I’m proud to be a citizen of Denmark. I love my adopted country and I love my life here. I may have come to Denmark late in life, but I’m even Danish enough to find myself frequently falling into the trap that long ago convinced me that Denmark was a country of little butts:
“Sure we’re little but…”
We’re little but we’re prosperous. We’re little but we’re happy. We’re little but we punch above our weight. We’re little but we used to be very big. We’re little but we control Baltic access to the Atlantic and the world, and vice-versa. We’re little but we’re awesome.
We’re little but our Prime Minister just had a White House meeting with the President of the United States. We’re little but our Prime Minister may be the first female head of NATO.
Mette Frederiksen’s tête-à-tête with Joe Biden has been covered breathlessly in Denmark. It’s all so very exciting (and flattering) that no one in the Danish press is asking the obvious question: what exactly qualifies Mette Frederiksen to head up “the most powerful military alliance in the history of the world”?
She’s a European head of state, she’s got a vagina, and she isn’t “provocative” to Russia. Those seem to be her most important attributes.
Under her stewardship, the Danish military announced last year that it had run out of bullets. Just a month or two ago our army’s second in command publicly acknowledged that our army is essentially useless: unable to defend our country and little more than a condiment for use in NATO’s forward operations. (I’ve now heard the same assessment personally from two personal acquaintances within the Danish military, one on active duty and one in the reserves: Danish soldiers absolutely top class, the Danish military itself a disaster.)
Under Frederiksen’s leadership, Denmark only pledged to meet the 2%-of-GDP-on-defense NATO requirement by 2033. Only by counting economic pledges to Ukraine as part of the domestic defense budget has she been able to plausibly claim that Denmark is “already” meeting its NATO requirements.
Oh… and since a mediocre showing in last November’s election (she only held onto her job by partnering with opposition parties), her party has experienced the fifth biggest post-election dive in support by any Danish party over the past hundred years.
So she’s no military genius and it’s not like she’s wowing us in Denmark with anything else.
None of that is disqualifying for what is arguably the most important military position in the western world. Anders Fogh Rasmussen was a decent NATO chief even though he himself was unable to get Danish spending on defense up to NATO levels during his tenure as Prime Minister.
However, Anders Fogh Rasmussen never had a “tender moment” with then-US President George W. Bush, as Berlingske believes Mette Frederiksen had with the current American president on Monday. They’ve even embedded the video in an article about the meeting (my emphases):
The video, which was shared on Joe Biden’s official Instagram account and can be seen at the top of (this) article, shows Mette Frederiksen and the American president in what can best be described as a tender moment.
Berlingske’s foreign editor, Birgitte Borup, says that “the video breaks all records for cordiality.”
“When you see the videos that the White House usually puts up after the visit of heads of state, they are always laudatory. But the atmosphere between Mette Frederiksen and Joe Biden is almost loving,” she says.
In the video, Biden highlights Denmark as “one of America’s most valuable allies.”
“It is also interesting that Mette Frederiksen gets a lot of speaking time on the American president’s official Instagram profile. She naturally praises Biden’s leadership, but also talks about the joint effort against the Russians. She will have the opportunity to distinguish herself as a staunch defender of Western values and security policy cooperation across the Atlantic.”
A “staunch defender” of western values whose own army is in total disarray and lacks ammunition.
We’re little and we’re weak, and largely unarmed, but goddammit we’re staunch. The staunchest!
Ordinarily I’d fume about the frivolity of the Danish media on this stuff, but this isn’t a Danish issue. It’s a western issue, and one that I’ve written about before—most recently here, but also elsewhere. We talk about the staunch defense of western values, but we organize NATO around the principle of not provoking Russia and we refuse to decouple from China because, by jingo, there’s money in them there forced labor camps! Even the great nationalist Donald Trump applauds when the already palpably corrupt World Health Organization puts North Korea on its executive board. (Yes, there was pushback, but it will be ignored because our Staunch Western Value of inclusion means we have to treat our enemies, the enemies of freedom, as our equals.)
We’re so very serious about our western values, we serious westerners.
Why not just put Greta Thunberg in charge of NATO and be done with it?