The end of the whiskey wars

Sergio Alonso Méndez

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Denmark and Canada reach agreement to end 50-year dispute over Arctic island… (


An example, not only of how wars should be, but how to resolve them, was the Whiskey War between Canada and Denmark over an island dispute. Granted, the island is nothing more than a small rocky surface and its arctic location doesn’t allow for much environment for human life, but even so, it serves as a model now that we’re living through war. in Ukraine.

The Whiskey Wars consisted of a dispute over Hans Island, which is located in the Arctic exactly 18 kilometers from the borders of Canada and Greenland (part of the Kingdom of Denmark), so the two countries felt entitled to it. The war started when Canada landed troops on the island in 1984. Of course, the weather didn’t allow room, so they just planted the Canadian flag and also symbolically planted a bottle of Canadian whiskey. saying, “We’re here.” The Danes reacted by visiting the island and planting their own flag with a bottle of schnapps, or Copenhagen liquor, adding a “Welcome to Denmark” sign.

It was war. Canadians and Danes continued planting bottles and flags. Bullets were never exchanged or other types of weapons were involved. Visitors to the island describe a sea of ​​flags, bottles and signs hinting from side to side. A bad joke said that we now know why Felipe Calderón wanted to be ambassador to Hans Island. Without a doubt, a paradise for whiskey lovers.

Until 2017, Canada and Denmark decided to sit down to negotiate the right of possession of the island. It took five years, but finally they decided that a fault in the center of the island could serve as a reference and a border between the countries. Isn’t that cute? “We will mark the island in the center and half you and half me”. A solution that marriages that are fighting for a divorce or countries at war would already like.

Of course, it cannot always serve as a reference. The war in Ukraine happened because Russia invaded its neighbor and while the war might end if Ukraine gave ground, it doesn’t seem right in principle to give it to the invader. What if Russia had planted vodka in Crimea and Donetsk? And Ukraine responded by planting its own vodka on such territories? Wouldn’t it have been fantastic, with less economic and material losses?

Why aren’t wars like whiskey wars? And are they resolved like this war? Certain. Real things are more complicated, but who stops us from imagining? The Whiskey War! Global example! As of June 14, 2022, the owners of Hans Island are Canada and Denmark in equal shares.

Sergio Alonso Méndez holds a PhD in International Business from the University of Texas

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