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Speaking to reporters on the White House’s South Lawn in late July, President Donald Trump revealed that he was “looking at” a stop in Denmark after an upcoming trip to Poland to attend a World War II commemorative ceremony.
For officials in Copenhagen, the comment came as a surprise. Although it is customary in Denmark for there to be a standing invitation for the U.S. president—and though officials in both countries had been discussing the possibility of an American delegation visiting—no formal invitation had actually been extended to Trump, according to two senior Danish officials and an individual who works closely with the Trump administration in Copenhagen.
By the next day, Queen Margrethe II had issued the invite, and the White House had officially announced the president’s plans to visit the country.
Over the subsequent days, much planning went into preparing for the president’s visit, which was supposed to include meetings with high-level officials from Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. It was designed to be a decadent affair: the Queen’s staff was in the midst of ordering the crystal for the tables and flowers for the palace for the big state dinner with Trump. Danish business leaders had finalized plans for roundtable discussions with White House officials about increasing investments in the U.S. Officials in the country’s ministry of foreign affairs were preparing talking points to promote increased cooperation between the U.S. and Denmark in the Arctic.
The cancellation set off a round of largely critical commentary within the Danish press and among Danish officials, angry that the president canceled a trip he proposed. Some took to social media, saying the president had “invited himself” to the country. Even the former U.S. ambassador to Denmark posted about the invite situation.
The White House did not return a request for comment about how the Denmark trip came to be. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
“It looks like we have a lost-in-translation situation on our hands.”— Danish diplomat
The fallout from this most bizarre of geopolitical affairs has raised the possibility of tangible diplomatic riffs between two countries that have historically had strong working relations. Before Trump cancelled the trip, there was a growing likelihood that his arrival in Denmark would have been met with protests over his administration’s climate policies.
But while those hotspots were anticipated, officials in Copenhagen were caught off guard by Trump’s suggestion the U.S. buy Greenland, following a report last weekby the Wall Street Journal that revealed the idea. Greenland was never supposed to be a part of the talks during the president’s visit, Danish officials say, and they weren’t sure how to respond to questions from the country’s press about it, two senior officials told The Daily Beast.