A large, investigative collaboration between Scandinavian public service outlets and European newspapers such as Le Monde and Süddeutsche Zeitung has revealed a rather sensational espionage story. The National Security Agency has reportedly been snooping on American allies, including Swedish politicians, with the help of…Sweden’s neighbor, Denmark.
To make matters worse, the Danish defense minister has apparently been sitting on the information for a whole year, without telling her Swedish counterpart. Ouch. Things will be chillier than usual at this June’s Nato-led maritime exercise (‘Baltops 50’) in the Baltic Sea.
The closing of the bridge between Denmark and Sweden to prevent the spread of COVID-19 last year was seen as a tragic low point in the history of the two friendly countries. Now, news of our neighbor’s foul play comes just as travel restrictions across the bridge are finally lifted.
It seems that Germany has been kept in the dark by the Danes, too, as Denmark reportedly helped the NSA spy on top politicians including Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany’s former opposition leader Peer Steinbrück, who is also said to have been spied on, called the operation ‘grotesque’ and ‘a farce’ in the German press this week. A few months ago, Danish radio revealed that the NSA spied on the Swedish defense industry, including Saab. It now seems American snooping went way beyond that,
But why would Denmark spy in Sweden? In 2019, an impartial investigation into Denmark’s military engagement in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan found that Denmark has long been prepared to go to great lengths to maintain a strategically close relationship with the US. Even before the formal decision was made in 2001 to remove the Taliban regime, then prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen told CNN that Denmark was ready for their command: ‘Just tell us what you want’.
Perhaps another clue can be found in the Danes’ poetic code-name for their Defense Intelligence Service and the NSA’s collaboration, ‘Operation Dunhammer’ (‘bulrush’ in English). It brings to mind The Wind in the Willows. Mole, meet rat?
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.