Denmark acknowledges military shortcomings as it hosts large NATO drill

A view of the M142 HIMARS rocket (high mobility artillery rocket system) as Dynamic Front military exercise led by the United States takes place in a training area, in Oksbol, Denmark March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

OKSBOL, Denmark (Reuters) - Denmark has major shortcoming in its ability to defend its territory and meet its NATO commitments despite pledges to increase defence spending, its army chief said on Thursday, as the country hosted a large military exercise.

Denmark, a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, scaled down its military capabilities to wage a land war in Europe after the end of the Cold War.

But in response to the Ukraine crisis, the country has come under pressure to bring spending back up to a NATO target of 2% of GDP. Its government said in December it would aim to meet that target by 2030, three years earlier than planned.

"We need to get more robust and fix all the things we have neglected throughout the years since the Berlin Wall came down," Major General Gunner Arpe Nielsen told Reuters.

As part of its commitments to NATO, Denmark has been tasked with establishing a heavy infantry brigade. The project, however, has been marred by delays.

In January, the country donated 19 French-made Caesar howitzer artillery systems to Ukraine, further stunting its own military build-up.

"The biggest gap we have is personnel. I think we need to grab all the tools in the toolbox to attract and retain young people," said Nielsen, who is the commander of the Danish army.

"It could be money, but equally important would be new buildings and new equipment, and give young people the possibility to train in better surroundings," he said as explosions rang out at a artillery firing range near the town of Oksbol on Denmark's west coast.

Some 500 soldiers from eight different countries took part in the simulated attack involving live fire from HIMARS rocket launchers, AHS Krab and M777 howitzers, and Cardom 10 mortars.

The Dynamic Front exercise was led by the U.S. 56th Artillery Command, a unit that was re-established in 2021 to boost firepower in Europe.

Since the turn of the century, Denmark has focused its military on international operations in the Middle East and Africa at the expense of being able to defend its homeland.

(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Paul Simao)

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