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DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

Denmark prepared to send military equipment to Ukraine

Denmark has said it is prepared to send military equipment to Ukraine, as the West intensifies diplomacy and threatens harsh economic sanctions on Russia to prevent an invasion.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen spoke about Denmark's foreign and security policies at a briefing on January 31st.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen spoke about Denmark's foreign and security policies at a briefing on January 31st. Photo: Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix

“I am ready to send military equipment to Ukraine. We are already giving advice,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a press conference on Monday.

“We know there is a request for advice over cybersecurity,” she added, after a major cyberattack, attributed to Russia by Kyiv, hacked Ukrainian government websites earlier this month.

But Frederiksen said deploying Danish troops to the ex-Soviet nation was “not under discussion”.

“Like others, we want to help. We agreed at the international level to resort to sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine.”

NATO member Denmark last week committed to granting Kyiv around 80 million euros in annual aid when Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba visited Copenhagen.

The money is in addition to a support programme worth 22 million euros announced in mid-January by Denmark’s top diplomat.

The United States and Russia on Monday met at the UN Security Council over the invasion fears sparked by Moscow’s deployment of more than 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will speak by telephone on Tuesday.

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DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

What does resolution of Denmark-Canada ‘whisky war’ tell us about international relations?

Canada and Denmark on Tuesday finally settled the largely good-natured "whisky war" that was fought for decades with weapons such as flags and bottles of alcohol over a tiny, barren, and uninhabited outcrop in the Arctic.

What does resolution of Denmark-Canada 'whisky war' tell us about international relations?

The two sides formally announced a deal to split Hans Island and effectively create the first land border between Canada and Europe at a signing ceremony in Ottawa with Canadian and Danish foreign ministers.

READ ALSO: Why Denmark and Canada are about to share a border

Dividing up the kidney-shaped island and resolving the 49-year-old benign impasse was held up as a model for peacefully resolving territorial disputes — contrasted with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The Arctic is a beacon for international cooperation, where the rule of law prevails,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told news wire AFP.

“As global security is being threatened, it’s more important than ever for democracies like Canada and Denmark to work together, alongside Indigenous peoples, to resolve our differences in accordance with international law.”

The waggish row over the 1.3 square kilometre Hans Island, which sits between Ellesmere and Greenland, dated back to 1973, when a marine boundary was drawn between Canada and Greenland, part of the Danish kingdom.

Danes and Canadians have visited the rock by helicopter over the past decades to lay claim to it, leading to diplomatic protests, online campaigns and even a Canadian call to boycott Danish pastries. 

During those ministerial visits, each side would plant a flag and leave behind a bottle of whiskey or schnapps for the other to enjoy, along with comical notes.

“Many have called it the whisky war. I think it was the friendliest of all wars,” Joly said of the territorial dispute — which had drawn in no less than 26 foreign ministers over the decades — at a news conference with her Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod.

Kofod said that its resolution, however, comes at a time when “the ruled-based international order is under pressure” and democratic values “are under attack.”

“We see gross violations of international rules unfold in another part of the world,” he said, alluding to the war in Ukraine. 

“In contrast, we have demonstrated how longstanding disputes can be resolved peacefully by playing by the rules,” Kofod said, adding that he hoped Canada and Denmark’s experience will “inspire other countries to follow the same path.”

“This sends a strong signal: diplomacy and the rule of law actually works, and that a great result can be achieved by following the rules.”

As they exchanged bottles on Tuesday, Joly and Kofod laughed off suggestions that Canada might join the EU now that the two share a land border.

Joly quipped that a Canadian singer would surely enter the next Eurovision Song Contest, while Kofod offered: “Welcome Canada to the European continent!”

Snow-covered Hans Island is uninhabitable, but the onset of global warming is bringing more ship traffic to the Arctic, and opening it up to fishing and resources exploration — although maybe not in the area of the island.

Arctic expert Michael Byers noted that “the island is so incredibly remote as to make it uneconomical to contemplate any serious activity there.”

Putting off resolution of this unusual territorial dispute, however, made for good political theater in both countries, flaring up ahead of elections.

“It was an entirely risk-free sovereignty dispute between two NATO allies over an insignificant, tiny island,” Byers said.

Denmark had also feared that losing the ownership battle would undermine relations with Greenland, while Canada worried that a loss would weaken its negotiating position in a more consequential dispute with the United States over the Beaufort Sea, in far northwestern Canada, believed to be rich in hydrocarbons.

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “has not made Arctic sovereignty part of his brand,” in contrast to his predecessor, Byers said. 

“So that reduced the temperature, at least from our side.”

“But most importantly, Russia invaded Ukraine, and that created an opportune moment to tell the world that responsible countries settle territorial disputes in a peaceful way,” he said.

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