In a new spat, US Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands has reiterated her criticism of the Nordic country's defence budget and its contribution to NATO as being too small. She called upon Copenhagen to "rectify serious deficiencies" in its military in line with NATO's guidelines and recent criticism.
In an opinion piece for the newspaper Berlingske, Sands underscored that in the current "increasingly competitive and uncertain geopolitical environment", all NATO members are obliged to assume a "far-sighted and proactive security position". Citing "an authoritarian and aggressive China" and "increasingly confident Russia flexing its muscles", Sands underscored that Denmark's neighbours, including formally non-aligned Sweden, are raising their military budgets and called on Copenhagen to follow suit. The current shortcomings, she argued, limit the country's capacity to fight an advanced adversary.
Sands's criticism, however, has been dismissed by Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen. While admitting that the current threat picture requires a strong defence and pledging to bolster the budget further, Bramsen underscored Denmark's role within NATO.
"But in the discussion of percentages of GDP, we must not forget that the will and ability to stand up when necessary should also bear weight. Denmark is at the very top in the NATO countries when it comes to standing up. The fact that Denmark is good at defending and solving tasks should not be criticised, but recognised", Bramsen told Berlingske.
This opinion was largely shared across party lines. Lars Christian Lilleholt, defence spokesman for the liberal-conservative party Venstre underscored Denmark's "major tasks in NATO", referring, among other things, to how Denmark has just taken over the leadership of NATO's mission in Iraq.
Anne Valentina Berthelsen, defence spokeswoman for the Socialist People's Party, called Carla Sands' criticism unbalanced and voiced scepticism over the repeated demands to raise Denmark's military spending to 2 percent of its GDP. A country's GDP doesn't reflect the threat picture, she stressed. Berthelsen also disagreed with the idea that Denmark should equip itself with modern materiel and manpower. According to her, Denmark should instead prioritise cyber security and protection of critical infrastructure.
Søren Espersen of the national-conservative Danish People's Party and Niels Flemming Hansen of the Conservatives suggested that Carla Sands and NATO overlook one thing: Denmark's strengthened efforts in the Arctic. Recently, the Danish government has committed an extra DKK 1.5 billion to monitoring and communication in and around Greenland.
The nation's current military expenditure at about 1.3 percent of its budget falls short of NATO's guidelines.
Denmark's Armed Forces are conscription-based for men, and in the event of war, just under 1 million Danish men aged between 18 and 49 are available. Currently, there are about 19,000 active servicemembers.