Exciting first Day of CIOR Seminar

With the Coronavirus still looming, the first day of the 2021 CIOR Seminar kicked off online. The chairman of the CIOR Seminar Committee, Lieutenant  Colonel (R) Hans Garrels opened this year’s Seminar, titled “The Arctic: New Area of Conflict?”, with 64 participants from 19 nations attending.

By: Mr. Paul Strobel, Officer Cadet, Bundeswehr

It fell to long time CIOR friend and expert on strategic affairs, ambassador Philippe Welti to introduce the topic, which is an unfamiliar field for most participants. Ambassador Welti set the scene right away in highlighting that the Arctic is in fact only an ocean and the smallest in the world:

“It consists only of water, some of it frozen.” This icy part of the world has not produced much conflict potential in the past, but recent political rhetoric suggests that the areas’ peaceful days might be nearing their end. Reason enough, that NATO’s reserve officer association should inform itself about it.

While the Arctic in itself, at first glance, holds only a limited potential for conflict, there is one fundamental change at work which might upset what some call the strategic balance in the north: Climate change.

Seminar Chairman, Lieutenant Colonel (R) Hans Garrels. Screenshot by Paul Strobel.

While most economic activity in the far north was struggling to become profitable, having to operate under harsh climate conditions with the ice caps melting, new trade routes have become accessible. Previously unreachable natural resources have been attracting attention, possibly changing the region’s strategic equation.

Ambassador Welti highlighted the various limitations to the conflict potential of this, but also noted the stark difference between the regional strategic facts and the political language surrounding the Arctic as what he called “A case of rhetoric irresponsibility”.

“Conflict will erupt if you speak often enough about it.”, he stated, “But that shouldn’t stop us from taking a deeper look at the issue.”

The participants then discussed the issue in a Q&A session. One participant from Norway, who has extensive experience in the Arctic, highlighted his concern for the region: “From the Bering Sea to the North Cape, an ice curtain has descended across the polar sea. The Russian Federation is testing us and acts very forcefully in the region,” he said.

After a short break it was time for the first guest speaker: Nikos Tsafos, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), also focused on Russia and drew the participants’ attention to the economic factors at play in the Arctic in his talk on Russia’s oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.

Mr. Tsafos introduced the historical context of resource exploration for oil and gas in the region, which was only explored for these purposes in the 1960’s and 70’s as a response to the Arab oil embargo. After this introduction, Mr. Tsafos offered insights in the oil and gas production numbers from Russia and concluded for anyone not following the large charts: “There are A lot of resources in the Arctic”.

He then expanded on three fields of Russian resource exploitation in the far north: Oil exports, gas exports via land pipelines, and LNG gas exports via ships. His talk highlighted that Russia’s big plans for oil exploitation in the arctic were foiled by the sanctions following the invasion of Crimea and the changing oil market with low oil prices.

This is not the story with gas, however. Mr. Tsafos explained: “All the projects we get fussed about, like Nord Stream, Nord Stream 2, pipelines through Ukraine, all of that is gas from the Arctic.”

He then went on to show the development of major new gas fields in Russia for pipeline and ship export. He also explained how vital Arctic development is to the Russian state: “These projects are a matter of necessity. The geological decline of the older gas fields is so stark, that they have to go to the arctic to keep production steady. The move north is a matter of survival for Gazprom and the state.”

Mr. Tsafos’ talk also highlighted an interesting connection between Russia’s plans for arctic development and China. “The LNG development in the far north was financed largely by Chinese money”, Mrs. Tsafos said.

While China invests in the gas fields, the Russian state is also heavily involved by supplying ice breaker ships to the private companies, giving tax brakes and contributing to other investments in the area. They hope that by 2027 the northern route to China will offer year around passage for ships accompanied by ice breakers, which would half the time required for ship exports from Russia to China, he noted.

Nikos Tsafos’ sharp analysis was followed by a lively discussion by all participants, which offered a nice round-up of the first day of the 2021 CIOR Seminar. Although the informal get together after the Seminar was sorely missed, the participants were looking forward to an exciting second day.

