Denmark Plans One of Its Biggest Military-Spending Hikes Since the Cold War

Danish soldiers rest in the back of a vehicle as they accompany a group of British Challenger-2 tanks of the Queen's Royal Hussars as it rolls into Basra 24 August 2006.

Photographer: Essam al-Sudani/AFP via Getty Images

Denmark is planning one of its biggest increases in military spending since the end of the Cold War to counter Russian assertiveness and future threats posed by climate change and instability in the Middle East.

The center-right government of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen is looking at an additional 4.8 billion kroner ($761 million) in defense spending by 2023. The money will be used to buy tanks and air and sea defense equipment.

“The threat level has risen to the highest level since the Cold War,” Rasmussen said at a press conference in Copenhagen in which his defense minister highlighted Russian belligerence in the region.

"After the Cold War we all anticipated that war in Europe would be a thing of the past," Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said. "We then had a sudden wake-up call in 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea."

Scandinavia’s smallest country plans to once again have an air defense system of its own, as well as sonars to detect submarines in its waters -- something it hasn’t been able to do since retiring its submarine fleet almost a decade ago. The government will also create a new 4,000-strong brigade available to NATO.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Denmark’s military focused on peacekeeping missions and on supporting the U.S. and its allies in Kosovo, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Successive governments used the so-called “peace dividend” resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union and Denmark now only spends 1.17 percent of national output on defense -- well below NATO’s target of 2 percent.

According to Frederiksen, the planned increase in spending will raise that ratio to 1.3 percent of gross domestic product.

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