Denmark intends to suggest at next month's NATO foreign minister's meeting that the alliance postpone for six months a decision on modernizing its nuclear missile arsenal in Europe.
Danish Foreign Minister Kjeld Olesen said that, during those six months, the Soviet Union could be challenged to make good on its offer to negotiate a freeze on battlefield nuclear weapons in Eastern and Western Europe.
But the Danes do not expect their suggestions to be accepted at the Dec. 12 NATO meeting, according to government sources. Olesen would then be ready to join the other foreign ministers in approving production and eventual deployment of 572 intermediate-range U.S. Pershing II and Cruise missiles at NATO bases in Europe.
The Danish government was forced into suggesting a postponement by the resurgent left-wing of Prime Minister Anker Jorgensen's union-backed Social Democratic Party. Under pressure from the left, Jorgensen also has decided to cut Denmark's defense spending by 1.5 percent next year, rather than increase it by 3 percent as NATO had requested.
Jorgensen needs to maintain unity in his party to implement a tough program of wage and price ceilings and government spending cuts to reduce inflation and rescue Denmark's ailing economy. Left-wing Social Democrats and labor union leaders would not agree to limitations on welfare spending unless defense spending also was cut.
The left wing also won over a majority of the party's members of parliament to the suggestion of a six-month delay of the NATO nuclear missile decision. t
Danish Social Democrats apparently have been influenced by Joop den Uyl, leader of the Netherlands' Labor Party, who accused them in newspaper interviews of letting his party down in its opposition to the new missiles and to their deployment in the Netherlands. He made a similar appeal to members of Norway's governing Labor Party.
Neither the Dutch nor the Norwegian governments have yet revealed their strategy for the Dec. 12 NATO meeting, but a majority in Norway's parliament supports an affirmative decision on the new missiles so long as it is tied to a genuine NATO effort to negotiate with the Soviet Union on eventual European arms limitations.
Prominent figures in both Denmark and Norway, NATO's only members in Scandinavia, have publicly opposed NATO missile modernization. Public opinion polls in both countries show strong general support for NATO, accompanied by a desire to stop nuclear escalation in Europe.
Whatever overtures NATO ends up making to the Soviet Union on nuclear arms control, Europe, Danish Foreign Minister Olesen said, "The Soviet Union must open negotiations to freeze its current theater forces as quickly as possible and independent of the SALT negotiations" between the United States and the Soviet Union.