Private Drew Olson, an infantryman assigned to 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, rehearses Stryker dismount techniques with his company during exercise Arctic Edge 2018 near Fort Greely, Alaska. Photo: Capt. Richard Packer/US Army.


Successful opening of Mid-Winter Meeting

CIOR today opened its Mid-Winter Meeting (MWM), which normally takes place in Brussels. This time, however, the meeting took place on Zoom. The attendance was “record breaking”.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt. Col (R), Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs.

CIOR has excisted for 73 years, working tirelessly for international friendship, peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area – representing the interests of up to 1,3 million reservists within the NATO alliance and beyond. Twice a year the member associations’ representatives meet on a large scale – during the Summer Congress, rotating between member nations, and the Mid-Winter Meeting, normally taking place at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

This time, due to Covid-19, the meeting was all virtual – for the first time ever. Nevertheless, more than 70 attendees had tuned in to participate in, or to follow, the deliberations of the CIOR Council, which consists of Heads of Delegations (formally known as Vice Presidents) from its 34 national, reservists’ organisations, supported by other delegation members. Other attendees include subject matter and activity organizing  committee chairmen.

This time, due to Covid-19, the CIOR Mid-Winter Meeting was all virtual – for the first time ever. Photo: Roy Thorvaldsen.

The opening speech of the CIOR President, German Navy Captain Jan Hörman, naturally focused on the special circumstances in which the organisation currently operates. Many reservists in the member associations’ home countries have been actively helping out during the pandemic, be it as border guards assisting the police, as medics – in military or civilian capacities – or otherwise.

Left meeting due to Mobilization

In fact, the UK Head of Delegation had to leave the meeting after the opening remarks, himself been mobilized to aid national relief efforts.

Anniversary Planning

Furthermore, the attention was on CIOR’s 75th anniversary coming up in 2023 – during the next, Estonian presidency. The organisation is one year older than NATO. Founded in 1948 by the reserve officer associations of Belgium, France and the Netherlands, CIOR is a NATO-affiliated, non-political and non-profit umbrella organization of member nations’ national reserve officer associations.

Celebrations should among other key efforts focus on publishing an anniversary book, and on developing an exhibition, to tour member nations’ capitals before being permanently put on display at NATO headquarters or another prominent place, the meeting suggested. To establish an anniversary medal of merit being another, along with a souvenir medal.

Developing key Partnerships

Two major partners of CIOR, NATO’s National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) and the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Non-Commissioned Officers (CISOR) presented their view on further developing relationships with CIOR, fostering mutually beneficial partnerships in the interests of both the individual reservists and the member nations’ reserve forces.

NRFC Chairman Michael H. Busse, Rear Admiral German Navy, on NRFC priorities.

– The CIOR president and I have very similar ideas, and I am keen to deepen the cooperation significantly, NRFC Chairman Michael H. Busse, Rear Admiral German Navy, said, during his remarks. – We’re on a path to success together, he said.

– NATO has two important driving factors, resilience and enablement, and all member nations have an increased dependency on reserve forces, Busse said.

Multinational Reserve Network

One project where NRFC has requested CIOR to consider taking over the responsibility for the Multinational Reserve Network (NMRN), iniated by Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation – one of NATO’s two strategic commands.

This initiative “contributes to effective utilisation of Alliance resources, leads to the development of improved reserve capabilities across NATO and promotes the meaningful contributions of national Reserve forces. Additionally, increased collaboration among multiple NATO Members’ Reserve forces further enhances the exchange of best practices/lessons learned and leads to the development of improved reserve capabilities across NATO. The Committee’s Members support this initiative and some of them provide reservists on a voluntary basis to the identified NATO requirements.”

CIOR’s stand on this is that it currently cannot take on such a large commitment alone, and assesses that the initiative is best served with a cooperation between CIOR and NRFC.

”The Arctic: New Area of Conflict?”

