of a frozen ocean.So Greenland, this massive Arctic islandat the gateway to the Arctic Oceanis now becoming much more important.That's because this oceanthat's always been frozenis melting more and more every year,opening it up to new traderoutes, to new resources,to new versions of influencethat can be exertedat the top of our planet.And so great powers are once againpaying attention to this place,because great powers no longer seea desolate frozen island.They see opportunity, they seean island perfectly locatedclose to new, enticing shipping lanes.They see an island with territorial watersfull of new resources,whose territorial claimstheoretically extendall the way past the North Pole,incidentally overlappingwith Russia and Canada.They see the potential of this placebeing a repository of rare earth elements,the stuff we need tobuild modern electronics,like cell phones, computer hard drives,and electric vehicles.Suddenly this place isbecoming a lot more valuablein the eyes of people who want power.A fact that was highlighted by a guywho spent his life sniffingout real estate dealson land that was about to become valuable.- Trump wants to buy Greenland.- It's a large real estate deal.So the concept came upand I said certainly I'd be,strategically it's interesting.- Yeah, that actually happened.Boy, that was a crazy four years.I'm glad it's over.Anyway, the point is thatGreenland is now gettingloads of attentionand becoming much more valuable,which brings me here,to perhaps the clearest symbolof this renewed interest in Greenland.This is the new US consulate in Nuuk.After saying they plannedto buy the country,the Trump administration backed downafter Denmark was like, hell no.Get outta here.And instead took a different approach.They ramped up efforts to build relationsbetween Greenland and the United States,building mutual economic interests,which resulted in the opening ofthis consulate just in 2020.The US now has a diplomatic presence,a physical presence in Greenland;this big frozen islandthat no global superpower really thoughtwas that important until recently.- I'm pleased to announce we will re-openour consulate in Nuuk, Greenland,this summer for the first time since 1953.- So this actually reminds meof a story I did a while back,when I was up in theArctic for Vox Borders,and I was visiting a Russian consulateon this little island.And it truly never ceases to surprise methat in an era of sophisticated alliances,and international institutions,and sophisticated military weaponry,we still resort to just puttinghuman bodies and buildings in placesthat we want to have influence in,like it's a board game.Some things will never change.But as the US looks to deepenits ties with Greenland,so is another power,another global superpower.One that incidentally isnowhere near the Arctic.But who knows that if they wantto be the top dog on the world stage,they're gonna need afoothold in this new region.- [Male News Anchor] A race for resourcescould lead to a boil over.- A lot of focus is placed on the Chinese,they do control asignificant amount of supply.- We are so adamant thatthese areas of the world,that are the arteriesof trade and shipping,remain peaceful.- There is a worry of this Chinese,possible infiltration, in the country.- In 2017, Greenland wantedto build more airports,like the one behind methat they're building.Here in Greenland,they don't have a lot ofinfrastructure for big airplanes.So you can't get big commercial flightsin and out of largeamounts of the country.You have to fly around insmall planes and helicopters.Which is kind of cool ifyou're going on an adventure,but if you're trying todevelop your country,you need bigger airports.The problem is buildingairports is expensive.And no one wanted to fund this,except for:China.The prime minister of Greenlandwent to Beijing, their friend,and said, hey do you want tohelp us fund our new airports?China was like, yes,we will give you a loanto fund the airports,but it has to be a Chineseconstruction companythat builds the airports.And Greenland was like, okay, let's do it.That sounds great.And immediately over in the United States,alarm bells start going off.This is not good.The context here is that China has a habitof giving loans to countriesthat they want to have influence in,in the future.They do this a lot in Africa,like they give loans,knowing that they now have leverageover all of these countrieswho now owe them money.Anyway, so the United States seesthis potential deal happeningbetween Greenland and China and hates it.Greenland, this place thatis so strategically located,that is right next to the United States,that is really a huge part of the futureof global influence in the Arctic,suddenly in debt to China?No! In fact, the Pentagon freaked outand was like,what if Greenland defaultson their payments to Chinaand China seizes the airportsand starts using it for their military?Little bit of an alarmistdoomsday scenario,but it's true.Like when you owe someone money,they have leverage