Danish PM’s Trump remarks could signal new course: expert

Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has criticised Donald Trump over the US president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, a move considered a “significant break” with the Danish government’s established pro-US foreign policy.

Danish PM’s Trump remarks could signal new course: expert
Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen gives a speech at Ejer Bavnehøj near Skanderborg, 5th June 2017. Photo: Bo Amstrup /Scanpix

During a speech given to mark the Scandinavian country’s Constitution Day Monday, Rasmussen said that Trump had made the “wrong decision.”

At the speech in Skanderborg, Rasmussen said that Denmark, though not perfect, was one of the world’s best countries, before quoting Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, who said “If we could all be like the Scandinavians, everything would be a lot easier,” reports broadcaster DR.

Rasmussen – who was one of the first European leaders to meet Trump when he visited Washington in April – then made the unusual step of criticising the US president.

READ ALSO: Danish PM: 'First and foremost I want a good meeting' with Trump

“Last week we saw a saddening example of how global leadership can be jeopardised. President Trump announced that he is pulling his country out of the global climate agreement. That is the wrong decision,” said the PM, who was himself a signatory to the December 2015 agreement, though his government was criticised at the time for cuts within green innovation and a lowering of national climate goals.

With Trump’s announcement, the United States joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not signed up to the accord – Nicaragua did not sign in in 2015 as it said the terms did not go far enough, and Syria due to its ongoing civil conflict.

Rasmussen added that he remained confident in global green energy despite the US withdrawal from Paris.

“The global movement in favour of green energy conversion is only going one way – forwards. And even though the United States is now choosing to become a member of the lonely club that is outside of the Paris Agreement, development will still continue within the USA. The president may be the world’s most powerful man, but not all decisions are made in the White House” the Danish PM said.

READ ALSO: Danish PM on Paris agreement: I can't dictate to Trump

Rasmussen noted that the states of New York, California and Washington have already established an alliance for continued commitment to the agreement.

But the Danish PM said that he considered the consequences of the Trump announcement for the value of international agreements to be an even greater concern that its effects on climate change.

“It is a decision that I believe is based on a misunderstanding of what the United States’ own international interests are. It is a decision that threatens to undermine the United States’ global leadership,” Rasmussen said.

The United States is giving other countries the opportunity to step into the role of global leaders by taking a backwards step on climate, according to the PM.

READ ALSO: Climate denier Trump has Danish minister worried

Rasmussen’s words represent a “significant break” with the consistently pro-US foreign policy position the Danish government has previously adopted, according to Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen.

Denmark has not ventured from American foreign policy positions since the end of the Cold War, Vedby Rasmussen told DR.

But the PM’s speech can be taken as a sign that Denmark is now prepared to align itself more closely to Germany, as well as France and the rest of the EU on foreign policy and security issues, the professor said.

“There is a significant break with the course followed hitherto when the prime minister says that what the USA is doing is bad and that Denmark does not want to be a part of it,” Vedby Rasmussen said.

“I cannot remember the last time a Danish prime minister criticised an American president in the Constitution Day speech – if it’s ever happened. This is therefore a clear signal that after years of alliance with the US and Britain, Denmark is now beginning to turn elsewhere to find our security and access to markets,” he added.


Danish Arctic military boost welcomed by US Secretary of State

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday welcomed Denmark's plans to boost its military presence in Greenland and the North Atlantic.

Danish Arctic military boost welcomed by US Secretary of State
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod at a press conference on Monday. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“We share a commitment to Arctic security, we very much welcome Denmark’s recent decision to invest more… in North Atlantic and Arctic defence, in coordination with the governments of Greenland and the Faroe Islands,” Blinken told a press conference alongside his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod.

The US top diplomat’s remarks came during a visit to Denmark two days ahead of an upcoming Arctic forum in Iceland.

In February, Copenhagen announced a 1.5 billion Danish kroner ($245-million, 200-million-euro) military investment, including surveillance drones over the Danish autonomous territory Greenland and a radar station on the Faroe Islands.

The plan, which pointed to Russia’s increased activity in the Arctic, aims to cover up blind spots and improve Denmark’s surveillance capabilities in Greenland and the North Atlantic.

The military investment will contribute to knowing “who’s doing what, where, at any given time… and we very much appreciate the role that Denmark is playing in helping to do that,” Blinken said. 

With his stop in Denmark, the Secretary of State began a tour focused on the Arctic, a relatively new issue in the US rivalry with China and the first opportunity to test strained relations with Russia before a potential summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

The Arctic Council, whose scope does not include defence issues, is to meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik — gathering the foreign ministers of the eight countries bordering the Arctic, including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov. 

Just two days ahead of the meeting, Lavrov on Monday warned Western countries against staking claims in the Arctic, designating it as part of Russia’s zone of influence.

“It has been absolutely clear for everyone for a long time that this is our territory, this is our land,” Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow.

After losing interest in the area since the end of the Cold War, major powers have begun eyeing the region again.

Disputes over the Artic come amid renewed tensions between the West and Russia, particularly since the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

READ ALSO: Blinken’s visit to Denmark shows Greenland back in US focus