Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 401

401 Arctic Yearbook 2014   tie the United States closer to Europe by supporting American foreign policy objectives. Since the mid-1990s, this has primarily been done by following an activist foreign policy (Pedersen, 2012). Denmark was an active part of “the coalition of the willing” in Iraq, suffered the most fatalities per capita of any Western nation in Afghanistan, and was among the nations with most attack sorties in the recent Libya intervention (Atlantic Council, 2011; iCasualties, 2014; RahbekClemmensen, 2011). Greenland is part of this Atlantic dimension of Denmark’s foreign policy. The island was a bargaining chip that the Danish government could use to buy its way into the Western alliance during the Second World War and the Cold War (Danish Foreign Policy Institute, 1997; Danish Institute for International Studies, 2005; Lidegaard, 1996: 333–51). The Thule Air Base remains the most important American asset in Greenland. The base and the adjacent radar facilities were completed in the early 1950s and are integral, if not essential, parts of the US early warning system (Archer, 2003: 139; Danish Foreign Policy Institute, 1997; Danish Institute for International Studies, 2005: 70–80; Kristensen, 2005: 184–86; Tamnes & Holtsmark, 2014: 32). After lengthy negotiations, Washington got permission from Copenhagen and Nuuk to upgrade the radar to make it a much needed part of its missile defense system in 2004. These negotiations were remarkable, because they gave Nuuk a seat at the table and the final agreement included concessions to the Greenlandic government, including influence over future changes to the installations at Thule. Denmark had to walk a tightrope between possible domestic opposition and the Nuuk and Washington’s demands. The final agreement allowed Denmark to reaffirm its strong bond with the US by providing a valuable asset to Washington (Archer, 2003; Kristensen, 2005; Wilkening, 2004: 31 & 34). With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the Danish government has been looking for new ways to contribute to the Western alliance system. The Arctic is one of the theatres in which Denmark can show its dedication to the American-led world order. As one observer has noticed, Danish foreign policy thinking is moving from activism to “Arctic-vism” (Rasmussen, 2013). Tongue-in-cheek slogans aside, this Arctic focus does make sense in a grand strategic perspective. As an Arctic nation, Denmark has a privileged position at the table that far outweighs the country’s meager size. By being seen as a state that facilitates peaceful cooperation in the High North, Denmark hopes to buy influence not only in Washington, but also Moscow, Beijing, and the capitals of the European Union. The Arctic is thus a valuable, yet precarious, asset in Danish grand strategy and Copenhagen has a clear interest in hanging on to it in the decades to come. Danish Political Strategy Danish strategic thinking about the Arctic reflects the wish to keep a presence in the region. Achieving that goal requires that Copenhagen continues providing services for the Greenlandic population and marking its military presence in the High North. The impact of climate change poses a new challenge for these practices and it has come to shape the Danish debate about the Arctic for the past decade. The Arctic reemerged on the Danish political agenda during the final years of the 2000s. It soon became obvious that global warming would have an impact on the Arctic, opening the region to commercial opportunities that had so far been covered under a layer of ice: new shipping routes, exploitation of natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, hydroelectric power, and fishing stocks,   “Arctic-Vism” in Practice