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Denmark Braces for Military Buildup Amid Accusations Against Russia

© AP Photo / Mindaugas KulbisDanish soldiers during a military exercise
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With fear of Russia mounting across Scandinavia, Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen joined the Nordic panic chorus by warning that Denmark allegedly faced a "very serious" and "frightening threat" from Russia.

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By his own admission to Danish daily Berlingske, Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen of the Liberal Party was primarily concerned about a double threat from Russia, which featured both physical and virtual dangers.

The "physical" threat implied Russian Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Region, which could potentially reach the Danish capital city of Copenhagen. Regards the virtual dangers, Hjort Frederiksen claimed Denmark to be a likely target to threats stemming from Russian state-sponsored groups. According to Hjort Frederiksen, Denmark could face a "coordinated online effort" by Russia in an attempt to influence the democratic process in Denmark. Needless to say, Hjort Frederiksen cited Russian hackers' "disruption" of the US election, which ended in a way undesired for Denmark.

However, Hjort Frederiksen went beyond the stock rhetoric and suggested that state-supported Russian hacker groups were ready to attack Danish hospitals and cripple infrastructure and electrical supplies, thus "wreaking chaos" and "spreading fear and insecurity among the Danish population."

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Hjort Frederiksen was in part reacting to the national risk assessment report issued by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, which identified cyber threats as one of foremost threats against the Danish state. However, he also claimed himself to be alarmed by recent conversations he had with top Danish military officials, the outgoing American Secretary of Defense, as well as a number of foreign ambassadors.

In the wake of the "imminent" Russian threat, Hjort Frederiksen called for an immediate upgrade of the Danish military, especially considering US President-elect Donald Trump's statements, according to which NATO member states must live up to the alliance's spending requirements if they want to rely on the US for protection.

Hjort Frederiksen's rant stirred criticism among Danish politicians. Danish People's Party military spokesperson Marie Krarup brushed Frederiksen's alarmism aside as "hysterical," as Russia still was in the process of upgrading its military.

"You have to be hysterical to call it a real threat. Russia is only equal with the West in relation to nuclear weapons and only there," Marie Krarup told Berlingske.

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Denmark's Social Democratic Party was also skeptical about the military budget hike and called on their colleagues to keep their composure.

"Militarily-wise, Russia is nowhere near being able to handle an attack against NATO. I doubt that the Red Army [sic] really is on its way across the Baltic Sea. We must not increase the defense budget just for the sake of increasing," Social Democrats military spokesman Henrik Dam Kristensen told Berlingske.

"Hjort's statements are sheer propaganda. The minister needs money, and so he draws up a frightening image of Russia as the great threat coming from the east," Russian-Danish freelance journalist Larisa Solodchenko told Danish TV-channel TV2, venturing that Danish Defense Minister simply was running NATO's errand when demanding extra defense financing citing the Russian "threat."

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At present Denmark only uses 1.17 percent of its GDP on defense, which is well below NATO's spending target of 2 percent. Hjort Frederiksen, formerly Denmark's Minister of Finance, admitted himself that the goal of almost doubling the defense expenditure was "unrealistic," yet nonetheless called for an understanding for future hikes among fellow Danes.

In 2017, Denmark is about to spend 21.3 billion DKK (about $3.1bln) on defense. Meanwhile, 2 percent of the Danish GDP amounts to 41.9 billion DKK ($5.9bln), which is a far cry from the current level of expenditure.

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