Denmark to conscript women into armed forces for first time

The country scaled back its military capabilities after the Cold War ended but is reassessing the situation in a changed security climate.

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaking to military conscripts. She is wearing a red coat and has her back to the camera. The four conscripts - all male - are in combat uniform and carrying weapons. They are in a forested area.
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen meets male conscripts in Jutland last week [File: Ritzau Scanpix/Mikkel Berg Pedersen via Reuters]

Denmark will call up women as well as men as it expands conscription to respond to Europe’s changing security climate.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the revised policy was designed to increase the number of young people doing military service.

Conscripts will also be expected to serve more time in the military – 11 months, compared with four months at the moment.

“We are not rearming because we want war, destruction, or suffering. We are rearming right now to avoid war and in a world where the international order is being challenged,” Frederiksen told reporters on Wednesday, indirectly referring to Russia’s military moves in recent years and months.

Denmark, a founding member of the NATO alliance, also plans to boost its defence budget by 40.5 billion Danish crowns ($5.9bn) over the next five years. Frederiksen said defence spending would amount to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and in 2025, above NATO’s target for member states.

The country scaled back its military capabilities after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, but Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has reawakened concerns about security on the continent.

On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would send troops to its border with Finland, which joined NATO last year as a result of the Ukraine invasion, as Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo warned Moscow was gearing up for a “long conflict with the West”.

The situation in Europe “has become more and more serious, and we have to take that into account when we look at future defence,” Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said. “A broader basis for recruiting that includes all genders is needed,” he said, adding it will create “a more versatile and more complete defence”.

Denmark currently has as many as 9,000 professional soldiers in addition to 4,700 conscripts undergoing basic training, according to official figures.

The government wants to increase the number of conscripts by 300 to reach a total of 5,000. Under the revised draft, conscripts will first spend five months in basic training, followed by six months in operational service along with supplementary training.

The new system will require a change in the law, which Poulsen said would happen in 2025 and take effect in 2026.

Currently, all physically fit men over the age of 18 are called up for military service, which is decided according to a lottery system.

Neighbouring Sweden introduced a military draft for men and women in 2017 amid concerns about the security environment in Europe and around Sweden.

The Scandinavian country, which joined NATO this month, had previously abolished compulsory military service for men in 2010 because there were enough volunteers to meet its military needs. Women had not been required to do national service before the law was changed.

Norway introduced a law applying military conscription to both sexes in 2013.

Source: News Agencies