It’s soon time for the CIOR Seminar again – which last year proved to be a great success. The exciting theme to be explored is the growing strategic importance of the Arctic. The event is going to be entirely virtual, with no physical attendance – due to Covid-19.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt.Col. (R) Norwegian Army/CIOR Public Affairs

The seminar will cover strategic and security related questions concerning the Arctic region, like: Who are the stakeholders and what interests do they have in the area? What conflicts could emerge, and how would they impact the rest of the world? How could conflicting interests be resolved?

Photo: US Navy seals on exercise in the Arctic. Photo: US Navy.

The event takes place over three days – starting in the afternoon of Monday, February 22nd and concluding in the evening of Wednesday, February 24th.

– Like last year’s seminar on China’s growing strategic importance, this year’s event on the Arctic should bring about a wide range of perspectives on the evermore important region of the high north, says the Chairman of the CIOR Seminar Committee, Lieutenant Colonel (R) Hans Garrels, Dutch Army.

– We have great speakers, acclaimed experts in their fields. They will both draw the big picture and do a deep dive into all the most relevant issues concerning the Arctic region. Attendees at this event will after the seminar both understand the matter better and be properly ”armed” for future discussions in a field that’s only going to grow in significance.

– We are also very happy that Philippe Welti, a former Swiss-Ambassador and a well-known expert on geopolitical and strategic affairs, will moderate the seminar, says Garrels.


For more information, see the Seminar Section.

Sign up on Eventbrite.


CIOR Seminar 2021 coming up

The 2021 CIOR Seminar under the title “The Arctic” will take place as a virtual event Monday, Febuary 22nd – Wednesday, February 24th.

It covers strategic and security related questions concerning the Arctic region:

  • History of the Arctic, meaning and strategic relevance
  • Stakeholders and their interests
  • Relevance of conflicts of the Arctics for the rest of the world and possible solutions to it

The tickets include the participation in the 3-day live seminar on Monday (3pm – 7pm), Tuesday (3pm – 7pm) and Wednesday (3pm – 7pm).

Refund policy: Full refund is possible til February 14th; later cancellations are not entitled to a refund.

For more information on the CIOR Seminar, go to the Seminar Section.

Estonian Reserve Officers prepare for Presidency from 2022

The Chief of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), Major General Martin Herem and the Chairman of the Reserve Officers´ Association, Major (R) Andre Lilleleht, have signed the cooperation agreement that will set down main support lines provided by EDF to the Estonian reserve officers during Estonia´s Presidency term in CIOR from the summer of 2022. 

By Lieutenant Commander Ingrid Mühling, Member of Board, Estonian Reserve Officers’ Association.

Germany took over the CIOR Presidency on the 2nd of October this year from the UK during a part physical, part virtual late Summer Congress in Tallinn, Estonia. The German Presidency term will

last until the summer of 2022.

The German presidential team consists of six officers, Major Lilleleht from Estonia and Lieutenant Colonel (R) Ben Jonckers from Belgium, who is CIOR’s permanent representative at NATO Headquarters, are also associated members of the German team.

– The CIOR Presidency is an opportunity to make international reserve service visible. Working with other countries and presidential teams strengthen cooperation and mutual understanding, Lilleleht said.

– The recent CIOR congresses held in Tallinn have given us confidence that we can carry the burden of presidency after such great powers as the UK and Germany, he added.

Read more about the Estonian Reserve officer association here!

Despite the Coronavirus, the March goes on!

The first distance marching event of the Reserve Sports Association (RESUL) of Finland mobilised more than seven hundred marchers this past summer. Marches were performed not only in Finland but also in other countries around the world.

By 1st Lt. Susanna Takamaa, Finnish Reserve Officer Federation/ CIOR Public Affairs

The Vierdaagse 2020 march in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, was canceled in the spring due to the prevailing corona situation. In different marching groups, both on social media and in groups of friends, alternative events were considered, but organising marches in exceptional circumstances seemed difficult in principle.

March participants walked by themselves, when and how far they wanted – and at their own pace. Photo: Susanna Takamaa.

