The Relationship: More Threats – More Militarization - and Less Democratic Control Is Rather Absent in Denmark, unpubl.

The Relationship: More Threats – More Militarization - and Less Democratic Control Is Rather Absent in Denmark


Henning Sørensen    








The three terms: Threat, Militarization, and Democratic Control refers to the role of the Armed Forces in a society facing threats. This equation argues that an increase in threats causes more hard (violence through operations) and soft (verbal statements, re-organization) militarization, which again leads to less efficient democratic control of the military. In Denmark, this relationship is far from the case. Danish politicians have emptied the military professions its normal prerogatives of defining the threat, deciding how to handle it, and developing a relevant organizational structure to do so. However, the equation does exist for Denmark when it comes to cyber threats, stop for illegal migration at the border and national counterterror initiatives. In general, the equation is valid due to the broad and proactive content of the word “threat”.






1. Strategic-Military Background for Denmark




1.1 A nation can have its security threat position defined rather simplistically by a matrix consisting of the presence and absence of its allies and/or enemies. The matrix distinguishes between four types of security: Independent (neither allies, nor enemies), Isolated (no allies, but enemies), Collective (both allies and enemies), and Selective (no enemies, just allies) security. Applied on Denmark, fig. 1 below presents her historical security threat position for more than a millennium.  














Figure 1. Denmark´s Security Position 750 – 2019[1]




                                             -                   +                                


1. Independent


2. Isolated



4. Selective


3. Collective




















Fig. 1 describes Denmark´s four security positions over time. In Viking Period (750-1050), Denmark had neither enemies nor allies and lived accordingly in Independent security even if the Vikings often acted aggressively during expeditions mostly to England and France. For the longest period, Denmark experienced Isolated security with no allies, but more enemies such as Sweden, the UK, Germany, and the USSR (1050-1397, 1523-1989). In box 3, Denmark during the Kalmar Union (1397-1523) had allies such as Sweden and in the Cold War Era (1945-1989) NATO allies, while the enemy was the USSR. After the Cold War, Denmark and many other Western nations have Selective security, including the other four Nordic nations who “after 1995 have had their freedom of action increased dramatically”[2] even if Putin´s Russia has acted aggressively elsewhere.




Of course, the “room of manoeuvring” for small nations in Selective security positions is debatable. One perception is that all small nations are more or less constrained to follow the same foreign policy due to their power deficits in international politics. The opposite perspective is that their Selective security position allows them more freedom to pursue their own, individual political goals by militarily means. Thus, small nations select individually what threat to meet or ignore. Denmark fits into both positions. In the Cold War period, it had limited “room of manoeuvring”, after it increased “dramatically”.    




1.2 Danish security policy since WWII has three phases[3]. In the Cold War period, Denmark pursued a symbolic virtual warlike security policy (although in a softer, rather selective security-like, version during the 1980s). Actually, Denmark pursued a double foreign policy: seeking protection through NATO and playing a non–provocative game with the USSR. Thus, Denmark displayed free-riding tendencies within the Alliance and was often referred to as a NATO-footnote country, refusing (for example) to support the nuclear rearmament clause in the official NATO statements. In the post-Cold War up until 9/11-2001, Danish security policy manifested itself in participation in military actions legitimized by international organizations such as the UN, the EU, NATO and the OSCE. After 2001, the foreign policy evolved even further and let us engage in sheer wars, in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes without the acceptance of the UN Security Council.




Denmark´s military strategy followed accordingly. First, as a “defensive, non-provocative actor” in the Cold War era[4], then as a “civilian/military offensive actor”in the post-Cold War period, and since 9/11 as a “strategic offensive actor”[5]. The defence policy since 2001 rests on the argument that after 9/11, the Western world is at war against rogue states harbouring terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or deploying terrorists to harm our innocent citizens. As a “strategic offensive actor” Denmark recognized the need for Danish soldiers to fight hostile forces internationally[6] even at the cost of Danish soldiers returning home in body bags. In the two last periods, the Danish defence had/has two tasks: “Total defence”or homeland defence and “internationally deployable military capacities”[7] as identified in the Defence Agreements of 2005-2009,[8] of 2010 – 2012[9], and of 2013-2017[10]. All of them repeatedly underline this defence policy of offering deployment capacities.








2. Threats


The Danish Government and Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, FE, (the Intelligence Service of the Danish Armed Forces) have identified five main threats for Denmark by 2019: Cyberattacks, Russia with its activities in The Baltic region and in the Artic area, the terror threat from the Middle East, the migration waves from predominantly Africa, and Afghanistan for having located and supported terrorists[11]. The number one threat – as defined by the FE – is cyberattacks.    




The cyber threat comes from Russia, maybe China, and other actors trying to influence our democratic system, blackmail private firms, and disrupt public institutions such as water supply installations, hospitals, etc. Two major private companies, Maersk in 2017 and Demant in 2019, have been blackmailed by cyberattacks at the cost of respectively 3 billions and over 1 billion US$. To meet the threat of cyberattacks, the Danish Government and Parliament in 2016 passed a law establishing a military cyber unit at FE, “Computer Network Operations”, CNO, served by 14 % of the total staff of the EF. It can conduct cyberattack abroad[12]. This offensive cyber capacities is now for NATO to use[13]. Another unit at the FE is “Centre for Cyber Security”, CCS, established in 2017 allowing it to supervise the IT of public and private firms corresponding with external clients and even to “spear-phishing”, i.e. to send Danish employees fake mails including private information in order to test their answers and thus detect them as “weak links in the organization” if they apply to the mail. Both the cheating of employees to act in an unlawful way and the in-depth knowledge of individuals in private and public institutions by doing so, have caused some criticism of CCS. 




