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Op-ed in Berlingske – U.S. Ambassador: Denmark must rectify the serious short comings in its armed forces
December 1, 2020

Carla Sands, US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark  

A translated version of this appeared in Berlingske on November 30, 2020 

NATO is the greatest collective security organization in the history of the world. For the last seven decades, NATO has kept the peace to defend our people and our way of life.  

One reason our transatlantic alliance has stood the test of time since its founding in 1949 is the excellent communication among all member states to find common solutions. We speak frankly and honestly with each other, like friends do. Along these lines, the Foreign Ministers of NATO members are meeting December 1-2 to review progress on our shared goals, including fairer burden sharing across the Alliance.  

NATO’s willingness to come to the aid of any member state in its time of need lies at the very heart of the Alliance, and is enshrined in Article 5. But the ability of NATO to deliver on this pledge ultimately depends on how much each member country devotes in the “3 Cs:  cash, capabilities, and contributions” to our collective strength.  

Making defense investments is a fundamental part of each country’s security policy and something decision makers cannot afford to get wrong. NATO helps Allies make these crucial decisions by highlighting how and where to invest in their defense. Even more, the Alliance supports its members by finding and developing multinational projects to deliver the key defense capabilities for our common security.   

As a founding member of the Alliance, Denmark is one of the countries NATO depends on the most. Denmark has been a steadfast driving force within the Alliance since 1949. From Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Libya, Denmark has always been ready to put its troops in harm’s way in defense of our democratic values and common strategic objectives.  The Danes are a courageous people. Without the outstanding contributions of your men and women, the strength and the success of the Alliance would be negatively impacted. But we cannot rest the needs of the alliance solely upon the shoulders of Danish soldiers who give so much of themselves to protect us.  

NATO needs its Allies to invest more in manpower, training, and cutting-edge and cost-effective equipment. With this goal in mind, NATO recently reviewed the capabilities of all 29 member countries for meeting their defense commitments and published a report summarizing its findings and recommendations.  

NATO’s verdict on Denmark was written in black and white. “Denmark needs to further increase its defence spending.” The report states that Denmark is making some progress towards implementing its defense investment pledge, but it also identifies “critical shortfalls” that include combat power and readiness. 

In an increasingly competitive and uncertain geopolitical environment, all NATO members, including Denmark, are committed to achieve a forward-leaning and proactive security posture. The Danish supplement to its current Defense Agreement in early 2019 was a fantastic start, but more remains to be done if Denmark is to meet its capability and readiness requirements.  

An authoritarian and aggressive China is seizing the opportunity to attack vulnerable states throughout the world. Closer to home, a resurgent Russia is flexing its muscles throughout the Arctic and Baltic – including over Denmark’s sovereign air space.  In fact, the 2018-2023 Danish Defence Agreement deems the threats of this era as more serious than any other period since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  

Over the years Denmark has played a leading role in tackling global challenges, including through NATO. In the years ahead, Denmark can help NATO by addressing these critical shortfalls in its armed forces that currently limit its ability to fight an advanced adversary.   

NATO is our collective insurance policy and the definitive provider of our continued safety and security. NATO cannot remain the cornerstone of our collective security if member countries like Denmark don’t implement the Alliance’s compatibility targets in full and on time.  

Denmark’s neighbors have made additional investments in 2020 and 2021 to meet the new threats we have all identified. Sweden has increased its defense budget every year since 2014, and recently announced that it will increase its budget by 40 percent from 2021 to 2025.  

In the years ahead, we must commit whole-heartedly to the needs of the Alliance – our future depends on it. We know Denmark is trustworthy partner.  Will the country it keep its word?