Denmark follows Finland and signs agreement to allow deployment of US aircraft

U.S Air Force photo

Denmark has signed a landmark defense cooperation agreement (DCA) with the United States.  

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, in a press conference held on December 19, 2023, emphasized that the collaboration with the United States and NATO was crucial to Denmark’s security. 

“The United States and NATO are the guarantors of Denmark’s security,” Frederiksen stated. “This has become even more evident with the developments we have observed in the world in recent years.” 

The agreement grants US forces access to three Royal Danish Air Force bases in Karup, Skrydstrup, and Aalborg for both short and extended periods.  

The DCA does not cover the Faroe Islands and Greenland. The latter, however, is home to Pituffik Space Base, an important missile warning sensors facility and the northernmost installation of the US Armed Forces. This base is part of a different agreement between the US and Denmark. 

Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen described the newly signed DCA as historic, while Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen highlighted the importance of Denmark having a robust bilateral relationship with the United States in an era characterized by uncertainty and confrontation. 

Evolving geopolitical landscape in Northern Europe

Denmark becomes the fourth Scandinavian country to enter into a DCA with the United States, following Norway in 2021, and more recently Sweden on December 5, 2023, and Finland on December 18, 2023. 

The agreement is set to come into force upon the completion of internal processes by both parties. The Danish Parliament, the Folketing, will have to review and approve the agreement. In Sweden, certain points of the DCA sparked debate during parliamentary proceedings. One contentious issue was the legal status of US forces deployed. 

In Denmark, Prime Minister Frederiksen clarified that, in general, the US authorities would be responsible for prosecuting crimes committed by their service members, even if off base and during their free time. 

The geopolitical landscape has prompted Denmark to reassess its defense policies, particularly in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In addition to the defense cooperation agreement with the United States, Denmark has abandoned the defense exemption clause secured during the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. 

Neighboring nations of Sweden and Finland both applied for accelerated accession to NATO in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Finland officially joined the alliance on April 4, 2023. Sweden is still waiting for Turkey to approve its membership, contingent on the US sale of F-16 fighters.

In addition to better integration of their air defense capabilities with the alliance, Finland and Sweden are not ruling out the possibility of housing nuclear bombs as part of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangement.

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