Russia represents a threefold threat by its cyberattacks, aggression towards the Baltic nations, and militarization of the Arctic. Russia may try to influence our national politics by “fake news” and campaigns, in particular during election, even if no such attacks did take place in the latest election of 2019. Nevertheless, in March 2019 the director of “the Centre for Cyber Security” stated in its annual report that the cyber threat against Denmark “was very high”[14]. Russia´s occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Eastern part of Ukraine has increased fear of a similar aggression to the Baltic nations. Therefore, “Denmark has - encouraged by Washington – worked for the Nordic security- and defence cooperation to include the Baltic nations…and deployed 200 soldiers there... (and thus) to secure American engagement in the Danish neighbourhood”[15]. Moreover, Denmark has established a division headquarter in Latvia[16] and contributed to the Baltic air monitoring. In the Artic region, Denmark´s approach to Russia changes from “a credible deterrence… (to) dialogue”[17]. We are aware of Russia´s military build-up but in contrast to Norway, we do not want NATO to play a role in the Arctic as it may increase tensions with Russia[18].  




Denmark´s response to the terror threats and migration from rogue nations treating their populations inhumanely follows two tracks. At the national level, we have established border patrols trying to screen real refugees (personally threatened) from social migrants and reject access for potential terrorists. To do so, the Danish government in 2017 with the agreement of the Danish JCS, Bjørn Bisserup, decided to include Danish soldiers in guarding of our borders and specific threatened facilities (synagogue) to assist what is normally a job for police to do. Thus, Danish soldiers are no longer just present in Denmark and operate internationally; they now serve in our streets.




At the international level, Denmark´s reaction to threats from abroad is described below historically in four ways and analytically from the arguments used when we went to war in Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan 2001, and Iraq 2003.


First, by the number of Danish military deployments abroad over the last two centuries compared to those of the US, cf. table 1.


Table 1. Number of Missions With US and Danish Soldiers 1800-2017[19].
















126 ->












Table 1 shows that from 1950 to 2017, the US have contributed three times (237) as often in international military operations abroad as Denmark (73). Denmark´s increased military involvement over time support the argument that even smaller countries in Selective security positions increase their “room of maneuvering” knowing that more actors in military conflicts do not increase the number of war casualties[20].




Second, by the number of Danish military involvements abroad since 1945 under the leadership of different leading actors such as UN, NATO, or the US/Coalitions, cf. table 2.




Table 2. Initiating Actor for Denmark´s Military Engagements 1945-2018




Leading Actor






The UN












The US/Coalition















Table 2 shows that for nearly fifty years, 1945-1989, the UN had a monopoly over Denmark´s military engagements abroad, except for the one in Germany right after WWII. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the number of Danish engagement in UN-missions declined and a minor increase in NATO-missions in the 2000s took place. Table 2 also reveals that the peak of Danish military international engagements occurred in the 1990s.




Third, by listing the 21 major Danish military engagements abroad since 1948 with respect to where, with what service (Army, Navy, and Air Force), in what type of conflict (low-high risk), and for how long time (short-long-term) Denmark went to war thus excluding the 55 minor operations in which rather few Danish officers and officials participated.






Table 3. 21 Major Danish Military Deployments, 1948 – 2018[21]




No. Operation/Service




Conflict intensity

Deployed soldiers/ dead

1. Army

1948  ->





2. Army

1956 – 1967





3. Army

1960 – 1964





4. Army

1964 – 1994





5. Navy

1990 – 1991




(350 – 500)

6. Army

7. Army

1992 – 2003

1999 – 2009








8. Air Force


Serbia, Kosovo

Allied Force



9. Army

2000 - 2001





10. Army/Air Force

2003 - (2014)


ISAF/Enduring Freedom


   8,600         43

11. Army

2003 – (2007)




   5,500           6

12. Army






13. Navy/Air Force

2009 – 2016

The Aden Bay

Ocean Shield



14. Army

2009 – 2011





15. Air Force



Unified Protector



16. Army/Air Force






17. Navy

2013 – 2014





18. Army/Air Force



Inherent Resolve



19. Army



Resolute Support



20. Army/Air Force






21. Army/Air Force

2016 (2014)

Iraq + Syria[22]

Inherent Resolve






Table 3 shows that until 1970, Danish soldiers only served in rather few international military missions abroad. Actually, in the Cold War period the deployment issue for Denmark was the other way around. UK and US soldiers should come to our reinforcement in case of a USSR/Warsaw attack. It changed in 1990 with the deployment of the navy vessel, Olfert Fischer, in the Gulf war.




Geographically, Danish soldiers up to year 2000 served abroad most often in near-by locations such as Germany, Cyprus, Lebanon, etc. In the next decade, they served more broadly in the US, Estonia, Balkan, Africa, and Asia, and even more diversely so in the period 2010-2018. In short, Denmark´s military engagements changed from 1990 and onwards to “more operations, by more actors, and for more goals to be accomplished”[23].




