Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Princes of Denmark

It sometimes seems that the only real military allies the UK has in Europe are the Danes and their fellow Balts, the Estonians.

750 Danes are serving in Afghanistan, proportionately one of the highest national contingents out there. 31 Danish soldiers have given their lives fighting to make Afghanistan a better, more secure place. A high price; in fact this casualty rate, 4.1%, is higher than both the UK's 2.6% and the US's 1.3%.

Unlike other European countries, the Danish people are honouring their commitments to NATO. We had thought that the Dutch could be relied on, but then, I suppose, so did the people of Srebrenica (the Danish Army's record in Bosnia on the other hand earned them great respect). It is most likely that the Dutch will soon be pulling out, leaving their NATO allies in the lurch. Other European contingents are reluctant to be posted to "restive" regions like Helmand or to take the fight to the Taliban; they'd rather leave that to the professionals.

The Danes, however, are in the thick of it and holding firm against the European flight to the Maginot line. Their forces in Afghanistan continue to have strong public support at home - their recent military resurgence has rightly been a source of great national pride.

As one Danish soldier said: "It is too easy to stay at home, and Denmark is doing its part"

There's no 'to be or not to be' for these Vikings.