Arctic plays key role in Denmark security strategy


The Danish government recently published a new foreign and security policy strategy in which the Arctic and North Atlantic region plays an increasingly important role.

The Kingdom of Denmark´s Arctic policy is low tension for the benefit of the Arctic states and its population. This policy is being pursued through strengthened cooperation among Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands regarding foreign, security and defense policy and in close cooperation and collaboration with allies and partners in the Arctic, especially the U.S.

Over the past five years, the Danish Joint Arctic Command (JACO) has increased its capabilities in the Arctic and North Atlantic region. JACO will continue to strengthen its situational awareness and surveillance capabilities to uphold sovereignty and presence in the region. This, combined with decades of experience, will contribute to NATO’s situational awareness and support relevant NATO activities in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Denmark’s increased focus in the Arctic is a consequence of changing geopolitics and the evolving security environment. The Danish government aims to maintain the Arctic as a stable region of mutual cooperation where adherence to international law and the rules-based international system is fundamental.

Denmark believes a balanced approach to the security environment will help maintain the Arctic as a stable region. At the same time, it remains vigilant of changes in the security environment and geopolitics of the Arctic, especially in light of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and its potential long-term effects on the region.

A U.S. Marine, foreground, and a member of the 1 Danish Home Guard move up range during an Arctic Eagle combined arms exercise at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Michigan.) MST. SGT. DAVID KUJAWA/U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD

Other areas of attention, though peacefully managed within the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, are overlapping territorial claims related to the outer-continental shelf.

JACO’s military task is to defend Greenland and Faroe Island, execute surveillance, maintain territorial sovereignty, and host potential reception, staging, onward movement and integration. JACO also holds sea and air search and rescue responsibility with a Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, executes a number of constabulary tasks and support civilian society in many ways.

Units and bases in JACO are mostly isolated, so logistic operational planning is a key to success. The size of the Arctic and North Atlantic area of the Kingdom, the distances, lack of infrastructure and extreme weather conditions make operations difficult and challenge situational awareness and surveillance.

The increased interest in the Arctic and North Atlantic region follows an increase in direct and indirect demands of Denmark as provider of military equipment, host nation support and regional expertise. JACO seeks to strengthen the mission in the Arctic and North Atlantic region together with allies and partners and the governments of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. This is done by reaching out for closer operational cooperation, information sharing, training and exercises, and by this, together demonstrating responsibility and commitment to keep the Arctic and North Atlantic region stable.

Denmark supports NATO’s increased focus in the Arctic and North Atlantic region. The alliance has a strong and legitimate interest in securing sea lines of communication across the Atlantic and the Greenland-Island-United Kingdom Gap Area of Operation. Denmark is participating in NATO planning activities and exercises and contributing to the manning of Joint Force Command Norfolk. (Pictured: Danish military officers meet with U.S. Alaskan Command leadership and staff to learn about Exercise Arctic Edge 2022 at the command’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in March 2022.)

The receding ice has led to increased activity in the Arctic, as well as in maritime traffic, commerce, exploration for natural resources and tourism. This provides new opportunities for economic growth but also new challenges in managing the risks that follow. The Kingdom of Denmark works together with other Arctic coastal states to increase readiness, including civil emergency response, search and rescue, oil pollution readiness, and safe navigation.

Climate change so far has not had an immediate effect on JACO maritime operations. There is still plenty of ice — polar ice coming down the east coast and ice between Canada and Greenland. However, land operations in Northeast Greenland have been affected by delayed ice coverage of the fjords, which has led to a change in how dogsled patrols are conducted, especially during autumn. The window for sled patrolling has been compressed due to later buildup of ice in autumn and earlier thawing in spring. Extreme weather conditions with more rain in the summer cause the graveled runways to be non-operational more frequently when they become wet and too soft;

The long-term reduction in the amount of sea ice will increase the accessibility to remote areas in the Arctic and will potentially open new sea lines of communication through — or in close vicinity to — the JACO area of responsibility. This could increase the requirement for presence and affect capability development. JACO will monitor the development and share the situational picture with allies and partners.