Table 3 also tells that the Army, in particular, delivered soldiers abroad, then the Air Force, and finally the Navy[24]. The bulk of deployments took place from 2003 and a decade ahead. In 1992, we sent 1,400 soldiers to the Balkan. In 1993, this figure doubled to 2,700 after which it gradually fall to around 1,700 in 1998. From 1999 to 2005, Denmark made 3,000 yearly deployments, in particular to Iraq. From 2006 to 2009, the number of deployments grew by 50% to around 4,500, mostly for Afghanistan as Denmark´s military presence in Iraq stopped by 2007. Today, the total number of deployed Danish soldiers abroad is below 700.




Fourth, by structuring the 21 major missions in table 3 even further based on duration (short/long), intensity (low/high), and location as shown in table 4.
















Table 4. Danish Military Missions Abroad by Destination, Duration and Intensity





                                          Time of Deployment

Conflict type



   Low intensive

16. Mali, air bombing                                A

19. Afghanistan                                                                                     



1.   Israel, observers                           B

2.   Gaza                                            

3.   Congo

4.   Cyprus

14. Lebanon

   High intensive

5.   The Gulf, Olfert Fischer                       D

9.   Eritrea, coordinate UN troops

12. Sudan, SHIBRIG

15. Libya, air bombing

17. Syria, naval transport chemical weapons

18. Iraq, air bombing

17. Serbia, air bombing

18. Iraq, air bombing

20. Iraq

21. Iraq, Syria, Air Force

6.   Balkan, (IFOR, SFOR, KFOR)          C

8.   Kosovo

10. Afghanistan (ISAF)

11. Iraq (DANCON)

13. The Aden Bay, Pirate interceptions





Table 4 shows that Danish military deployments abroad started in UN-led, long-term and low-intensity missions, box B. In the 2000s, Denmark deployed soldiers mostly participating in long-term, high-intensity military missions, box C. Danish soldiers´ present engagement is mostly in short-term, high-intensity conflicts, box D. Thus, Denmark´s military engagements has since WWII moved from B via C to D. Box D-deployments are more costly than those of box C as any new mission demands both investments and maintenance of expensive gear such as tanks, planes, and vessels. However today, a new type of deployment awaits Danish soldiers: To join the NATO Reaction Force to assist other NATO countries, for instance the Baltic nations neighbouring Russia[25]. Thus, Danish military deployments have moved “from deploy to prepare”[26].




The political perception of threats from abroad met by hard military involvement, began in 1990 and has since been a major element in Denmark´s foreign policy[27]. For the last 30 years, Denmark has been more willing to define and meet threats with our Armed Forces than before. I the first period of the Cold War 1945 – 1990, the UN had – as said - a monopoly on Danish military contributions. Then, Denmark joined NATO- and US/Coalition military missions in high-risk conflicts for several years. In both cases, it was more important for Denmark just to join the missions of the leading actor than to win the wars. Thus, threats are less important than who is in charge. At the same time, the danger of the threat, i.e. its intensity, is less important for our military engagement than its expected duration judged by our present engagement in shorter but still high-risk deployments. Denmark joins only long term deployments such as the ones in the Baltic region if in turn with other NATO allies.


Analytically, Denmark reveals its threat perception by the way we try to come to grips with them. In general, military reactions are accepted. Since WWII, Danish politicians have been in favor of international military engagements and consistently spoken positively about them. The 12 military engagements in UN missions in 1945 – 1989 were normally neither argued for in official records as our official security policy or strategy nor linked to the force structure or equipment acquisitions of the Danish armed forces. Actually, the militarily active Danish foreign and defense policy was decided without much debate in Parliament where it was broadly supported — and enjoyed broad public support according to public opinion polls telling that two-thirds of the Danes accept ‘Denmark’s engagement in UN international missions’[28]. Accordingly, public support was low for our Iraqi engagement in 2003 – 2007[29].


The analysis of the political arguments for Denmark to go to war follows two paths. First, a presentation of a model showing the factors influencing such a decision. Then, the identification of the type of arguments used (political, military, humanitarian) to do so. Both paths are based on an in-depth study of all written materials between Government and Parliament and from them to the public along with interviews with the members of this political elite on our missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq (the three missions in bold in table 4). In total, 1.104 written documents (of which 37 remained classified), notes, statements, etc. serve as background for figure 2 and table 5.. 




The model of decisive factors for Denmark´s decisions to go war includes four factors, external relations (threats, bilateral and multilateral relations), internal influencers (actors such as the PM, government, parliament, authorities as officials and officers), historical lessons (from former military engagements) versus future, and expected gains and costs, cf. figure 2[30].