over you.The US did not like this.So the US goes to Denmark andtells them to kill the deal.Denmark does it, they agree.And suddenly Denmark is now fundingtwo thirds of these airport projects.China got rejected on these airport dealsthanks to US pressure,but they didn't give up.They started setting their sightson those rare earth mineralsthat we talked about earlier.The vital ingredients for your phone,your computer and your electric car.China holds a near monopolyon mining and processing these minerals.So they see Greenland as an opportunityto continue that near monopoly,but also an opportunityto access the Arctic;another place where they cancompete with Western interests.It started when this Chinese corporationmade a deal to fund a zinc and lead minein the far north of Greenland.It was all going to plan untilthe Australian owners of this minesuddenly decided to end their deal.Oh, and shortly thereafter,they got a 650 million dollar chequefrom the United Statesto fund the project.Once again, the US blocked their rivalfrom getting a foothold in the Arctic.Another Chinese company has hadtheir mining licenses revoked entirelyby the government of Greenland.So between this diplomatic pressure,as well as some localanti-mining political sentiment,China has been blocked time and time againfrom getting its foothold on this island.- China's words and actionsraised doubts about its intentions.Beijing claims to be a near-Arctic state,yet the shortest distance between Chinaand the Arctic is 900 miles.- So yeah, the USA hasmade its stance very clearthat they don't wantChina, a non-Arctic nation,to be meddling in this region,to be gaining a foothold inthe gateway to the Arctic;this region that is opening up,that is becoming really important.And in addition toblocking China's efforts,the US has also steppedup their own effortsto get more US influenceand presence in this place.To prepare for the futureof geopolitical conflict.The US is doing investments on its own,investing billions of dollarsin military infrastructure in this region,including a $4 billion upgradeof that air and spaceinstallation in the north.They're also committing to militarytraining exercise within the Arctic.The US Army has beensending their soldiersto train in Arctic-like conditions,to mimic what conflict might lookand feel like in the high North.The US government is offeringmillions of dollars inaid directly to Greenland,to help them develop theirmining and tourism sectors.So yeah, once again,we see the struggle for influenceplaying out between great powersin all of these kind ofhard-to-see battlefields.Loans, infrastructure,blocking trade deals,diplomatic pressure, military presence.This is kind of theflavor of modern conflict.I mean, not the Russianflavor of modern conflict,but like the great powers conflictplays out in these other ways,these hard-to-see ways, thesebureaucratic systematic ways.But who cares about these big superpowersand what they want for Greenland?I came to the capitol, Nuuk,to talk to my friend Qupanukabout what Greenlanders actually want.After all, this is their island.They should decide howit's used and by whom.- We are not just looking atthe western world through Denmark anymore,but we are seeing more globally.So we are starting to realize,more and more, how lucky we actually are.- That's super interesting.It turns out that abouthalf of Greenlandersactually think it's a good thingthat China is increasing inits power and influence around the globe.But when you ask them specificallyabout China investing in Greenland,they're more hesitant,with nearly 70% saying that they opposeforeign investment from China.But a country like Greenland,which has such a fraughthistory with colonizers,also has reservations aboutWestern interests here too.- And a lot of injustices have been,and are still, being donein colonial and de-colonial nations.More and more things arejust being shown now,because people are moreaware of their rights,and more aware of the rightsthat are being violated.- [Johnny] So Greenlanders are waking upto their power in this situation,waking up to the leverage that they havein this new global competition.And while they might have their concernsabout China and the West,they're looking for thebest deal for their country.- The first ones mustbe our closest friendsand like-minded nations.And then if other countrieswant to invest inGreenland and in our way,we are open for business.- [Johnny] So as we move into this new eraof great power competition,the map is changing in unexpected ways.Add to that the warming globethat is creating a new ocean,and suddenly this islandso often forgotten by great powers,is now in a position of leverage.- There are many Greenlandic peoplewho haven't realizedhow powerful we can be.How much is like,I don't know how smallDenmark is without Greenland.It like it's a tiny, tiny country,if they didn't have us.we should be more aware of itand be more proud of itand realize how powerful wecan actually be in the future.(contemplative music)