The main tasks of the Danish Defence in and around Greenland and the Faroe Islands are maritime surveillance and the enforcement of sovereignty.
The Danish frigate Niels Juel was in Greenland in June 2020 to operate under Arctic Command and contribute to the assertion of sovereignty and monitoring of the waters. Photo: Iben Valery.
Developments related to defence and security policies
The Government wishes to secure stability, safety and security for everyone within and preserve the unity of the Kingdom of Denmark. Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland have a special responsibility in regards to defence and security in the Arctic and the North Atlantic.
The situation in the Arctic is rapidly changing. Global warming opens new sea routes and makes natural resources accessible. Climate change increases economic and research activities while at the same time having security policy implications. As a result, many actors have increased their focus on the Arctic. Russia is increasing its activity and military build-up in the region. The current situation challenges the vision of the Government to maintain the Arctic as a stable area without conflicts.
In February 2021 the Government (the Social Democratic Party) and Venstre (The Liberal Party), the Danish People’s Party, the Social Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Alliance entered into a framework agreement on the use of the additional funds from the 2019 Supplemental Agreement for the Danish Defence 2018-2023, of 1.5 bn DKK, on the strengthening of the capabilities of the Danish Defence in the Arctic and the North Atlantic.
The framework will significantly strengthen the capabilities of the Danish Defence to track and monitor the steadily increasing activities in the region. This will be done through investments in high-tech unmanned systems and capabilities. The strengthened capabilities in the Arctic and the North Atlantic will provide both military and civilian benefits by strengthening the capabilities of the Danish Defence to support civil society through search and rescue operations, emergency operations, environmental surveillance, fisheries control, monitoring of the climate, and research etc. A new basic military training will be established in cooperation with Naalakkersuisut (The Government of Greenland) to strengthen Greenlandic citizens’ opportunity to take part in the defence of Greenland. Defence Command Denmark is responsible for the defence of the entire Realm (Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland). Accordingly, the strengthening of the Danish Defence’s presence in the Arctic and the North Atlantic is coordinated with the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
In 2016 a political agreement was also entered (The Agreement on the Arctic) on strengthening the capabilities of the Danish Defence in the Arctic. The Danish Defence Agreement 2018-2023 focuses on efforts that promote an increased involvement of Greenlandic citizens in the activities of the Danish Ministry of Defence in the Arctic.
Climate change, better access to the Arctic, the increase of commercial and scientific activities in the Arctic together with the shifts in the security situation demand an increased engagement in the Arctic and the North Atlantic.
A precondition to secure a sustainable and sensible development is continued stable political environment in the Arctic. As stated in the Kingdom of Denmark’s Strategy for the Arctic 2011-2020, the Kingdom is of the belief that the challenges in the Arctic must be managed on the basis of international legal principles to secure a peaceful and safe cooperation in the Arctic. The Kingdom of Denmark’s approach to security in the Arctic is thus based on the Ilulissat Declaration from 2008, where the Arctic States agreed to the orderly settlement of any disagreement in accordance with international law and based on dialogue and negotiations.
The tasks of the Danish Defence in the Arctic and the North Atlantic
The activities of the Danish Defence in, and around, the Faroe Islands and Greenland are commanded by the Joint Arctic Command. The Arctic Command has its headquarters in the capital of Greenland, Nuuk, situated in southwest Greenland. The Arctic Command also has a liaison in Tórshavn on the Faroe Islands. The Arctic Command has the operational command of the units of the Danish Defence stationed in the Faroe Islands and Greenland. These units include, inter alia, Arctic patrol vessels, aircraft, helicopters and the SIRIUS long range dog sledge patrol.
The primary task of the Danish Defence in, and around, the Faroe Islands and Greenland is surveillance of the territorial waters and upholding sovereignty. In Greenland the Danish Defence are also responsible for search and rescue, maritime survey, surveillance of the ocean environment and pollution control in cooperation with the Greenlandic authorities.
Furthermore, a number of other tasks such as fisheries inspections, support to scientific expeditions and patrolling with ships and aircraft are also done.
The Danish Defence has personnel stationed at Station Nord, the northernmost military base in the world (Northeast Greenland), Royal Danish Air Force Detachment Greenland in Kangerlussuaq (West Greenland), A station at Mastersvig (East Greenland), logistic hub at Grønnedal (Southwest Greenland) and a liaison detachment at Thule Air Base (Northwest Greenland). Additionally, the SIRIUS long range dog sled patrol with approximately 12 soldiers enforces Danish sovereignty and police authority in the world’s largest national park, which covers nearly all of the northeast of Greenland. The dog sled patrol SIRIUS is stationed at Daneborg in East Greenland.
Furthermore, the Defence has established the concept of the Danish Arctic Response Force, which will be able to reinforce the current operations of the Danish Defence in the Arctic as well as support to other authorities in Greenland. The Danish Arctic Response Force will at activation be composed of units and capabilities from across the Danish Ministry of Defence (for example aircraft, ships, units from the Emergency Management Agency etc.).
The Danish Defence will furthermore establish a new military basic training in Kangerlussuaq, as stated in the framework agreement of February 2021. The training will provide access to the further training within the Danish Defence.
Find more information on the Joint Arctic Command, the Arctic Analysis, the Danish Defence Agreement 2018-2023, and the Danish Defence Intelligence Service risk assessments.