Figure 2. Explanation Model for Denmark´s Military Engagements in Kosovo


              1999, Afghanistan 2001, and Iraq 2003














1. External relations
































4. Lessons


from earlier





























5. Expected

Gains and losses





Military engagement







































2. Internal influencers

Individuals, government, Parliament incl. its Foreign Policy committee (=Udenrigspolitisk Nævn), Authorities




























7. Conditions

Political goals/means vs. formal juridical constrains

Unite contending interest/values

Combine ambitions and resources















The model presents a number of influencing factors that defines “the room of manoeuvring”, i.e. the circle in the middle. Within these factors and between them exist “areas of tension” in which a military engagement is decided. One is in external relations between allies and enemies, i.e. threats (1); another is in internal influencers between national players such as the government, the parliament, the opposition, officials, officers, etc. (2). A third is between the two factors (3). A fourth is in lessons learned from earlier conflicts (4), a fifth in the calculations of future gains and losses of a new one (5), while a sixth one is between the two (6). All these “areas of tension” are framed by multiple conditions: The political will vs. the juridical rules and norms, contending values and interest (humanitarian assistance vs. military enforcement), and political ambitions vs. limited military resources (7). On top of it all, any small nation knows that it itself carries the main burden of its military participation as just a supporting actor. Thus, the security threat factor facing Denmark is one among many in the decision-making process. To put it differently, other factors filters the threat before it is valued and met.




Second, an analysis of the three types of arguments: Political, military, and humanitarian, used for Denmark´s military engagement in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq as shown in table 5.






















Table 5. Political, Military, and Humanitarian Arguments for Denmark to Go to


             War in Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003)[31] 





B     4     Oct 8, 1998

B 148  June 27, 1999


B 37 Dec 12, 2001


B 118 March 2003


Open documents

classified   -    








Government  Parl. Public

Government Parliament Publ

Gov.                  Parliament    Public


1)“In the

PM office,

the Alliance



played a

major role”,

p 24



with the

US”, p 26


was a


of a US


p 27

10) “After 2002-03,

the US and the UK

demanded Iraq to

comply to UN

Security Resolution.

The Danish


followed the same

course”, p 29


11) “The Danish

government knew

that the US aim was

a new regime”, p 31                          



2) “Government



in NATO that

the alliance





i.e. Denmark


a Danish



P 24


                Nævn agreed to

                send military

                liaison  officers              

                to the US Central

                Command to

                coordinate mil.

                operations” p 27

6)“The new


got the support

of Udenrigs-

politisk Nævn

to negotiate

with the US to

fight terror”,

p 27

7) “Danish


gave US

officials the


of Danish


to participate

in the international

effort against

terror”, p 27f 

8)“Official Danish

Iraqi policy argued,

as the US and the

UK that Iraq had

weapons of mass

destruction”, p 29    

10) “Danish

PM Anders Fogh

Rasmussen …

meant for Denmark

to support the

US in the fight

against terror”

p 30           








                    12) “Government

                          explained Det 


                          Nævn that the aim

                         of the use of force

                         was to disarm the

                          regimep 31





               participated in

               the proposed


               operation for


               reason”, p 24






Table 5 distinguishes in the first column between the types of arguments and between whom they were communicated: Government, Parliament, including Det Udenrigspolitiske Nævn, UN, (the Foreign Committee of the Parliament) and the public (in italics). The numbers in front of each of the 12 arguments show their chronological order. In my view, three arguments are political (1, 4, and 9), seven military (2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11), and only one humanitarian (3). Some arguments could arguably also be coded otherwise. All political arguments were restricted to government and its officials, while UN received one military argument (5), regrettably not the real political one (11 and 12) as seen from a democratic point of view[32] (in bold).    




Most arguments for Denmark´s engagements in all three wars are military, but behind them existed a clear political argument to preserve our relationship with the US. In the Kosovo conflict, it more precisely was a concern for unity within the NATO Alliance and thus even with the US; in Afghanistan it was in solidarity with the US; in the Iraq, it was to signal a unity with the US[33]. Thus, unity is a major political argument, seldom security threats, only the WMD in Iraq. American pressure is seldom identified. On the contrary. Denmark listens to wishes from the US and meet them without much discussion.




The military arguments include security threats, “fight against terror” (6, 7, and 10) and “disarm the regime” (12). Even if Denmark defines the threat in a military way we join warfare coalitions for political reasons to meet security threats defined by the US. Actually, the Danish government seldom writes a strategy paper for the parliament or the public, except for the Kosovo war, where a 5 - 6 pages note even listed arguments “pro-et-con” on Denmark´s military engagement.




The Danish dialog between the PM, in particular, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, opposition leaders in Parliament, and a few top officials on why Denmark should go to war was informal and on a high level. They made no clear decision to go to war but took incremental steps from which it was difficult to go back[34]. Information to UN happened seldom and late in the decision-making process and was rather minimalistic[35].




Behind the political and military arguments of pleasing the US, three other explanations are relevant. One is historical, the desire of many Danish politicians to improve Denmark’s international reputation and position, i.e. ‘the compensation argument’ and thus make the US forget the negative impression of Denmark as a ‘footnote’ and a doubtful NATO ally during the 1980s. Thus, with Denmark in a clear-cut selective security position after the Cold War, Danish politicians saw new possibilities in conducting a more military active foreign and defense policy shown by increased military engagements abroad.


Another is political, i.e. the risk for smaller countries to be sidelined and forgotten in international politics, i. e. ‘the marginalization argument’. If the active military Danish foreign and defense policy is based on a fear of low international prestige and marginalization, then the proof of the argument is international attention and recognition. One cannot argue that Denmark has a higher international prestige in military missions abroad than Norway, Sweden or Finland. One can argue that Denmark has a higher military participation rate in robust international military missions[36].


