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Kalejdoskop-artikler 1997-2008 på svenska og dansk på TFFs gamle site. Mange om Danmark

"Denmark For Peace By Peaceful Means"
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Denmark has undergone considerable changes to its foreign and security policies since the 1980s and 1990s.

Unknown to many, perhaps, Denmark has not only supported interventionist wars politically (as Sweden has) but has also taken part militarily.

This applies to NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia (although for only a couple of nights) and Afghanistan. From 2003 to 2007, Denmark was one of the occupying powers in Iraq.

Lolland, Denmark

In the war on Libya in 2011, Denmark carried out 593 strike sorties over Libya (out of roughly 10,000) and dropped 923 bombs. In proportion to its size, Denmark became one of the most intensive bomber nations in that war.

The then Danish Secretary-General of NATO, former PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, of course, was visibly proud when NATO withdrew from Libya: "I must say that Denmark now has an absolutely fantastic, positive reputation in NATO. Danish fighters were very efficient, and the quality has been one of the very best...Denmark now speaks with a strong voice in international affairs and security politics. It has been a guilt-edged Danish investment." (Danish daily, Politiken, October 28, 2011.)

Denmark withdrew from the role of occupying power in Iraq in 2007 - only to resume bombing there a few years later. In 2016 and 2017, Denmark has been a bomber nation in both Iraq and Syria.

If you had asked Danes, experts as well as laymen, in the late 1980s about the future of Danish foreign policy, less than a handful would have predicted anything like this. And not even advocating such policies for the cosy little, humane country known abroad for Soren Kierkegaard, H.C. Andersen, Carl Nielsen, Victor Borge, Asger Jorn...

Denmark was known as a "footnote" member of NATO because it did not participate in the Alliance's nuclear planning and had also refused to accept foreign troops and military materiel and installations on its territory (except Greenland).

Greenland, autonomous within the Kingdom, about 50 times larger than Denmark and with a population of only 56,000 (2011) deserves mention. Historically, Greenland has been heavily involved in US strategic, nuclear affairs through the Thule Air Base and a series of military research projects. Nuclear weapons used to be stored at Thule. Recently, the radar facility at the base was upgraded to be part of the Ballistic Missile Defence.

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland

Furthermore, it seems that there could be rather big oil deposits west of Greenland and that the political leadership in the capital, Nuuk, will be more inclined to strike a deal on their exploitation with the Americans than with the Danes.

Indeed, in the event of an oil-based boom, Greenland could well declare itself independent from Denmark.

As mentioned, Denmark used to be synonymous with the peaceful little idyllic country of H.C. Andersen's fairy tales, the Little Mermaid and good beer, with a people who preferred to talk things over rather than fight and to whom war was never an option - the country having itself been occupied by Germany in 1940-45.

Solidarity with the rest of the world ranked fairly high in this welfare state; a country known as a staunch believer in the UN, international law and the uniqueness of the 'Scandinavian Model'.

However, over time, Denmark's marked populist sentiments have turned it, in the eyes of many observers, into one of the most xenophobic, or racist, nations in the EU. This is, of course, difficult to measure and compare and, during various periods or events, Holland and some eastern European countries seem to have been competing for this status.

Jan Oberg, co-founder of TFF and a Danish citizen, was a member of the Danish Government's Security and Disarmament Commission during all of the 1980s. He remembers when the Commission published a fairly thick analytical report on the merits of the Nordic region as a nuclear-free zone. Of course, this was seen as a controversial move for a member of a nuclear weapons-based alliance.

Denmark also - up to the early 1980s - had a comparatively small arms industry/export.

However, in 1975 Denmark decided to buy and co-produce F16 fighters for its own defence; the American military-industrial influence has had a significant impact over time. Electronic components produced in Denmark were to go into virtually all F16s sold and/or used around the world. This was something fundamentally new, and although Denmark does not rank high in today's global arms production and exports index, it has developed this industry very significantly since then.

As of 2017, the country has decided to buy the problem-ridden and uniquely expensive F-35 fighter to replace the F-16s - in terms of acquisition and maintenance the largest investment ever made by a Danish government.

Of course, such a purchase is about military industrial development, technology and money as well as about loyalty with a declining US/NATO. It's positive effect on the security of the Danes and on world peace close to zero.

