Arctic Yearbook 2014
Greenland. The Danish presence in the Arctic helps Copenhagen solidify the relationship to
Washington that makes up the central axis of Danish grand strategy.
The article progresses through four stages. It begins by presenting Denmark’s interests in the
Arctic and how they fit within a wider grand strategy. It then proceeds to describe Denmark’s
foreign policy strategy in the Arctic. The third section examines how Copenhagen views the
other states and institutions that operate in the Arctic. The final section describes how these
strategic considerations shape Danish defense planning.
Denmark’s Presence and Interests in Greenland
Denmark’s status as an Arctic costal state is in constant risk of being challenged. It hinges on
Greenland’s continued membership of the Commonwealth of Denmark (Rigsfællesskabet), a
complex constitutional union between Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Denmark proper that
gives the latter authority over foreign and security policy. Danish sovereignty over Greenland has
been challenged by various sources in the past. Greenland, hitherto a Norwegian territory, came
under Copenhagen’s influence in 1380, when Denmark established a personal union, a
constitutional arrangement where several states share the same monarch, with Norway.
However, continuous Danish presence in Greenland only began in 1721. Greenland remained
under the Danish crown even after the Danish-Norwegian dual-monarchy was dissolved in 1814.
Danish sovereignty over Greenland was finally established in 1933, when the Permanent Court
of International Justice rejected a Norwegian claim to Eastern Greenland (Danish Institute