A third argument is military and is an extension of the one just mentioned, i.e. `the robustness argument´. Denmark wants not only to be seen as a reliable ally, but a robust one, as well, showed by our battle accomplishments. In the UN peace-keeping mission in Bosnia, Denmark was the first nation to insist to equip our soldiers with tanks as they got in 1995, and used in more battles (cf. operation “Bøllebank”). In Afghanistan, Denmark suffered the relative highest death rate Western countries of 7,8 with 43 killed soldiers 2001-2014 pr. 5,5 million citizens, while it for the US was 7,6 and the UK 7,4. The three arguments reveal that Denmark´s wish for pleasing the US is of major importance, while security threats play a minor role for our decisions to go to war.


3. Militarization


In the beginning of the post Cold War period, the increased public prestige of the military due to its military engagements abroad is one indication of a growing soft militarization in Denmark. Another is the fact that more senior officers exploited it to play a more independent political role within and sometimes even against the will of the political system of government and parliament. It changed the balance of civil-military relations in favour of the latter, a change of which some top officers could not resist taking advantage. It is a paradox that the Danish military elite, already enjoying a very high degree of autonomy among NATO countries in the 1990s and the 2000s ignored even modest attempts at political and administrative control on several occasions.


On several political issues, the military elite did ignore the political directives, for instance to recruit and incorporate more female soldiers or to comply to budget restictions where they repeatedly overspent or mismanaged its resources, almost without any political sanctions. Moreover, it got increased heavy representation and influence in Defence Commissions and on political decisions. In particular, the political behaviour of three consecutive JCSs ignoring or contradicting civil supremacy and democratic rules in the years 1991 – 2009 illustrates a high degree of soft militarization. JCS Christian Hvidt from the Air Force (1996 – 2002) did so more times[37]. Most decisively, he did so in 2001 when he in the EU Military Committee voted for his Finnish collegue and hunting mate, General Hägglund, to get the chair contrary to the instruction letter from the Foreign Office explicitly and firmly referring to the Danish defence reservations as a reason for not to do so. Hvidt clearly ignored the most democratic argument, a referendum, again without any political sanctions or personal consequences.


The second JCS from the Army, Jesper Helsø (2004-2011), repeatedly concealed information from his chief, forsvarsminister (Secretary of Defense) Søren Gade (2004 – 2011). He even legislated. In 2004, he/the Danish Defense Command, DDC, released its vision of a transformed Danish defense on its own initiative hereby defining the defense and security policy of Denmark. The vision recommended to replace the traditional focus on territorial defense with a new focus on international missions and did so in a “Capacity Paper”. Normally, no JCS/DDC takes such an initiative introducing a radical draft for the transformation of the armed forces. However, a weak Parliament more or less adopted the paper as a bill without major changes thus avoiding confrontations with the powerful Defense Command exploiting the prestige of our soldiers. Actually, the paper served as a successful damage control for Helsø´s publicly expressed doubt/criticism of a political decision to reduce the conscription period to only four months as it stopped further criticism of him and his statement.




The third JCS Tim Sloth Jørgensen from the Navy (2008 – 2009) tried to suppress the publication of the book Jæger – I krig med eliten by a former special force soldier, the equivalent of a UK SOS or a US Navy Seal soldier. Senior officers in his staff wrongly told Sloth Jørgensen that the book was google-translated to Arabic and available on the Internet revealing classified secrets. Therefore, Sloth Jørgensen argued that the book contained secrets – what it didn´t - and as it failed, he recommended Danish media not to quote from. It is not a democratic task of any media to withhold information.




Another, still historical, example of the soft militarization of the security discourse in Denmark is the order of the political leadership in a new Defence Agreement of 2008 for the Armed Forces to deploy 2,000 soldiers abroad for international military missions. The military elite declared it impossible, had only 1,450 soldiers deployable, and no political sanctions did occur.


Final examples of militarization is the power invested in the FE and its CNO and CCS controlling Danish public and private companies and conducting offensive cyberattacks abroad and the presence of soldiers in the streets to guard borders and sensitive institutions.




To conclude, the disobeying JCSs, the FE´s new NCO- and CCS-organizations, and Danish soldiers in the street indicate soft militarization in Denmark. The JCSs were able to do so due to the high public prestige of our soldiers serving abroad, i.e. the hard militarization. They used the public and political prestige of the Danish armed forces´missions abroad to their own benefits. The increased influence of the FE is a result of the fact that Denmark is a major digital nation and thus very vulnerable to cyberattacks. The political decision to apply soldiers in Denmark enjoys broad political support, including from the Social Democratic party, SD, which is tuff on migration in contrast to SD-parties in other European nations.




The hard militarization is the process that increases the legitimacy to use violence. The many Danish military deployments abroad as shown in tables 1 – 4 above, describe a threat perception pattern at a lower level now than before. It means that the threats Denmark decides to meet are closer to home than before in the Baltic, at the border, and in the offices and, at the same time, broader in scope. Denmark has organized herself in a lesser degree for the production of violence, i.e. hard militarization, than for an over-all activity to meet the wider spectrum of threats.












