DENMARK is one of the weakest and at the same time one of the most exposed members of the North Atlantic alliance. Placed at the narrows of the Baltic like a cork in a bottle, her territory commands the straits through which the formidable Soviet submarine fleet would have to pass in a major war. An area of such strategic importance cannot possibly fail to attract the attention of the Soviet high command. As a matter of fact, the Russians showed their interest in Denmark in World War II. In 1940-41 they tried without success to talk their German friends into giving them control over the Danish straits, and they attempted, also in vain, to race their armies into the Danish peninsula before the British could arrive.
The territory of Denmark, consisting of a peninsular projection from the North German plain and a host of islands of varying size, is devoid of natural defenses. Her shallow inland waters, formerly an asset for defense, today offer an ideal road of approach for amphibious forces in landing craft. If war ever again comes to Denmark, the Danes can hope at best to carry on holding operations until friendly forces can come to their succor. Fear of the fate of Czechoslovakia, and the hope that participation in an enterprise for common defense with strong friends would avert it, decided the Danes to join the North Atlantic Powers in 1949.
The price for protection by NATO was a vigorous defense effort by the Danes themselves--something this unmilitaristic and pacifistic nation had not known for generations. And they had to start from scratch. The German occupiers in World War II had not only dissolved the modest Danish forces, but had also cleared out the military equipment down to the last blanket in the barracks. Assistance was soon forthcoming from Britain, Canada and, in particular, the United States under the Mutual Assistance program. But defense expenditure is very heavy by Danish standards: 14 times as high as in 1938 and
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