18 April 2012

An Analysis of Conditions for Danish Defence Policy

This analysis focuses on the armed forces’ ability to contribute to the Danish Security Capacity, defined as the coherent effort from all parts of the Danish government and civil society to analyse, prevent and act coordinated against the threats and risks facing Danish citizens and the Danish society in an open and complex international system in transformation. In such an international system ‘activism’ is a condition for Danish security and defence policy, the analysis concludes, and points to the need for developing a coherent notion of what kind of interests the Danish government wants to pursue. In defining Danish national interests, the way in which climate change is transforming the Arctic environment and Greenland’s geopolitical significance has become a more important parameter. While the analysis makes clear that armed conflict is not likely in the Arctic and that the armed forces will therefore primarily be engaged in coast guard duties, the Kingdom of Denmark will need to configure its Security Capacity to deal with a host of new issues in the region.

The primary mission for the Danish armed forces will not be in the Arctic, however. The analysis introduces four ‘military models’ that present competing visions for what kinds of operations the Danish armed forces should be organised to engage in: a long-term stabilization force, an international assistance force, a humanitarian deployment force and a defensive defence force. Depending on what kind of force structure Denmark chooses, there will be different possibilities for cooperating with other nations in coalitions, and these forces will have different relevance in different institutional contexts. These contexts of cooperation are important for Danish security and defence policy not only because Danish contributions to international operations depend on the multinational context in which they are most often deployed, but also because of the way in which Denmark cooperates in an Alliance-framework is important in and of itself. It is from this perspective that the Smart Defence debate in NATO becomes important to Denmark. The analysis points to the possibilities of the Smart Defence agenda, but also warns that unless carefully managed this agenda might actually serve as an excuse for European countries to cut defence budgets in the belief that other nations will supply the capabilities cut away.

The intricacies of Alliance-cooperation in a time dominated by network policy further increase the need for Denmark to adopt a coherent defence planning process that carefully integrates political decision-making with military competences and advice. The need for a coherent defence planning process is all the greater considering
that the current as well as the previous government have indicated the need for cuts in the defence budget at the same time as the operations in Afghanistan come to an end. This leaves Denmark with a scope for making strategic choices.

Download "An Analysis of Conditions for Danish Defence Policy - Strategic Choices 2012" in PDF.