Denmark will never be the first supplier of boots on the ground, nor does it intend to. But troop deployment is merely one element in military strategies, and there are many others where the northern kingdom has a strong role to play, which it has been playing on the international scene over the past decades, and it intends to develop it further.
Denmark has drawn advantage in the shift in the nature of warfare and international relations, which has occurred over the last century. Until WW2, countries were free to choose whether to enter conflicts, or not, as they saw fit. In this type of warfare, even if nations found allies, each country was supposed to be self-sufficient, and Denmark’s forces were quickly spread thin. The creation of the Warsaw pact and North Atlantic alliance quickly outdated this way of waging war, and countries articulated into alliances, with mutually valuable cooperation. For instance, Portugal, despite its modest armed forces, was able to partake to the alliance from its very beginning as it provided the valuable Azores airstrips to the allied boats and ships. In this era, Denmark’s is much more in a position to play its full part in a military operation, with its command of logistics and its technology.
A country like Denmark will always seek scalable industries and value areas, so as to circumvent the lack of population volume. It can therefore focus on technological research, the products of which will then benefit the rest of NATO allies it sells to, while importing from the alliance in return. Denmark spearheads the military radar market, with several companies offering an entire range of muzzle calculators, tactical radars, and electronic warfare management systems. In a Memorandum of Understanding issued in October of 2014, Boeing and Terma (a Danish specialized defence firm) agreed to cooperate in technological contributions, namely on the Chinook CH-47 helicopter. Likewise, Weibel will probably be fitting its muzzle and tactical radars onto the modern French CAESAR self-propelled howitzer, through yet another technological agreement with one of their NATO allies. Denmark is currently considering a purchase of this state-of-the-art howitzer, closely observed during its successful operational deployment in Afghanistan and Mali. Anyway, the Weibel radar would not be the first cooperation between France and Denmark: TenCate Advanced Armour Danmark A/S is already a supplier of armoured solutions for the French VBCI, also harshly strained in the same inhospitable regions. Finally, Denmark is a contributor to the Joint Strike Fighter program, which it might purchase as of June of 2015. According to Global Security, Denmark counts approximately 25 defence-oriented companies, all of which specialized in niche markets.
The rising importance of military intelligence has also increased the role and influence of Denmark in international operations. In November of 2014, Danish forces travelled to Lithuania to take part in a military intelligence exercise, so as to uphold NATO’s capacity to monitor the delicate situation in the Ukraine. Lithuania also harbours rotating US troops and Hungarian troops (both part of NATO). Given the hostile stance of Russia towards NATO’s expansion towards the east, Denmark’s presence on the edge of Russia is an indicator that it is a trusted partner within the Alliance. On the long run, Denmark has permanent troops operating in three NATO operations (KFOR, Standing NRF Maritime Force 1 and an air force deployment in Jordan, alongside US troops involved in Iraqi strikes).
So as to render its military capacity more adapted to modern requirements, Denmark has launched an efficiency program inducing both large cuts in military spending and reorganizing units. Conscription, which is still in Force in Denmark, will further be reduced in its volume: only 5000 of the 35 000 men in age of being drafted are actually called upon by the Armed Forces, that number will shortly be reduced to 4200. And every year until 2017, the Danish Ministry of Defence will need to reduce its spending by nearly half a billion dollars. So as not to reduce its military capacity accordingly, units will be regrouped into larger and fewer regiments and bases. Their equipment will be replaced, so as to increase their firepower and deployment capacity, despite the shrinking size, with acquisitions for example of land equipment amongst others. Two important land programs are currently under consideration.
The stakes are high for Denmark, as it intends to take its full part in future allied operations. Given the nature of the strategic future of operations, the strain will be high on equipment and vehicles. In the next few years at least, the main security threats will be asymmetric. The situation in Nigeria is increasingly hitting newspaper headlines, as security and territory control deteriorates. The Islamic State has proven trickier to tackle than expected, and operations against it will no doubt need to be maintained over a long stretch of time. In both these cases, the enemy is small and nimble, which means that fighting it will require heavy projections. Aging equipment is difficult to project, as it demands far more maintenance. Even the American Air Force chief of staff, confronted with the same problem, raised a flag in September of 2014 regarding the difficulty of maintaining old equipment, especially in operations: “”There are too many things happening because our fleets are too old.” In a different strategic setting, it is likely that Western forces will need to stack up troops in the Ukraine, so as to balance powers with Russia. In this specific case, reliability will not so much be the problem, as the projection will be easier, but it will take equipment as modern and sophisticated as possible to counter Russia’s mighty forces. In both cases, if Denmark wants to be a part of the game (which it does), it will need to have its forces in pristine order.
With a strategy which aims at filling the specific diplomatic, strategic, and economic areas where it is competitive, Denmark has established its position as an equal partner with surrounding European neighbours. It provides also high-end technology to its NATO-allies, and gives them passage rights on (or under) its strategic Greenland territory, while providing them with military intelligence. With its active and high-grade diplomacy, it has tied strong links with powerful western countries, and has drawn the most from its international prerogatives, namely its seven-time European presidency since 1973. With its soon-to-be deep-reformed armed forces and new military equipment, it will probably increase its international influence even more.