Russian President Vladimir Putin on his way to a State Council meeting at the Kremlin last month. Photo: AFP/NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/SCANPIX
“We need to make it clear in Denmark that we are all under one type of threat or another. And we need to act,” he said in an interview with Berlingske newspaper.
Frederiksen was in part reacting to the national risk assessment report issued by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste) last month but said he was also alarmed by recent conversations he’s had with top Danish military officials, the outgoing American secretary of defence and a number of foreign ambassadors.
The Danish defence minister said he was primarily concerned about a two-pronged threat from Russia, which poses both physical and virtual dangers.
“We can confirm that the Russians are right now installing new missiles in Kalingrad that can reach Copenhagen. That is of course a major risk,” he said.
And while Frederiksen said that Denmark is likely to be targeted by cyber attacks from several actors, the most serious of those threats come from Russian state-sponsored groups. He said Denmark could face a coordinated online effort by Russia to “get involved in our democratic processes” in the same way that Russian hackers are believed to have disrupted the US elections.
He added that the online threat from Russia could go far beyond trying to “spread and angst and insecurity among the population”.
“State-supported Russian hacker groups are ready to attack hospitals, infrastructure and the electrical supply by breaking into computer systems and creating a mess of notices and treatments within the health system,” he said.
Frederiksen said that Denmark needs to respond to the threats by upgrading its military, especially when considering remarks made by incoming US President Donald Trump during his campaign in which he said other nations need to live up to their Nato spending requirements if they are to rely on the United States to come to their aid.
Nato has a spending target of two percent of a country's GDP, something Denmark doesn't currently meet. According to Nato figures, Denmark uses 1.17 percent of its GDP on defence.
He told Berlingske that he would propose increasing military spending but that getting it up to the two percent of GDP level is probably not realistic.
“We need to make a new economic plan and I am no longer the finance minister so I don’t have the latest numbers. But we need to create an understanding amongst the Danish population that we are facing some very, very concrete risks that we can’t just ignore,” he said.