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Reportedly, U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed for the U.S. to buy Greenland from Denmark, an idea that has been rejected by Greenland and Denmark, with one politician quoting it as this is not the 19th century.

In the 19th century, the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia. In 1917, it bought the Danish West Indies from Denmark (now called the U.S. Virgin Islands).

Are there any more recent examples or has this idea gone out of fashion in the past century? When was the last time that a sovereign state acquired land from another sovereign state through purchase, including a transfer of sovereignty? Is this list on Wikipedia complete? I mean land purchases that include travel of sovereignty. Otherwise any state-owned real estate purchase would count. –

Related: What are some cases where a country bought land from another country, other than the United States?

  • 2
    Tuvalua, Fiji and other Pacific island nations have been buying land in Australia and elsewhere but I don't think they have sovereignty. I assume you're only interested in land purchase which includes sovereignty(?) There's also the case of Jordan and Saudi Arabia exchanging land in 1965, but I don' think there was any money involved. – Lars Bosteen Aug 16 at 12:58
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    Some people says that China is buying territory in Africa: capx.co/… or theguardian.com/cities/2018/jul/31/… – Santiago Aug 16 at 13:29
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    The answer to your first question is "yes, there are more recent examples", since the link you provide in the third question gives two more recent examples (in 1947 and 1958.) – Michael Seifert Aug 16 at 14:09
  • 1963: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Denis de Bernardy Aug 16 at 14:14
  • @DenisdeBernardy: That example looks more like the land being held as collateral on a debt than actually being purchased back. – Pieter Geerkens Aug 16 at 15:54
7

I believe the most recent compensated border change was a January 1, 2018 change to the Dutch/Belgian border to eliminate enclaves they each had on the other's side of the Meuse (probably due to changes in that river's course, but I haven't checked on that). In this case the compensation can be considered the swapped land.

I could not in fact find a sovereignty transfer involving money since the end of WWII. The basic patterns since then appear to all involve either wars, gifts as part of decolonization, swaps, or in some rare cases, leases. There's probably a "last" one before that, but the war kind of makes things complicated.

  • FWIW OP lists a few post WW2 money related purchases in a link in his question, and I added an even later one in the question's comments. – Denis de Bernardy Aug 16 at 21:24
  • @DenisdeBernardy - I saw yours and read the link. It points to WWII-related changes (which again was a line I didn't want to cross for various reasons). However, rereading it, I think it sort of counts. I'll put in in my answer if you don't mind? I still think its not quite what the OP was looking for, in that its almost more of a ransom to get occupied German territory (filled with Germans) back after WWII than a straight land sale. – T.E.D. Aug 16 at 21:56
  • @T.E.D. You're correct it has to do with the change of the river. The reason why they swapped a piece of 10 hectares. Is because a hiker found a body on the island, so he called the Dutch police. Because it was on the Dutch side of the border. But they couldn't do anything because it was Belgian soil. But the Belgian police couldn't access it without crossing the Dutch border. – Steven Aug 19 at 9:15
4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiran_Island

Tiran is an island within the maritime borders of Saudi Arabia that was administered by Egypt in the past. However, sovereignty of the two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, was ceded officially to Saudi Arabia as part of a maritime borders agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The agreement subsequently was approved by the Egyptian Parliament and finally ratified by the Egyptian President on 24 June 2017

Apparently, there was no explicit price tag for those islands, but

Saudi Arabia [is] an ally which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-saudi-islands/egypts-sisi-ratifies-deal-ceding-red-sea-islands-to-saudi-arabia-idUSKBN19F0KE?il=0

  • Did they pay for that? – gerrit Aug 16 at 19:20
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    @gerrit: Not explicitly, as in they didn't put a price tag on it. But if you count goodwill gained from billions upon billions of foreign aid as a price, then this might be the most recent. – Denis de Bernardy Aug 16 at 21:25
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    @DenisdeBernardy No, I don't count goodwill. I mean real money. Otherwise it becomes much too vague and any land swap may count. – gerrit Aug 16 at 21:38
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    Hmmm...Given the proposition that someone who gives you billions in aid asking you for some of your land isn't really just a simple request you are free to ignore, I think this might count (sort of). Still you could also say this more fits the modern pattern of it being (at least overtly) a gift. Or perhaps its more like some of Russia's recent annexations, where the giver didn't really have much of an option to say "no". – T.E.D. Aug 16 at 22:08

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