Denmark strengthening its diplomatic role through military cooperation with France

Article published on Dec. 29, 2014
Article published on Dec. 29, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

France and Denmark are getting tighter on the military playground and laying foundations for increased cooperation in the years to come. If neither France nor Denmark bear a reputation as militaristic countries, the duo in fact makes a lot of sense, both countries having what the other one needs, and sharing many strategic standpoints.

Denmark's military ties to France are gaining pace.  The kingdom has identified the need to replace its aging armored personnel carriers, and is aiming at the French VBCI (Infantry Combat Armored Vehicle).  If that choice is confirmed, the French engineering firm Nexter will be called upon to take part in the construction of an ultra-modern production plant in Støvring, where it will support the Danish engineering Hydrema in the setting up of the lines. If the cooperation between the two firms is a mandatory part of the deal, it must be noted that Nexter will entrust its partner with a technology transfer which will account for half the necessary know-how, an indicator of the relationship's solidity and balance.

Beyond this deal, there is another, just as important if not more.  A future cooperation program is covered by this technological agreement.  If confirmed, Denmark will also acquire France's CAESAR self-propelled howitzer, a state-of-the-art main artillery piece. In return, the French firm has selected over 40 Danish suppliers in its production chain, including Weibel, one of the world's leading manufacturers for tactical, muzzle and ranging radars. Should this deal come through, Denmark will acquire a rare and powerful type of equipment it doesn't have, while France will be able to use radar better than its own to better its howitzer.

This could be seen as business as usual, and military equipment firms simply selecting their suppliers amongst the global market, if the deals weren't so closely overseen by the governments of each country.  The cooperation agreement covering the armored personnel carriers and the new howitzer was undersigned by François Zimeray, the French ambassador in Copenhagen.  And in June of 2014, the defense ministers of both countries, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Nicolai Wammen, met in Paris and issued a Letter of Intent, stating the two countries' intention to collaborate more in years to come, militarily, diplomatically and strategically.

Denmark's influence is high and growing. Its geographic position gives it a strategic standpoint to control access to the Baltic Sea, and its ownership of the huge territory of Greenland gives it power over the strategic Arctic region, in spite of Danish reluctance to see Nukes in the Arctic Sea: “The time is ripe for closer military co-operation in the Arctic. The first goal should be to agree not to deploy nuclear weapons there”, explains Social Liberal Defense Spokeswoman Zenia Stampe. But Arctic is likely to be a waypoint between Europe and America and a hiding spot for nuclear submarines for a while.

Given its size, the Baltic state will never engage any theatre of operation on its own. Its 30 000 personnel will always be part of a greater coalition. It partakes to the operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and recently deployed 6 of its F-16s to fight the Islamic state in Iraq. In its shift towards France, the Danish secretary of state Villy Sovndal recently gave firm diplomatic support to France in its Malian operation and released a €20 million emergency budget for the operation, with open perspectives of active engagement in the near future: “I am very preoccupied with the situation in Mali.  Given the aggravation and destabilization risk, I fully back France’s efforts towards stability reinforcements, within the directives of resolution 2085 of the United Nations’ Security Council.”

It must be stressed that the choice of foreign military equipment suppliers is no light one for any country: a shifting alliance would entail immediate unavailability of spare parts, support, upgrades, etc., not to mention perfect knowledge of the equipment by the new opponent, and therefore a severely hampered military capacity. By acquiring equipment from coalition countries which can be trusted in the long run to maintain firm ties with Denmark, the kingdom preserves itself from future logistics, interoperability and training problems. As a part of NATO, it already keeps to allied standards (such as calibers, fuel types, vehicle sizes, computer standards). But even within the alliance, different types of equipment exist. Such a choice is a good indicator as to which way the country leans, because common vehicles or weapons system are particularly practical on a field of operations. And given that Denmark and France stand at comparable technological levels, the deals in particular and the closening of ties in general are likely to come through.

Denmark should be closely followed in the near future, on the allied diplomatic scene. It has already declared its intentions of an increased role in future multinational operations and has already started acting on it, with military, diplomatic and economic moves.  If it succeeds, which it very well may through its cooperation with France, it will soon be a key player in the world’s peace-keeping operations NATO is engaged in.