Danish ex-PM attacks Trump for comments on defence spending

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A former Danish prime minister has lashed out at Donald Trump for his tweet about military spending, saying defence willingness is not just about the amount of money spent.

Lars Loekke Rasmussen’s comment is the latest in an escalating spat between the US and Denmark after Mr Trump scrapped a visit to the country, saying current PM Mette Frederiksen was “nasty” when she rejected his “absurd” idea of buying Greenland.

Mr Loekke Rasmussen, who led the country until June, tweeted to the US president: “We have had (proportionally) exactly the same numbers of casualties in Afghanistan as US. We always stands firm and ready.”

Mr Trump, who has urged Nato members to do more to meet the alliance’s goal of committing 2% of gross domestic product to defence, earlier tweeted that “Denmark is only at 1.35%”.

“We will not accept that our defense willingness is only about percentages,” Mr Loekke Rasmussen tweeted. “I told you at the NATO Summit in Brussels last year.”

In January, a coalition in the Danish parliament agreed to add 1.5 billion kroner (£180 million) to the already agreed defence budget for 2023, which would put spending at 1.5% of gross domestic product for that year. The US spends about 3.4% of its GDP on defence.

Mr Trump abruptly cancelled his planned September 2-3 visit to Denmark on Tuesday, after Ms Frederiksen called his idea to buy Greenland “an absurd discussion”.

Ms Frederiksen said the US remains one of Denmark’s close allies.

The dispute over the world’s largest island comes from its strategic location in the Arctic. Global warming is making Greenland more accessible to potential oil and mineral resources, and Russia, China, the US, Canada and others are racing to stake a claim, hoping they will yield future riches.

Ms Frederiksen has said Denmark does not own Greenland which belongs to its people. It is part of the Danish realm along with the Faeroe Islands, another semi-autonomous territory, and has its own government and parliament, the 31-seat Inatsisartut.

Mette Frederiksen
Mette Frederiksen (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

In 1979, Greenland and its 56,000 residents who are mainly indigenous Inuits, got extensive home rule but Denmark still handles its foreign and defence policies, as well as currency issues.

Denmark, which considers Greenland as an equal partner, pays annual subsidies of 4.5 billion kroner (£550 million) to Greenland whose economy otherwise depends on fisheries and related industries.

On Wednesday, the US State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with his Danish counterpart and “expressed appreciation for Denmark’s cooperation as one of the United States’ allies and Denmark’s contributions to address shared global security priorities”.

Spokesman Morgan Ortagus said Mr Pompeo and Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeppe Kofod “also discussed strengthening cooperation with the Kingdom of Denmark — including Greenland — in the Arctic”.

“Appreciate frank, friendly and constructive talk with @SecPompeo this evening, affirming strong US-DK bond,” Mr Kofod tweeted on Wednesday evening.

“US & Denmark are close friends and allies with long history of active engagement across globe.”

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