COPENHAGEN, Denmark ― Denmark’s top defense official isn’t worried that the Trump administration’s move to impose tariffs on Europe will slow or limit his nation’s plan to invest heavily in American defense technologies.
Instead, Claus Hjort Fredericksen, the Danish defense minister, believes it is vital to split the issue of trade from the national security issues surrounding NATO, calling the maintenance of strong defense ties with Washington “the highest priority.”
“There is a much more profound interest in having a strong cooperation and a trustful cooperation with the U.S. than other issues,” Fredericksen said in a June 4 interview. “I’m not trying to minimize the trade, the implications we have, but we have to be very firm of the shared responsibility, we have to help each other in the NATO alliance and especially with the U.S.”
Fredericksen spoke with reporters during a visit to Denmark arranged by the Atlantic Council. Defense News, like other outlets, accepted travel and accommodations for the trip.
Denmark recently reached a new defense funding agreement that will see the nation grow its defense spending by 20 percent through 2023. Under that agreement, it will be investing heavily in planned modernization, including buying American-made F-35 fighters, MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and SM-6 missiles.
During the recent visit, individuals speaking under Chatham House rules expressed concern that the strained relationship between the Trump administration and European officials, and especially the recently passed tariffs, could cause internal political pressure against spending as much on military equipment from the United States.
While acknowledging “the risks with the trade wars, with the tweets and so on that is coming out,” Fredericksen noted the “good signs” about the American military commitment to Europe, including an increased request for funds through the European Deterrence Initiative.
“But of course, words mean something,” he added. “So if we continue along that line, of course it may cause some difficulties between the U.S. and Europe. But at the moment I don’t see it.”
More broadly, Denmark wants to maintain its current military modernization plans because of the regional threat posed by Russia, particularly with Denmark just on the edge of the projected weapons range from the Kaliningrad military base.
“The only thing that the Russians understand, the only thing that a former KGB man understands, is that we negotiate or we act from a position of strength,” Fredericksen said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Until they realize that it is no way of continuing intimidation in our part of the world, we will have to show that in practice that we invest and that we’re willing to act.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.