COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark and the United States have begun talks about a new defence agreement that could include U.S. troops on Danish soil, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, adding that the negotiations had not been triggered by the Ukraine crisis.
The talks, which were requested by the United States about a year ago, come as Washington has strengthened military cooperation with other NATO allies such as Norway and the Baltic countries in recent years, Frederiksen said.
“We want a stronger American presence in Europe and in Denmark,” she told a news briefing, adding that the standoff between the West and Russia over Ukraine was not the reason.
“But the situation in and around Ukraine is a very clear emphasizing of the fact that we can not take our peace, our freedom or our security for granted and underlines why it is important to work even more closely with the Americans,” she said.
Denmark, a close ally of the United States, has a strategic location as a gateway for ships to and from the Baltic Sea where Russia has military bases.
“Such an agreement directly between the United States and Denmark will open up for a new cooperation and activities in a number of selected military areas in Denmark,” Frederiksen said. “It might include American soldiers on Danish soil.”
The talks come after the Nordic country for decades has not allowed foreign troops a permanent presence.
NATO ally Norway, which for decades has allowed troops from the United States and other NATO countries to exercise on its soil, last year signed an accord with the United States to regulate activities.
The deal, which remains subject to approval by Norway’s parliament, will allow the U.S. to construct installations at airfields and bases, and is designed to facilitate rapid allied reinforcement in the event of crisis or war.
Lithuania, which shares a border with giant neighbour Russia, has been hosting 500 American troop on rotation since 2019. This week, the Baltic country asked the United States to permanently station troops in the country to help boost security.
A possible new defence agreement between Denmark and the United States could include military exercises, increased maritime cooperation and storage of military equipment in Denmark, but was unlikely to include setting up U.S. military bases in the country.
Frederiksen also said the talks do not include cooperation in Greenland, a semi-autonomous part of Denmark.
(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Macfie)