Danish PM rebuts Russian ambassador over Bornholm comments

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday that Russia’s ambassador should “not get involved” in Danish discussions with the United States that could see soldiers placed on the island of Bornholm.

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen visited a military barracks on Bornholm
Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen visited a military barracks on Bornholm on April 7th 2022. Photo: Pelle Rink/Ritzau Scanpix

During a visit to Bornholm on Thursday, Frederiksen said she would not accept Russian advice against an agreement that could mean American soldiers stationed on Denmark’s Baltic Sea island.

A future 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.

In February, prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Frederiksen said that Denmark was ready to allow US military troops on its soil as part of a new bilateral defence agreement with the United States.

Denmark and the United States would begin negotiations over a new bilateral defence agreement which could mean the presence of American soldiers in Denmark, Frederiksen said at the time.

READ ALSO: Why the possibility of US troops in Denmark is unprecedented

“I can give a very short answer to this. The Russian ambassador should not get involved in what happens on Bornholm,” Frederiksen said on Thursday.

The Russian ambassador to Denmark, Vladimir Barbin, said in February that an agreement existed between Denmark and Russia preventing American troops from being on Bornholm.

Barbin referred to an agreement made between Denmark and the Soviet Union in 1946, when Red Army troops left Bornholm following the liberation of Denmark at the end of World War II.

Frederiksen stressed in her comments that Denmark is a sovereign country.

“I want to be very clear. Russia has no admission to get involved in Danish defence policy – including what happens on Bornholm,” she said.

The Danish PM rejected suggestions that allowing American troops on Bornholm could be seen as an escalation of tensions between the West and Russia related to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“No, it is not. We want a closer relationship with the Americans,” Frederiksen said.

“If we want a closer relationship with the Americans, that is partly to boost Denmark’s security and our own defence capabilities, but also to strengthen (relations) across the Atlantic,” she said.

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Denmark in talks with Israel to replace howitzers donated to Ukraine

After pledging all 19 of its French-made Caesar howitzers to Ukraine, Denmark is in talks with Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems for new mobile artillery to plug a "critical gap".

Denmark in talks with Israel to replace howitzers donated to Ukraine

The defence ministry said late Thursday that negotiations were on “with the manufacturer Elbit Systems for the delivery of ATMOS artillery pieces and PULS rocket launcher systems as soon as possible”.

The equipment could be delivered this year, the government said.

“The rocket launchers complement the new artillery systems,” the ministry said.

Denmark had ordered 15 mobile long-range howitzers from French company Nexter in 2017, and four more in 2019.

But deliveries have been delayed and only a few have arrived. All of them have been pledged to Ukraine.

The system can carry 36 155 mm shells and reach targets at distances of up to 40 kilometres (24 miles). ATMOS can fire six shots per minute and can be mounted on most off-road 8X8 trucks.

The next acquisitions are “important for Denmark’s defence and for Denmark to be able to meet its NATO commitments,” Defence Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said.

“The donation to Ukraine leaves a critical capability gap in defence,” he said.

According to Danish media, Nexter advised Denmark against changing suppliers, saying it could provide new artillery.

“Caesar has proven itself on the battlefield in Ukraine, Danish soldiers can use them and the parts are compatible with Danish military IT systems,” a spokesman for the group said.

The primary reason for the defence ministry’s choice of Elbit is that it can deliver the hardware much sooner that its competitor, media Altinget reports.

But the decision to purchase from the Israeli company could prove a controversial one, given that several international banks and pension funds — including some in Denmark — refuse to invest in the company on ethical grounds related to its supply of surveillance and other equipment for use in the West Bank, Altinget writes.