Denmark and the USA: allies under Bush – allies under Obama

Danish Institute for International Studies

The transition from President Bush to President Obama has been intensely discussed in Denmark in terms of Danish-US relations and transatlantic relations. The Danish government’s close relations to Bush had been demonstrated by Danish military participation in Afghanistan and Iraq – on his last day in office Bush spoke to Prime Minister Rasmussen by phone.[1] But while Rasmussen does not comment on Bush’s record as President, his fellow party member, Søren Pind, described the Bush era as ‘morally corrupt’ in reference to allegations of torture and mistreatment of terrorist suspects by US personal.[2] During the election campaign Barack Obama had been critical of US allies, including Denmark, for not doing enough to help the Iraqi refugee crisis.[3] Prime Minister Rasmussen hoped to maintain very close ties between the USA and Denmark, but in the first week of the Obama administration these hopes dissolved as Denmark (and the Netherlands) did not want to help take freed detainees resettled from Guantánamo Bay detention centre.[4]
Beyond the war on terror, the immediate Danish priority in transatlantic relations is the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference “COP15” in Copenhagen in December 2009.[5] The transformation of the US position on global warming by President Obama has made productive talks at “COP15” far more likely.[6] The wider renewal of transatlantic relations between the US and the EU beyond “COP15” has not been a big issue in Denmark, reflecting Danish difficulties in dealing with major global issues such as reform of financial architecture because of non-participation in EMU politics.

[1] Brian Knowlton: ‘Obama celebrates holiday with service’, International Herald Tribune, 19 January 2009.

[2] Copenhagen Post: ‘For PM, in the Obama means out with an ally’, 21 January 2009.

[3] Copenhagen Post: ‘Obama: Denmark has done ‘little’ for Iraqi refugees’, 10 November 2008; Natalie Ondiak: ‘Keeping faith with our Iraqi allies’, Guardian, 21 January 2009.

[4] Politiken: ‘Amnesty vil have en lukkedato for Guantanamo’, 8 January 2009; Copenhagen Post: ‘No help for terror suspects’, VOA News, 21 January 2009; Lisa Bryant: ‘Europeans in dilemma over Guantanamo prison closing’, 22 January 2009; Jim Brunsden: ‘EU to start talks on Guantánamo resettlement’, 23 Januar 2009.

[5] Michael McCarthy: ‘UN Climate Conference: The countdown to Copenhagen, The Indepdendent, 9 January 2009.

[6] Tony Barber: ‘Action is vital for a good transatlantic relationship’, Financial Times, 23 December 2008; Bibi Häggström: ‘Klimatet hettar till i danska politiken’ Sydsvenskan, 10 January 2009.