Denmark, Norway, and NATO

Constraints and Challenges

by Richard Bitzinger

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As the strategic value of the Nordic region has grown, NATO interest in the role of its Nordic allies, Denmark and Norway, has also increased. This increased interest has been mostly manifested in criticism of Danish and Norwegian security efforts, particularly of their low level of military expenditures and the declining size and/or capabilities of their armed forces. NATO has been irked by political activities on behalf of detente and greater arms control, often in opposition to official Western stances. All this has led to a sometimes strained relationship between Nordic NATO and the rest of the alliance. This Note discusses the postwar course of Danish and Norwegian security policy, addressing the pattern of constraints at work in these countries' security consensuses. It examines recent developments and changes in Nordic NATO security policy and how these have altered the basic security consensus in the 1980s. The author concludes that NATO should not expect Denmark and Norway to overturn their deterrence-reassurance policies and should instead accept such policies for the benefits they accrue to the West. At the same time, Denmark and Norway should be persuaded not to make any more changes in their overall deterrence-reassurance policies until more concrete Soviet responses are clearly apparent.

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