An army and outdoor store from Finland called Varusteleka organised a long-distance military march in April and this served as a good starting point for the national long-distance marching idea amongst other long-distance marches.

Organised in just four months

Eventually, RESUL carried out a four-day marching event organised in just two months, mainly by volunteers. The Finnish Reserve Officers ‘Association, the Reservists’ Association and the National Defense Guilds Association constituted the ‘background forces’, and the More Movement (“Lisää liikettä” in Finnish) was added as an important partner.

The event was set up to be an easy marching event to take part in, that everyone could attend according to his or her own fitness level. The long-distance march was held during Vierdaages week, and two of the four marching days were scheduled over the weekend so that as many people as possible would be able to participate. Participants could chose whether they’d like to walk for one, more or all of the four days.

Flexibility for participants

The lack of pre-registration provided flexibility for participation, as one could leave for the march even on the last day of the march. The minimum requirement was set at ten kilometers and there were no time limits for completing the march. Everyone was encouraged to join, regardless of military rank – or even without one.

For many marching reservists, the RESUL Four Day March became the marching event of the summer to replace the canceled ‘Vierdaagse’. Similar events were organised all over Europe to uphold the marching spirit of the Nijmegen event.

Surprised by high attendance across the world

The popularity of the RESUL Four Day March eventually surprised the organisers. During the four days, about 750 participants took part in the march, of which as many as a hundred marched abroad, for example in Germany, Switzerland, UK, the United States and Japan.

If much else was different this time, the 2020 marching event was recognisable in at least one way – sore feet! Photo: Susanna Takamaa.



German CIOR Presidency Logo

The declared goal of the two-year German presidency of  #CIOR, which officially commenced on October 2nd, is to increase and underline the resilience and visibility of the reserves. For this purpose, the Presidency has developed a modern logo and thus a distinctive “trademark”.

By: Dr.  Dennis Bürjes, Lieutenant Colonel (R) German Army/Assistant Secretary General CIOR

The designated motto “#Resilience and #Visibility of our #Reserves” as well as the German leadership is symbolically reflected therein. The German national colours are integrated in the design of the escutcheon of the @Reservistenverband der @Bundeswehr (reservist association of the German armed forces) enclosed by an implied “parachute” in the blue of #NATO.

Through the combination of the heraldic shield and “parachute”, the logo symbolically reflects the motif of “resilience”. The ring of grey spheres enclosing the “parachute” stands for the CIOR Council of member associations and its numerous committees, reflecting the holistic community structure of the organisation.

Furthermore, this arrangement in itself ought to be interpreted as a nod to the human “eye” – the universally accepted symbol for “visibility”.

Stronger together

The German presidency is firmly convinced that all national reserve organisations under the CIOR umbrella benefit most when we stand together, outline our common goals, and pursue them as one – instead of each member pursuing narrow national self-interests. Thus, we are committed to furthering this sense of togetherness and community amongst the CIOR members throughout the next two years.

The CIOR Presidency has developed a logo to symbolise German leadership, and resilience and visibility of the Reserves.


Germany takes over CIOR Presidency

Today, 02 Oct 2020, Navy Captain (R) Jan Hörmann – as President – and Major (R) André Roosen as Secretary General – officially assumed the CIOR presidency from the UK during a virtual meeting.

By: Dr.  Dennis Bürjes, Lieutenant Colonel (R) German Army/Assistant Secretary General CIOR

The motto of the German presidency is “Resilience and Visibility of our Reserves”, which the honorary Presidency team – consisting of six other German reserve officers – will implement. They are supported by a Belgian and an Estonian reserve officer.

By taking over the chairmanship, the German Reserve Association is doing its part to make the reserves internationally visible.

Germany will hold the Presidency for the next two years, 2020-2022.

In the upcoming weeks and months, further information about CIOR, its projects and the German presidential team will follow.

– We look forward to the next two years. It will be exciting, said Secretary General André Roosen on the occasion of the handover.

German Presidency of CIOR 2020-2022. Photo: German Reserve Association/Sören Peters.

