Trump stuns with Denmark fight

President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE’s decision to pick a fight with Denmark has stunned foreign policy experts already accustomed to being surprised by the White House's unconventional approach to traditional U.S. allies.

Trump on Wednesday branded Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s remarks rejecting his proposal to purchase Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, “nasty” and “inappropriate.” 

“She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to the United States of America. You don’t talk to the United States that way,” Trump told reporters at the White House one day after he canceled plans to visit Denmark over the dispute. 

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Some accused Trump of disrespecting a close European ally. Denmark is a member of NATO, and its troops have fought alongside the U.S. in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“He’s insulting a NATO ally, a close ally, that has fought to defend us,” said Evelyn Farkas, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and former deputy assistant secretary of Defense under the Obama administration, who argued that the decision could result in Denmark and other allies distrusting the United States. 

“We are now unpredictable and unreliable. And once you’re unpredictable and unreliable, your allies go elsewhere for their security and their stability and for their partnership and maybe ultimately for their alliances,” Farkas said. 

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who served in top intelligence posts during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, criticized the move as “pathetic” in a tweet Wednesday afternoon. 

Others were struck by Trump’s creation of a diplomatic incident, first with his suggestion that he buy Greenland and then with his decision to cancel a trip to Denmark after that country's leader said Greenland was not for sale.

“Everyone believes it is absurd,” said Luke Coffey, a foreign policy expert at the Heritage Foundation. “It would be like the prime minister of Denmark saying that she wants to buy Puerto Rico or Guam. What would the president of the United States say then? It’s not just a piece of land. There are 56,000 people that live on that island.”

Trump entered into a robust defense of his decision on Wednesday before departing for a speech at the annual American Veterans convention in Kentucky, expressing offense at Frederiksen’s use of the word “absurd.” 

Later on Twitter, Trump dinged Denmark for not spending enough on NATO — a popular criticism the president has used against various members of the alliance. 

“For the record, Denmark is only at 1.35 percent of GDP for NATO spending. They are a wealthy country and should be at 2 percent. We protect Europe and yet, only 8 of the 28 NATO countries are at the 2 percent mark. The United States is at a much, much higher level than that,” Trump tweeted. 

“Because of me, these countries have agreed to pay ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS more - but still way short of what they should pay for the incredible military protection provided. Sorry!” he added.

Trump’s trip to Denmark was announced at the end of July. He was scheduled to travel there at the beginning of September for bilateral meetings and discussions with business leaders following a stop in Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. 

At the end of last week, reports surfaced that Trump had expressed interest in purchasing Greenland. Trump first spoke publicly about the possibility on Sunday, telling reporters it would mirror a “large real estate deal” and could be strategically advantageous to the United States. 

Trump also told reporters Sunday that the prospect was not “top in the list” of issues he would discuss with his counterparts in Denmark, only to suggest otherwise by canceling the meeting over the Danes’ lack of interest Tuesday evening. 

The developments come days before Trump will huddle with leaders from the other Group of Seven (G-7) economies at an annual summit in France. 

Experts say it’s unlikely to be a major topic of discussion at the summit, of which the Danes are not a part. The meeting is expected to delve into more pressing issues such as the global economy and the ongoing conflict in Syria, and Trump is sure to face questions on his trade policies as well as his renewed support for Russia’s reentry to return it to the G-8.

Still, Trump’s move vis-à-vis Denmark has sparked confusion and rebuke among Danish officials while renewing focus on the president’s hardball foreign policy tactics. 

Separately Wednesday, Trump threatened to release “thousands” of captured Islamic State fighters to the countries they came from if Europe doesn’t take them. 

“We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them. If Europe doesn't take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. would not detain them at Guantánamo Bay.