After the end of the Cold War, Denmark adhered to the overall Western strategy to save and expand, rather than dissolve, NATO.

With the Soviet Union's demise, the idea of the day was to transform national defence forces from being shaped to withstand an invasion or occupation to become a part of US/NATO's internationally coordinated intervention or "peace-enforcing" force.

Denmark drew even closer to the United States, its interventions and the post-September 11 'war on terror'.

By various policies and means, alternative perspectives have vanished. No institution exists in today's (2017) Denmark that conducts research critical of these developments.

One of the first activities of the neo-liberal government under then Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen (2001-2009) was to close down a series of reasonably independent, state-financed institutes, among them the internationally highly respected Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI), whose director for over a decade, the late Håkan Wiberg, was a TFF Associate and former professor at Lund University.

The dissolved institutes were integrated into one new body, the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), where all defence and security research is financed by the Ministry of Defence. From 2016, it's director is a former NATO ambassador who has lived most of his professional life at the Danish Ministry of Defence.

While there may be students and less than a handful of intellectuals who are very concerned about these developments over time, the state system has managed to eradicate critical voices of its militarist policies which - by coincidence, of course - happens to always be in unison with those of Washington and Brussels.

This also applies to Denmark's participation in the - brilliantly counterproductive - Global War On Terror since September 2001.

Hardly by coincidence, Mr Fogh Rasmussen was generously rewarded by the US for his strong support of the US and its wars, Iraq in particular, when it stood behind his candidacy as NATO's Secretary-General.

Has there been any significant, forceful opposition to these fundamentally important changes in Denmark's international role? Regrettably, the answer is: Not really!

UN soldiers with left-overs from Danish soldiers

Traditional left-leaning anti-militarism, anti-war sentiments have declined markedly in Denmark. Its peace movement counts a few brave activists.

The Danish people did not seem particularly bothered that their government took Denmark to the killing fields in Iraq from 2003 to 2007. Fogh Rasmussen was one of the few Western leaders who did not pay a political price for involving his country in Iraq - unlike, say, Tony Blair.

In 2011, the Danish Foreign Minister was the leader of the Socialist People's Party which was the only party to advocate ground troops in Libya. The Libya War was also supported by the Social Democrats and the 'far-left' Unity List/Red-Greens.

The Foreign Minister's first significant statement was to express Denmark's solidarity with US foreign policy, promising that Denmark would be there when next called up by the US/NATO to intervene somewhere.

In different ways, he states this about 15 minutes into and at the end of this video from the press conference he and then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, held in mid-December 2011.

Foreign and security affairs are non-issues in election times; this was true at the time of the Social Democratic coalition government led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Its foreign policy platform endorses military intervention even without a UN mandate, if necessary.

And it is true today. Denmark's participation in warfighting without UN mandate and the ever-increasing military perspectives on the world in the research, political and media world doesn't seem to raise many eyebrows.

A couple of recent commissions - one by one man, ambassador Taksøe-Jensen, former ambassador to the US (2016) and another by the Danish government prior to a new parliamentary Defence Agreement (2017) - tasked in different ways with outlining strategies for the future of Denmark's defence, security and foreign policies contain no new ideas.

The narrow inside-the-old-box framework is less stimulating than similar commission reports 20 or 30 years ago.

Conformity and lack of innovative thinking should be seen as a problem in the field of security in a complex and fast-changing world. In Denmark, it seems to be a merit.

Surprisingly, while you might expect globalization to cause a relative increase in political, media and public debates about international affairs, Danish media - with a few exceptions - devotes significantly less coverage to world affairs today than at any time since the Cold War began.

Parliamentary debates are fewer and considerably less knowledge-driven than back in the days of the Cold War.

Perhaps - perhaps - the appearance of the Trump Administration will force somebody to think new thoughts. At the end of 2017, there are no significant signs of that.

And it will take a very long time before Danish decision-makers would begin to think new thoughts, agree upon and implement them. So the future is, indeed, unpredictable. Particularly in the light of the decline of the US/NATO world on which Denmark has now made itself completely dependent.

TFF has produced analyses and - sometimes sharp - comments on Danish policies since 1986. That will continue.

Articles related to Denmark by TFF Associates 2012-2017 here.

There are also a series of shorter debate entries (in Danish) on Jan Oberg's personal blog.