During WWII and the Cold War era, Greenland was in the focus of western military strategists due to its proximity to Russia. Agreements between Denmark and the USA allowed the establishment of US military bases on the world’s largest island, even under the icecap. At the end of the conflicts, most of the base were abandoned but not cleaned up which led to a debate between the Danish and the Greenlandic governments. Now, the two parties signed an agreement to finally conclude the quarrel.

Despite abandoning most of their bases, US military forces still have a foothold on Greenland. Thule Air Base situated in the northwest corner of Greenland is still in use. Credit: TSGT Lee E. Schading / US Air Force
Despite abandoning most of their bases, US military forces still have a foothold on Greenland. Thule Air Base situated in the northwest corner of Greenland is still in use. Credit: TSGT Lee E. Schading / US Air Force

Denmark and its autonomous Arctic island of Greenland have signed an agreement to clean up U.S. military installations that were left to rust in the pristine landscape after the Cold War. The deal earmarks 180 million kroner ($29 million) over six years for the cleanup. Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen and Danish Environment Minister Esben Lunde Larsen finalized it in Copenhagen on Thursday. Lunde Larsen said a Denmark-Greenland steering group will decide when and where to start the cleanup. A 1951 deal between Copenhagen and Washington allowed the U.S. to build 33 bases and radar stations in Greenland. The agreement didn't specify who would be responsible for cleanup.

Next to conventional radar and air bases, US military also constructed Camp Century, a nuclear missile launch site under the ice cap. Removing this waste will be negotiated in a separate deal.
Next to conventional radar and air bases, US military also constructed Camp Century, a nuclear missile launch site under the ice cap. Removing this waste will be negotiated in a separate deal.

Lunde Larsen and Kielsen singled out areas south of Nuuk, the Greenland capital on the west coast, and Tasiilaq on the east coast, where there are defunct buildings, abandoned vehicles and empty fuel barrels littered along runways used by Americans for the North Atlantic air ferry route during World War II. U.S. planes touched down in Greenland on their way to war in Europe and North Africa.

The deal between Denmark and Greenland doesn't cover a U.S. facility that is still in use or, for instance, Camp Century, an under-ice missile project abandoned in 1966 because the cap began to crush the camp. A separate deal from February 2017 between Denmark and Greenland is monitoring and gauging the never-completed launch site for nuclear missiles under the surface of the massive ice cap. "I am pleased that we can work together to do the cleaning," Kielsen said, adding Greenland for long had wished to remove junk from American activities.

The Greenland ice cap is the second largest ice cap in the world. Only small parts along the coast are ice free and were suitable for military bases since WWII. Credit: NASA
The Greenland ice cap is the second largest ice cap in the world. Only small parts along the coast are ice free and were suitable for military bases since WWII. Credit: NASA

Source: The Associated Press / CBC News