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Why the possibility of US troops in Denmark is unprecedented

The presence of foreign military troops and hardware stationed on Danish soil would be a situation not previously seen in the Scandinavian country, including during the Cold War.

Danish PM Mette Frederiksen, foreign minister Jeppe Kofod (L) and defence minister Morten Bødskov on February 10 briefed press about a possible future bilateral defence deal with the United States.
Danish PM Mette Frederiksen, foreign minister Jeppe Kofod (L) and defence minister Morten Bødskov on February 10 briefed press about a possible future bilateral defence deal with the United States. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark has not previously allowed foreign troops to be stationed on its soil, although the country was occupied by Germany during World War II.

As such, allowing US troops to be based in Denmark – as Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen yesterday said could be allowed in a future bilateral defence deal – is without precedent in Danish history, according to professor Peter Viggo Jakobsen of the Royal Danish Defence College’s Institute of Strategy and War Studies.

The move could represent a change in Denmark’s position since the Nordic country joined Nato as a founding member in 1949 because it would see Denmark take on a role as a supporting host nation for troops on their way to missions in other countries.

“Denmark is, in the sense that Nato conceives deterrence, a country for amassing forces,” Jakobsen told news wire Ritzau.

A bilateral agreement between the two countries could see US troops able to conduct operations in other countries based out of Danish harbours or one of the country’s three military air bases.

“But the entire purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate to the Russians that we [Nato, ed.] can immediately reinforce the troops we already have standing in the Baltic countries and Poland,” Jakobsen said.

“So it would not make sense for the Russians to attack because we are able to respond immediately. This is about preventing war,” he said.

Frederiksen said at a briefing on Thursday that a potential bilateral defence agreement with the US is unrelated to the current situation between Ukraine and Russia.

But Jakobsen said it was clear that Russia would not invade anywhere if they could see an invasion would not work.

The bilateral defence agreement does have a downside, the military expert said.

“If things go wrong and the Russians want to start a larger war, Danish bases would naturally be a target for the Russians,” he said.

“They would have an interest in destroying things like air bases before American aircraft land there,” he said.

READ ALSO: Denmark boosts military preparedness amid Ukraine tensions

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Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

A new poll indicates a majority of Danes is in favour of scrapping the country’s EU defence opt-out in an upcoming referendum.

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

The poll, conducted by Epinion on behalf of broadcaster DR, shows 38 percent of voters in favour of revoking the opt-out, compared with 27 percent who want to retain it.

28 percent said they do not know how they will vote, meaning there is still plenty of potential for both a “yes” and “no” outcome in the June 1st vote.

An earlier poll, conducted in March, put the two sides closer, with 38 percent of eligible voters then saying they would vote ‘yes’ to scrapping the opt-out, with 31 percent saying they would vote ‘no’ and 31 percent saying they didn’t know.

The government announced in March a June 1st referendum in which citizens will decide whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy. The referendum was called following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Denmark’s opt-out – retsforbehold in Danish – is one of four EU special arrangements negotiated by the Scandinavian country, and has seen it abstain from participation in EU military operations and from providing support or supplies to EU-led defence efforts.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have four EU ‘opt-outs’ and what do they mean?

In April, the wording of the question on voting ballots for the referendum was changed, following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

According to a breakdown of the new poll, younger voters and women are the most undecided groups. 20 percent of men said they were unsure how to vote compared to 38 percent of women.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 39 percent were unsure how they would vote compared to 22 percent of voters over the age of 56 who have yet to decide how to cast their votes.

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