4. Democratic Accountability


The question here is to what extend the political leadership has decided what the military should do. With respect to soft militarization, the JCSs had first conguered and then lost much influence in the post Cold War Era. With respect to the democratic control of FE and its cyber threat activities, Government and Parliament as early as in 1988 established the “Kontroludvalget”, a committee of five MPs from the five major political parties, entitled to supervise FE and get information from FE on its important activities. FE´s offensive cyberattacks demands specific approval from the Parliament. 




The political control of hard militarization, i.e. the deployment of and leading Danish soldiers abroad, has turned rigid. The argument goes that democratic control is effective when civilian state institutions are able to set limits on the freedom of action of the military. But, the argument suffers. Partly because political interference on battlefield activities reduces the military professional efficiency and may cause casualties. Partly, because civil-military relations rest on a zero game sum perception meaning that a loss of influence for the military is equal to civil control. It is far from the case when political objectives are autonomously shaped by the politcians and for the military just to abide to thus excluding professional military insight.  




In Denmark, the horizontal civil control with hard militarization is identified in three cases that have in common a reduction of the scope of normal military autonomy. The first case is Secretary of Defence, Søren Gade, ordering a certain military tactics on the battlefield in the Helmand region, Afghanistan, in December 2007, as part of ”samtænkningsstrategi” similar to the US “hearts and minds strategy”. It was formally initiated by DoD and the Department of States and prescribed in the “Helmandsplan”. The strategy required the soldiers to combine war and nation building at the same time. Danish soldiers in Helmand were instructed by government officials and supported by Parliament to drive in light vehicles such as jeeps, and not in armored hooded crew vehicles or tanks, in order to more easily get in touch with the local population. This order was given despite the fact that in October 2007, CLN Kim Kristensen, head of the Danish Battalion in Helmand, had asked for tanks for the protection of his soldiers. Of course, it is the political prerogative to decide the level of risk/loses so that no lack of democratic accountability is found here. On the other hand, Søren Gade ignored a military professional request for what reason he is responsible for the heavy loss of too many killed Danish soldiers as described above. In addition, Dyrby Paulsen, MP for SD, even argued uncontradicted that casualties would not influence the strategy in Afghanistan.




The second case of the political reduction of military influence was the initiatives of the Secretary of Defence, Nick Hækkerup (2011 – 2013). In 2013, he made a deal with left-wing parties to reduce the influence of the JCS by handing over economy, personnel, and gear from the JCS to the DoD to decide, cf. the Law 200 of May 28, 2013 thus declining the theory of increased militarization[38].  Still, the JCS shall present an annual independent strategy paper, but he must rely on data from DoD headed by Nick Hækkerup. Moreover, he decided to ignore the historical right of the three services to rotate for the JCS-post and he  welcomed a civilian person to be the next JCS and criticized the armed forces for having old-fashioned officers and a poor culture.




The third case of the political reduction of militarization is politicians´ avoidance of any responsibility for their lethal “samtænkningsstrategi”. They manage to do so writing a mission paper ”Internationale erfaringer med at skabe sammenhæng i indsatserne i Afghanistan 2001 - 2014” (“International Experiences with the Creation of coherent strategy in the Afghanistan operations 2001 – 2014”) first promising to tell what happened down there, but then instructing Dansk Institut for Internationale Studier, DIIS, to exclude “military activities at the tactical/operative level”. But, it is economically the most important of the two elements of the “samtænkning” strategy with a price tag of DDK 12,5 mia., where the nation building and development effort costs DDK 3,5 mia. No true report on “samtænkning” is possible to write when military actions, the most expensive element, are excluded and only and nationbuilding included.




The three cases have focused on the horizontal civil control, i.e. decicisions by politicians for the military to abide to. The cases contradict the expected equation that growth in threats increases militarization, which then reduces democratic control. For other reasons the equation suffers. Denmark did not define what threats to react on militarily by deploying soldiers abroad. When, where, and how to stop terror from being exported, refugees to leave their countries, and rogue states to develop WMD was not for Denmark, but for the US to decide. Moreover, the analysis of the arguments for Denmark´s military engagements abroad in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq showed that the political arguments concentrated on Denmark´s obligation to unite with the US and NATO as a solidaric gesture. The military arguments did include security threats, however more often defined by the US than by Denmark.




Danish politicians more independently define the threats of cyber attacks, migration and national counter terrorism, and exercised horizontal civil control of the FE and of the military instructed to deploy soldiers in the streets. On the other hand, the case of three politicizing JCSs confirms the equation of


more militarization after which it was dramatically stopped demonstrating horizontal civil control of the military, cf. the “samtænkning” and the transfer of functions from the JCS to DoD.  


Vertical civil control is shown in public and parliamentary debates on the security, threats, the Armed Forces, and in elections, inclusion of citizens in politics, and transparency, etc. In Denmark, vertical control has passed through three stages after the Cold War. In the first post Cold War period, we find positive, uncritical, and courteous politicians and media exercising normal civil control relations and healthy civil-military relation during Denmark´s engagement in Bosnia. In the second stage 1995 - 2008, cases of unaccountability are identified. One is the disrespectful and undemocratic behaviour of the three JCSs. Another is the dysfunctional behaviour of the military elite ignoring internal problems such as too few female soldiers, the changed force structure, PTSD-veterans, the financial mismanagement etc. to which no politicians reacted. The third stage is a turn-around period in which politicians emptied the functions of the JCS in 2013 and restricted DIIS from a proper and independent report on the “samtænkningsstrategi” from Afghanistan[39] in 2014. It meant that politicians got off the hook for their responsibility for the many killed soldiers in Afghanistan which has nothing to do with vertical civil control. In contrast, their exclusion of “lessons learned” for the military in the report has.     




