Denmark: Happy to Fight, Will Travel

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Over the past thirty years Denmark has become a capable and willing expeditionary ally, not least on account of an accelerated investment in new forces in the early to mid-2000s. With the 2005-2009 defence agreement the Danish Army scrapped its concept of conscripted mobilization and fully committed to deployable capacities; the navy became a 'blue water' navy given the commitment to build two combat support ships and three frigates and to scrap the submarine force; and the air force fully focused its organization on specialized and deployable 'wings'. The literature suggests that external threats and technological innovation are key drivers of military change, which in broad strokes helps us understand Danish change-but not in full. As a small state, Denmark has been particularly attuned to the threat of abandonment by its NATO allies and the concomitant but rival desire to pay as little for defence as possible. NATO standing and money are thus the critical drivers of Danish military change and we are able to show how they have shaped three successive waves of military reform, beginning piecemeal in the 1990s and then continuing with deeper waves of reform in 2001 and 2014. Civil-military relations have throughout been quite solid and enabled change, which has to do with the political priority of securing Denmark's standing in NATO with as little money as possible, leaving it to the military services to figure out how to shape the toolkit.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)877-895
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

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