Arctic Yearbook 2014
PRACTICE: THE CHALLENGES
FACING DENMARK’S POLITICAL-MILITARY STRATEGY IN
THE HIGH NORTH
With the Afghanistan war winding down, the Arctic, already a hot button issue among Copenhagen
policymakers, has become one of the main issues on the Danish foreign policy agenda. This article examines the
challenges facing the Danish political-military planning in the Arctic. Danish Arctic policy reflects a wider
Danish grand strategy that sees Greenland as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis the US. Danish political strategy
emphasizes the region’s well-functioning cooperative order, while standing its ground in disputes with other nations.
Denmark is thus willing to enhance its military deterrent in the Arctic. Military strategy focuses on handling
traffic patterns in Greenlandic waters, where the Danish Armed Forces are responsible for both military defense of
the realm and coast guard tasks. Danish defense planning aims to maximize regional cooperation and to diminish
tensions between Denmark and Greenland.
This article examines the specific challenges facing Danish political-military planning in the
Arctic. It specifically explores how grand strategy, political strategy, and military strategy interact
with one another. It argues that Danish political-military planning is shaped by the changing geoeconomics of the Arctic region, by Denmark’s grand strategic role as a close ally of the United
States and a member of NATO, by the geopolitics of the Arctic, and by the relationship between
Denmark and Greenland. Handling low politics defense planning and supporting peaceful
cooperation between the Arctic states are seen as ways of reproducing Danish sovereignty over
Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Danish Institute for International
Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark.