Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen

Denmark has been a firm advocate for Arctic cooperation in the recent decade, most importantly as the initiator of the 2008 Ilulissat meeting. Two new strategic publications – a foreign policy report (Danish Diplomacy and Defence in a Time of Change) and a defense report (The Ministry of Defence’s Future Activities in the Arctic), which were published in May and June 2016 –highlight the Kingdom of Denmark’s status as “an Arctic great power” and the importance of pursuing Danish interests, which could indicate a shift away from a cooperation-oriented policy. This article investigates whether the documents represent a break in Danish Arctic policy. It argues that the two documents represent continuation, rather than change. They show that the High North continues to become steadily more important on the Danish foreign policy agenda, although the region remains just one of several regional priorities for Denmark. They also continue the cooperation-oriented Danish Arctic policy and move this policy forward by adding more analysis of specific policy programs and initiatives that have long been on the agenda. These initiatives are meant to strengthen the Kingdom of Denmark’s High North profile, further Greenlandic development, add more capabilities to the Danish Armed Forces, and build ties to other Arctic nations. However, the real challenges in Danish Arctic policy are not found in bureaucratic reports, but in how these reports become part of an ongoing discussion about identity within the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenlandic policymakers have criticized the documents for being too Denmark-centric, which indicates a nascent Greenlandic resistance to Danish centralization of authority over foreign policy within the Kingdom of Denmark.

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