The world has changed — and not for the better. We are facing multiple and complex threats to our societies and democratic values, and it is more important than ever that we counter these challenges together.
Authoritarian forces gain power, and the rules we used to play by are continuously and increasingly being tested. The cyberthreat increases. Freedom, human rights and democracy are weakened. The foundation for our multilateral cooperation is challenged. On top of this, climate change creates natural and societal challenges. And currently, COVID-19 has turned our everyday lives, economies and global cooperation upside down.
If 2020 taught us anything, it is the importance of having close allies. Only together can we strengthen the security and safety of our societies. For a small nation such as Denmark, international cooperation, strong alliances and multilateralism have always been the cornerstone of our foreign and security policy. But the challenges that face us today are too great to be dealt with alone for any one of us. We should and must continue to work together with allies who share our vision so we can secure the ultimate goal: freedom from tyranny and suppression, the creation of prosperous economies, and the fulfilment of our democratic ideals.
These are exactly the key values embedded in our cooperation in NATO and the trans-Atlantic cooperation between Europe and the United States. NATO is essential to our aim to create a safer world. Over the last 70 years, NATO has lived up to its purpose to deliver credible deterrence and defense. Our alliance has repeatedly shown the ability to adapt to the ever-changing security threats.
Together we can address the threats and challenges from Russia, which has shown a willingness to use military power and a disregard for international norms. And we can meet a rising China with a world view that is different than the freedom and collaboration envisioned by Western allies.
All allies, regardless of size, have a responsibility in this regard. It is a main priority for Denmark to step up and show up when our help is needed. We contribute to missions both in the north, south and east. Most recently, Denmark took over leadership of NATO Mission Iraq in November 2020. All our efforts would be in vain, however, without the highly valued contributions from the United States. The United States’ continued leading role in the fight against ISIL and the U.S. military’s contributions are critical to a successful engagement in that region.
Another area to pay attention to is the increasing strategic importance of the Arctic and North Atlantic region. As the ice melts and gives access to new transit routes and natural resources, the great power competition in the area will only increase. Russia is building up its military power, and China is also striving for more influence in the region. We need to pay attention to this development.
While we continue to work for the aim of low tension in the region, we should not be naïve. Only together with our partners and allies can we ensure peace and stability in the region. If NATO and allies are not present, others with different interests and values will fill the void.
Centrally placed in the Arctic is the Kingdom of Denmark, as one of five Arctic coastal allies. We take our special responsibilities in the region very seriously. The Danish military has been present for many years in the Arctic and North Atlantic, and the Danish government is planning to invest in strengthening Arctic capabilities. But the areas are vast and can not be covered by one nation alone. This is why we highly value the special and strong cooperation between the United States and the Kingdom of Denmark. Our cooperation as well as the U.S. presence in the region has increased over the last couple of years. Our joint efforts benefit security and safety across the Arctic, Europe and the United States.
The current pandemic is a reminder that we are all vulnerable. A virus knows no borders and does not distinguish between nations or people. It is random and unexpected. Our response should be to stand closer together and increase our international cooperation and efforts in preparation of future global crises.
In this regard NATO and the trans-Atlantic cooperation are essential. It is so much more than merely militaries working together. Among us, we have the needed capacities and competencies, but the most important part of our alliance is our common set of values and trust in each other. This is the key to face the many threats challenging the safety of our societies.
Trine Bramsen is Denmark’s defense minister.