UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Denmark - 1945-1972 - Denmark and the World

Despite its unclear position during the Second World War, Denmark was recognised as an allied power and founding member of the United Nations in 1945. Many initially assumed that the newa organisation would guarantee peace, but their belief was shattered with the outbreak of the Cold War in 1946-1947.

Denmark’s security policy had to be adapted in line with the division of Europe. A new superpower, the Soviet Union, lay close to Denmark’s borders and its traditional isolated neutrality was no longer adequate. At first, attempts were made to establish a Nordic defensive alliance, but negotiations broke down at the beginning of 1949. Instead, Denmark and Norway became founding members of The North Atlantic Pact in April 1949.

For the first few years, Denmark was an ‘allied with reservations’ because both the public and the politicians had doubts, primarily regarding the stationing of atomic weapons on Danish soil, but also with respect to the rearmament of West Germany and the country’s subsequent membership of NATO.

When the liberation government led by Vilhelm Buhl presented its programme on 9 May 1945, it stated clearly that Denmark’s border was unalterable. A heated internal conflict nevertheless erupted over the question of the German border, but by 1947 it was obvious that the border would not be changed.

Relations with West Germany improved over the years, and in 1955 the good relations were sealed with the Copenhagen-Bonn declaration concerning the minorities living in the border area. In 1961, a Danish-German Unitary Command was established for NATO’s northern sector.

In January 1968, the Danish government asked for renewed assurance from the USA that the ban on atomic weapons on Danish soil would not be violated. The request followed the crash of an nuclear-armed B-52 bomber near Thule in Greenland. It was at first thought that this was an isolated incident in an emergency, but the issue flared up again in 1995 when the Danish government released hitherto unseen information revealing that H.C. Hansen, former Prime Minister and foreign minister, gave the USA permission in 1958 to overfly and land nuclear-armed planes in Greenland, despite the official Danish policy.

The information was of great help to the Danes who had taken part in the clean-up operation following the Thule incident in 1968. Their fight for compensation for physical and psychological damage has finally been resolved and their demands met. Those who were against EC membership did their best to spread a sense of doom before the referendum on 2 October 1972. This poster was distributed by the Danish Communist Party.

Alongside its membership of NATO from 1949, Denmark and the other Nordic countries have contributed greatly to the UN’s peace-keeping operations. Danish troops went to Suez in 1956-1957, to the Congo in 1960-1964 and to Cyprus in 1964. Denmark has provided development aid since 1961 and is, in relative terms, one of the largest providers of aid to the developing world. Since 1992, Denmark has complied with UN requirements for a minimum contribution of 1% of the GDP towards development aid.

In 1960, the Campaign against Atomic Weapons led a number of marches from Holbæk to Copenhagen. This picture from 1962 shows the last and the biggest of these atomic marches.

The financial assistance which Denmark received in 1948 from the Marshall Plan helped to ease the country’s currency difficulties. It also provided funds for the import of raw materials and machinery and thereby helped to modernise and rationalise agriculture and industry. Membership of the OEEC (now the OECD) involved Denmark in the internationalisation of the economy through the dismantling of trade and currency restrictions.

Denmark did not take part in the creation of the European institutions which led to the Treaty of Rome’s European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957-1959. The country did take part, however, in negotiations concerning the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which was set up in 1960. Denmark’s exports were almost equally divided between the two areas, and when Great Britain applied for membership of the EEC in 1961, Denmark immediately followed suit but gave up when the British application was rejected.

After yet another failed attempt in 1967, negotiations got under way for a Nordic Economic Union (NORDEK). This idea was later abandoned when countries were once again invited to apply for membership of the EC in 1969. After an intense debate in 1972, the government held a binding referendum in which a majority voted to join the EC, and Denmark’s membership took effect at the beginning of 1973. The European co-operation issue had, however, split the nation in two almost equal halves.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 22-07-2013 18:53:42 ZULU