The Arctic differs from Antarctica not only geographically. Politically, the two polar regions are also completely different. The most obvious difference at present is in security policy, which has become more important in the Arctic, especially since the war in Ukraine. To this end, some states have revamped their national budgets and earmarked more money for defense. Denmark, as one of the Arctic nations, should now also invest more in its security policy and in its armed forces, especially in its Arctic Command.
The head of the Joint Arctic Command, Rear Admiral Martin La Cour-Andersen, said after a speech last week by Danish Defense Minister Morten Bødskovon the state of the Danish Armed Forces that his department would also need a boost to modernize its equipment. “The Joint Arctic Command, like the rest of the armed forces, is experiencing the need for new investment if we are to continue to solve our missions at the same level in the future,” he told Greenland’s Sermitsiaq newspaper.
The discussion about better and, more importantly, newer material for Joint Arctic Command is not new. The authority, which is jointly operated by Greenland and the Faroe Islands with Denmark, is struggling compared to its tasks. This is because, in addition to safeguarding sovereignty to unify the Kingdom (to which Greenland and the Faroe Islands belong despite their extensive autonomies), it is also responsible for fisheries controls, search and rescue, environmental monitoring, hydrographic surveys, and logistical support to civil society in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. A huge list of tasks to be carried out in the largest part of the Danish territory. But where exactly the increase in financial and material resources should go, the Rear Admiral left out in his statements, acting more like a diplomat. “The Joint Arctic Command is part of the overall defense for Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. This also means that whatever desires the Joint Arctic Command may have are some pieces that must fit into the overall puzzle.”
It is no secret that the Joint Arctic Command would need more personnel and more materiel to better accomplish its missions. Currently, about 40 people are employed at the command both in Nuuk and in Thorshavn, Faroe Islands. Two patrol vessels of the Danish Navy are on duty between Greenland and the Faroe Islands and in the north and east of Greenland the Sirius Patrol, a special unit is responsible for border security and control along the unpopulated region of Greenland. This unit has 14 people assigned to it, responsible for more than 16,000 kilometers of coastline. Formally, the command is under the Danish 1st Fleet Squadron, which is responsible for the defense of Denmark’s Arctic areas and is stationed in Frederikshavn.
The head of Joint Arctic Command is not alone in calling for more and better resources. Danish Defense Minister Morten Bødskov had said in a speech last week that the Danish Armed Forces must face several challenges that require more funding for technical innovations and personnel. It is true that an agreement last year had already provided around 200 million euros for better monitoring of the North Atlantic and the Arctic region. But in light of events since February 2022, Denmark, like the rest of the Arctic nations, is under some pressure to rethink its defense budgets and adapt its armed forces to the new situation as quickly as possible. The fact that now officially unknown forces have caused damage to the gas pipelines, right under the nose of the Secretary of Defense, is likely to accelerate the debate about an increase and modernization. And the Joint Arctic Command should also benefit from this.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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