759.5/1–2754: Telegram

No. 827
The Ambassador in Denmark (Coe) to the Department of State1

top secret

374. Re proposal (B) Deptel 483, January 8 (sent Paris Topol 757, Oslo 488, Bonn 2004).2

No answer from Danes likely prior assessment results Berlin conference3 which both politicians and people hope, and some think, will produce basis for general international relaxation.
We expect Danish reply to be negative. In absence dramatic worsening international atmosphere we expect continuation present state of Danish public opinion in which majority opposed increase in defense expenditure and according recent Gallup poll favors reductions. In face this attitude and given traditional caution and timidity Danish politicians, it has seemed to us most unlikely government would make any serious or effective attempt secure upward revision of military expenditures. Foreign Minister flatly stated on January 25 that government would not. Basic doubts re NATO capacity and intent defend Denmark, so often reported, plus general Danish doubt that Danish contribution significant factor in any case, still persist and militate against change.
From economic point of view Danes have thought their military budgets financed approximately 60 percent costs their military establishment over past five years, balance being borne by MDAP. FY 1955 budget will fall short meeting Danish-defined requirements by 40 percent. While we believe Danish economy capable supporting higher level defense expenditures we consider any revision upward most unlikely in view political attitudes cited. Thus cost of any expansion would in reality fall on US.
Manpower in sufficient numbers is available but lacks any training. However, in view fact military highly unattractive to most Danes, difficulty in recruiting could be anticipated.
Most serious doubts arise from fact that Danes have not yet demonstrated capability to effectively organize and operate present air forces. Impediments to this goal are basic and can only be removed by changes in organization and administration which so far Danes have been unwilling to make. Unless and until there is rational basis to believe Danes will attain efficiency at present levels it would seem to us unsound and ineffective to attempt expansion.
Even if one assumed that improvements in Danish military would be made so as to achieve combat effectiveness (which does not now exist nor is there much reason for optimism as to improvement) would like to express grave doubt as to wisdom of US policy which encouraged Danes to expand military forces. In view well-known and tenaciously held Danish views the extent to which their country can afford military expenditures, we should realize that such expansion, as well as maintenance of a substantial part of current forces, will only endure as long as US is willing underwrite it.
From a local point of view it would appear to us that a sounder basis for US and NATO policy would be to concentrate:
On obtaining from Denmark a military contribution consonant in size with that which Denmark is able and willing to support from Danish resources and
On obtaining combat effectiveness from that military organization. Appreciate that decisions have to be taken in light over-all considerations but desire make clear do not believe results of proposed expansion, under present conditions, would be effective from either military or political point of view.
This message has concurrence in substance of MAAG, Service Attachés, and Chief FOA mission.
  1. Repeated to Paris, Oslo, and Bonn.
  2. Telegram 483 requested that the Embassy in Copenhagen comment on the capacity of Denmark to improve its Air Force to the degree necessary for meeting SHAPE requirements for the defense of Northern Europe. (759.5/1–854)
  3. For documentation concerning the Berlin Conference, Jan. 25–Feb. 18, 1954, see vol. vii, Part 1, pp. 601 ff.