The clash between the three politizicing JCSs and the passive politicians may be excused for both actors. The JCSs can be excused through the distinction to have vs. to exercise control. Top officers define control to exist until otherwise exercised by politicians. Politicians expect top officers to apply to the democratic rules for what reason they retain to exercise control. The passive politicians may, moreover, be excused, even if democratic accountability is for them to solve, as security, threats, the Armed Forces, etc. are complicated issues in which they ‘lack military insight’[40]. Therefore, ‘defence… (is) undoubtedly the most controversial and most complicated issues in Denmark’s history after 1864’[41]. Finally, ‘defence policy has a relative marginal position in the public debate and the political spectre …´[42] and enjoy ‘a heavy ballast of consensus among Danish politicians´ for what reason the problem of democratic control of the armed forces is a minor issue.






5. Conclusion


Denmark´s security position was presented by a matrix including the presence and/or absence of allies and enemies after which its security policy and military strategy from 1945 to today was described.




To day, Denmark faces five main threats: Cyberattacks, Russia with its activities in The Baltic region and in the Artic area, the terror threat from the Middle East, the migration waves from predominantly Africa, and Afghanistan having located and supported terrorists. Denmark defines the threats of cyberattacks, migration, and counterror initiatives in Denmark on its own while the US are defining threats abroad. It can be concluded from the deployment pattern of Danish soldiers abroad since the end of the Cold War and by the decision-making process in government and parliament/the public for Denmark to go to war in Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan 2001, and Iraq 2003. Of the three different arguments: Political, humanitarian, and military, we went to war for the political reason of pleasing the US. It is as important for Denmark to join these wars defined by the US as to win them.




Soft militarization was found in the increased prestige of the military and in three successive JCSs ignoring/contradicting political decisions. Hard Militarization was excluded by political interference in the military tactics in Afghanistan, a drastic reduction of the functions of the JCS, and no lessons-learned-report. In this case, heavy democratic accountability could be identified. It means that the equation of increased threats causing militarization and less democratic control is not applicable for Denmark even if it may fit most other democratic nations for the simple reason that the concept of threat is broader than any security term and imply a proactive effort different from the reaction policy during the the Cold War. The premis for the equation to be fulfilled lies in the fact that the security threat concept has changed. Previously, security existed by reaction, cfr. MAD, multiple assured destruction, or the denial of success for an aggressor by a counter attck. Threat is a pre-active concept designed to avoid any insecure situation to materialize and includes much more alarming factors such as any possibility of violence, crime, climate catastrophes, and unwanted migration. For that reason many more threats are identified today than before. Traditionally, security issues was for the Armed Forces to handle. It logically expanded its influence and thus normally decreased democratic control. The introduction of the new concept of “threat” instead of security explains the validity of the equation.   


Henning Sørensen










CCS         Centre for Cyber Security


CNO         Computer Network Operations


DDC         Danish Defense Command


DIIS        Danish Institute for International Studies


FE           The Intelligence Servise of the Armed Forces


JCS          Joint Chief of Staff


PM           Prime Minister


SD           Social Democratic party


WMD        Weapons of Mass Destruction                                                                                           


WWII       World War II


UN           The Foreign Committee of the Parliament




















[1] For further explanations on the security model see Sørensen, Henning, ”NATO and Its New Military Security Position”, p 74-79, in European Security, Vol. 7, no. 1 (Spring 1998)

[2] Mouritzen, Hans, ”Fire nordiske Ruslands-relationer. På vej mod en fællesnordisk Ruslands-politik efter Krim and Trump” p 197-222 in Internasjonal Politikk vol. 77, no 2, September 2019), here p 5.

[3] See Heurlin, Bertel, Global, Regional and National Security, (Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS, 2001); Rynning, Steen, “Danish Security Policy after September 11”, Danish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2003; Grønnegaard Christensen, Jørgen & Petersen, Nikolaj, Managing Foreign Affairs: A Comparative Perspective, Copenhagen Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS, 2005

[4]Heurlin, (2001), op.cit., chapt. 8

[5]Rynning (2003), op.cit., p 24

[6] Ibid., p 24

[7]The Danish Defence Agreement 2005 – 2009 (quotations from the official web page):”Changes in the international security environment require the Danish Defence to strengthen its capacities in two central areas: 1) International deployable military capacities and 2) the ability to counter terror acts and their consequences”, p 1.

[8]The Danish Defence Agreement 2005 – 2009, p 4: The Danish Armed Forces had to deliver “…a much greater capability than before to participate in peace-support operations…and to release resources that enable Danish Defence to mobilize and deploy forces promptly and flexibly in international operations and to maintain deployed capacities that are the equivalent of some 2,000 personnel (1,500 from the Army and 500 from the Navy and the Air Force)”.

