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Nordics withdraw from UN Rapid Reaction Force

(B2) The Nordic countries could withdraw, by mutual agreement, from the UN Rapid Reaction Brigade (or SHIRBRIG as Standby High Readiness Brigade). At least that’s what the Finns and Norwegians are announcing. The decision could be effective by November. The Nordic countries do not have enough available resources and have other commitments to keep: with NATO, in Afghanistan for Norway, or with the European Union, in Chad in particular, for Finland and Sweden.

The Norwegians are among the founders of this group and have placed at its disposal a helicopter unit in Rygge, near Fredrikstad. But it was never used. In fact the Shirbrig never reached its maximum power and was not used as intended. The Norwegian defense chief, General Sverre Diesen, therefore wrote a letter to the commander of the Shirbrirg, announces the daily Aftenposten. The “Norway will no longer contribute to Shirbrig”. And its very existence must be discussed. This is not a disengagement of the UN, explains the Secretary of State at the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, Barth Eide. “We are working hard to set up certain operations, such as in Darfur. (…) But Norway does not have enough military capacity to contribute more than what is already in international operations, such as that carried out in Afghanistan“. What confirms director general of the Finnish Ministry of Defense Pauli Järvenpää, this is not “not only for practical needs or political will, but also for financial reasons”.

Born from a Danish initiative in 1994, the multinational unit was set up between 1997 and 1999, and declared “available” for a mission of the international organization on January 1, 2000. Its memorandum of understanding was signed by 16 States and 7 others are “observers“. Based at the Hoevelte barracks (Denmark), it is currently led by a Polish officer, the Polish General Kochanowski. Originally, it was to have 5500 men ready for emergency deployment. But in facts, SHIRBRIG troops were mainly used in Eritrea (UNMEE) with a headquarters, an infantry battalion and an HQ company deployed. She participated in other UN missions in Africa – Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sudan, etc. – but often on a preparatory basis and only with a few dozen soldiers. 


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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