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Denmark to raise military spending, citing Russian threat

Denmark's Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen speaks to reporters at after a hearing in the parliamentary financial committee about the custom control agreement at the Christianborg Palace in Copenhagen June 10, 2011. REUTERS/Marie Hald/Scanpix

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - NATO member Denmark plans to increase military spending in response to Russian missile deployments in the Baltic region that it perceives as a threat, its new defence minister said in an interview published on Friday.

But Claus Hjort Frederiksen said that despite pressure from allies including incoming U.S. President Donald Trump, Denmark was not able to meet the NATO defence spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

“We are under great pressure from both the current Obama administration and, from what we understand, the incoming president Trump to live up to the 2 percent target,” Frederiksen said. “I would say it is not a realistic (target to reach).”

His comments feed into a contentious debate about burden-sharing in NATO, fuelled by Trump’s assertions that U.S. allies are not contributing enough for their own defence and Washington is paying a disproportionate amount. Denmark spent about 1.2 percent of GDP on defence in 2016.

Russia said in October that as part of routine drills it had moved ballistic nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to its enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and deployed its S-400 air missile defence system there.

“We can observe that the Russians now are deploying new missiles in Kaliningrad with a capability to reach Copenhagen.” This is of course a serious risk,” Frederiksen told daily newspaper Berlingske.

Denmark last month offered to deploy 200 troops to a UK-led NATO mission in Estonia, and has said it plans to join a Europe-based missile defence system.

In March 2015, Russia’s ambassador to Denmark threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Danish warships if Denmark joined that programme.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Teis Jensen; Editing by Mark Trevelyan