Courtesy Reuters

Denmark's Precarious Neutrality

WHETHER Denmark can possibly manage to keep out of a future European war as she did the war of 1914-18 is a question that puzzles all Danes. There is no split of opinion as to whether she ought to maintain her neutrality if she can. Since the Napoleonic wars she has taken no active part in the struggle for power in Europe; and only once -- in 1864 when she was the victim of Prussian aggression -- has she been even a passive object of power politics. Like many other small Powers, she has no expansionist aspirations and nobody has ever suggested that she ought to enter into international combinations for imperialistic ends. Like most of the smaller European countries, Denmark is still a member of the League of Nations, and she joined the other small northern and western countries in what is called the Oslo trade agreement. But in a conference at Copenhagen in July 1938 these countries proclaimed themselves individually free to impose sanctions only if they choose to do so. Consequently nobody can suspect that they nourish aggressive aims of any kind.

The main problem of international politics for the Danes therefore is whether or not they would be able to keep aloof from any future general conflagration.

A particularly important phase of the problem, of course, is whether in the long run Denmark is likely to become the object of direct aggression. Since Munich, fewer people in Denmark comfort themselves by saying that England will never allow it. But there still is less apprehension on this score than might be supposed abroad. True, Denmark profited from the now generally abused Treaty of Versailles by getting back the northern part of the province of Slesvig which she lost in 1864. But the German minority in Northern Slesvig is small -- only 30,000, or 15 percent of its population -- and they do not form a majority in any city or municipality.[i] Moreover, this minority is one of the most liberally administered in Europe.

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