Danish Foreign Policy

Danish Flag painted on Bolt, Copenhagen
Danish Flag painted on Bolt, Copenhagen

I have a keen interest in Danish foreign policy. I am interested in the historical roots of Danish foreign policy as well as current challenges and opportunities.

‘In War and Peace: Security and Defence Policy in a Small State’ provides a historical overview of Danish security and defence policy from 1864 – when Denmark lost a third of its territory in a war with Prussia and Austria – to the security challenges of the late 2010s. I show how ‘lessons’ of 1864 and World War II have shaped Danish foreign policy up until today.

In ‘Still living in the Shadow of 1864? Danish foreign Policy Doctrines and the Origins of Denmark’s Pragmatic Activism’, I argue that Danish foreign policy over the past century is informed by a liberal egalitarian ideology in combination with elite and popular consensus that Denmark is small state and needs to navigate international affairs accordingly. The result is a foreign policy best described as ‘pragmatic activism’. I explain how and why this policy has developed over the past century.

I have worked extensively on the post-Cold developments of Danish foreign policy. My work includes publications on Denmark and the European Union and Denmark and NATO as well as Danish security policy in general and Denmark’s military activism.

Independent inquiry on Denmark's military participation in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq by Rasmus Mariager and Anders Wivel.

I served as Chief Investigator and Deputy Director of Research in the Independent Inquiry on Denmark’s Military Participation in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan commissioned by Danish Parliament (2017-2019). The inquiry concluded that Danish decision-makers were eager to meet US expectations, even if these expecations were rarely put forward as demands.

Another interesting conclusion from the inquiry was that decisions to go to war were typically long processes of small steps towards military engagement rather than explicit decisions based on assessments of costs and benefits. Finally, we documented the importance of informal deliberations among Danish policy-makers and with allies, most importantly the United States. You can read an article in English summarizing the results here.

In From Nordic Peacekeeper to NATO Peacemaker: Denmark’s Journey from Semi-neutral to Super Ally, Rasmus Mariager and I use theories on small state foreign policy to argue that Denmark’s military activism since the end of the Cold War has combined shelter seeking with status seeking to the extent that the two now exist in symbiosis. Shelter seeking is conditioned upon status seeking, and status seeking is an instrument for shelter seeking. We discuss the implications for Denmark and small states more generally.

In Punching above their weight, but why? Explaining Denmark and Estonia in the transatlantic relationship, my co -author Matthew Crandall and I ask why Denmark and Estonia have eagerly attempted to ‘punch above their weight’ in the transatlantic relationship since the end of the Cold War and show how they differ in their strategies to do so. Using neoclassical realism as a theoretical point of departure, we explain how a combination of changing constraints in the strategic environment and elite interpretations of how these changes affected national security resulted in ‘super atlanticist’ alliance policies in the two countries. 

Recently, I have analyzed the consequences of Swedish and Finnish NATO membership for Danish national security. I argue that this huge beneficial but also entails challenges. you can read my analysis here (in Danish with an English language summary).

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