[9] Forsvarskommandoen (Defence Command), Årsrapport 2012 (Annual Report 2012), (København), 86pp, here p 65

[10]Aftale på forsvarsområdet 2013 – 2017 (Political Agreement 2013 – 2017) (Nov 30, 2012), 44pp. Deployment mentioned repeatedly, see just p 1:”The defence shall still have the capacity to deploy abroad more and greater contributions”; “improve the defence in two respects: The international deployment capacities and the ability to countermeasure terror actions and their effects”; ”the Defence are continuously organized to contribute with rearmed and well-educated units for all types of international missions”

[11] Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, FET, (2018), Efterretningsmæssig Risikovurdering 2018 (Intelligent Risk-Assesment), last edited November 23, 2018, 5p; Danmarks Regering, Udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitisk strategi 2019-2010, (København: Det danske Udenrigsministerium), 27 s    

[12]Berlingske ”FE i cyberoffensiv”, Sept. 29, 2019, p 4f

[13]Udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitisk strategi 2019-2010, op. cit., p 6

[14] Center for Cyber Sikkerhed, Årlige nationale rapport (2019).

[15] Mouritzen, (2019), op. cit. p 6, p 16, and p 17.

[16]Udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitisk strategi 2019-2010, op. cit., p 11

[17]Udenrigs- og sikkerhedspolitisk strategi 2019-2010, op. cit., p 13

[18] Kunz, B (2018), Northern Europe´s Strategic Challenge from Russia”, Russie.Nei.Visions. No 111. (Paris: Institut Francais de relations internationals), here p 11f

[19] For US data: Berlingske, Dec. 12, 2018 p 27, ”Når Trump lytter til folket skælver verden”. For Danish data: Krigsudredning, Vol. 3,

p 551 ff, and figure 1, p 553

[20] Pinker, Steve, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity, 2011

[22]B 8 2016 Vedtaget Forslag til folketingsbeslutning om udsendelse af et supplerende dansk militært bidrag til støtte for indsatsen mod ISIL (Passed bill on a further deployed Danish military capacity in support of the fight against ISIL), November 10, 2015

[23] Mariager & Wivel: op. cit. Vol. 1, p 135

[24] According to Danish Wikipedia the Army has participated in 10 international mission, the Navy in 14, and the Air Force in 8 from 1960 - 2014 see   

[25]Forsvarsavisen  (Defence paper), 2.2016:4-6. Minister of Defence, Peter Christensen, “I am impressed over the Armed Forces”, in “The Defence Paper” “(“:”…we shall extend the Danish military to contribute more to NATO´s fast Reaction Force.” 

[26] CS-Bladet No. 2.2014, p 24: “Hærens nye opgaver” (“The New Tasks of the Army”)

[27] Mariager & Wivel, op. cit., Vol. 1, p 145

[28]  The public opinion polls are from Jakobsen, Peter Viggo, “Fra ferie til flagskib: Forsvaret og de international operationer”, (Copenhagen, Danish Institute for International Studies, 2006), p 5f, table 3

[29] The decision to deploy soldiers in Iraq passed Parliament with a majority of only 12 votes of the 179 members of the Parliament. Even if the left-wing opposition was against Denmark´s military engagement in Iraq, it supported the bill that covered the military expenditures of this deployment

[30] This section of the article is based on Mariager, Rasmus & Wivel, Anders, Hvorfor gik Danmark I krig?, Copenhagen: Rosendahl 2019) vol. 1 of 4, 394 p, here p 75-85 including fig. 2.2, p 77

[31] The references following each quotation refers to Mariager & Wivel, op. cit., Vol 1 (My translations. HS)

[32] Mariager & Wivel, op. cit., Vol. 1 p 31

[33] Mariager & Wivel, op. cit., Vol. 1 p 361f

[34] Mariager & Wivel, op. cit., Vol. 1 p 22

[35] Mariager & Wivel, op. cit., Vol. 1, p 324 :”The minimalistic (communications-) praxis used (by the government) towards Det Udenrigspolitiske Nævn…”

[36] Sørensen, Henning, “The Foreign and Defence Policy of the Nordic Countries and the Unique Case of Denmark´s Military Activism”, p 241 – 250, in Wilson III, Isaiah & Forrest, James J. F., Handbook of Defence Politics, (New York, Routledge, 2008) 469 pp, here p 246 and table 17.4 p 245

[37]Jyllandsposten, 2001b: ‘When the government in 1999 presented its defence proposal … Hvidt emailed his officers criticising it … Several felt that Hvidt moved at the edge of what is suitable for a loyal public servant.’

[38] Bill 200 of May 28, 2013, transferring economy, logistic, personnel, IT, barracks, etc., from the Danish Joint Chief of Staff , JCS to the Department of Defence, DoD, ie. from a military professional to a civil academic public servant. 

[39]Sørensen, Henning, ”Samtænkningens fatale konsekvenser” (”The Fatal Consequences of ”Samtænkningen””), Weeekendavisen December 8, 2017

[40] Petersen, Nikolaj, 1980, p. 149)

[41]Bjerg, Hans-Christian Bjerg, Til Fædrelandets forsvar: Værnepligten I Danmark gennem tiderne1991, p. 7)

[42]Heurlin, Bertel, “Hvor sikker er freden?” in Fred og Konflikt, 1991, p. 21