Late Summer Congress concludes


The most challenging circumstances that a CIOR Summer Congress ever faced were overcome with a successful week’s outcomes in Tallinn, Estonia. Delegates from a reduced number of countries attended in person due to the Covid-19 crisis but meetings continued online via apps like Zoom to ensure that exchanges of ideas took place. The success of this was evident on the last day when 53 people logged in as the round-up reports were being given.

By: Sqn Ldr (R) Michael Cairns, Royal Air Force/ CIOR Public Affairs

On site at the Estonian conference base were the Executive Committee, Young Reserve Officer Workshop (YROW) and Reserve Officer Workshop (ROW) participants and those taking part in the Cyber workshop. The Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC), Defence and Security (DefSec), Legal, Seminar, Symposium and YROW committees largely met online. CIMIC reported that 34 members took part in the CIMIC exercise (CIMEX) that dealt with an imaginary widespread flooding incident. Members of the Strategic Communication committee provided Public Affairs support at the congress centre along with host nation photographers.

Both CIOMR, the medical sister body of CIOR, and the non-commissioned officer body CISOR also had small, but valuable presences in Tallinn.

A younger feel

The good turnout by YROW participants gave the Congress a younger feel as they made up a sizeable proportion of those on the ground. And indeed a former YROW and young Lieutenant, Sarah Alexandra George was the face of CIOR at a significant defence conference held in Tallinn during the week, the Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABCD).

CIOR partnered with the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bonn, Germany to host the conference, which in part focused on reserve policies and experiences across the NATO Alliance.

Praise to Estonia

As the UK Presidency transitions to the German Presidency, outgoing President, Colonel (R) Chris Argent, UK Army, paid tribute to the support he and his team has had from Estonia in hosting so many events in the past two years. Several members of the joint UK-Estonian Presidency team received the CIOR Medal of Merit for their efforts in a simple ceremony in the Council meeting room.

Estonian major (R) André Lilleleth was one of the CIOR Medal of Merit awardees due to his extraordinary efforts during the last two years’ UK-Estonian presidential period. Outgoing CIOR President Chris Argent left. Photo: Roy Thorvaldsen.

Argent said his aim was to encourage refocusing and problem solving in relation to CIOR’s position and relevance to NATO and national governments, and believed progress had been made.

As to the future of physical meetings, Argent said the Covid crisis had shown how compromises were possible and how elements of online working could contribute to cost savings where appropriate –whilst never replacing the need for face-to-face engagement.

Estonian major (R) Ülo Isberg listening to special guest UK Deputy Commander Field Army, Major General Celia Harvey speaking to Council – as the LSC 2020 draws to a close.

Resilience and visibility

Incoming president, German Navy Captain (R) Jan Hörmann said the German Presidency’s focus would be on “Resilience and Visibility of Reserves.” The incoming President said the theme had been chosen prior to the COVID crisis but was now even more relevant to highlight to communities how important reserve citizen soldiers are at times of crisis.

“We want to make our reserves more visible to our communities and to our countries, especially in times like these when we all have to stand up for democracy and freedom.”

While next year’s congress is planned for Athens, Greece, the extent of who will be able to attend will remain unclear for some time to come. But as the Tallinn congress ended, there was no doubt what all of CIOR wanted, and that was to look forward to the time when relationships and exchanges can once again be built face to face. Keep safe!

Limited Numbers but still a Great YROW Experience

This year’s late summer congress was not a normal one due to the Covid-19 crisis, as fewer nations understandably decided to attend in person. Despite this, the organisers of the YROW (Young Reserve Officer Workshop) and ROW (the new Reserve Officer Workshop for the age level above YROW attendees) managed to pull off a great event in which junior officers learned valuable lessons and built cross-Alliance friendships.

By: Sqn Ldr (R) Michael Cairns, Royal Air Force/ CIOR Public Affairs

Officers attending both the YROW and ROW combined to become one group whilst others joined sessions from their home countries online.

Those that travelled to Tallinn included delegates from Austria, Greece, Sweden, the Baltic states and the UK – and they carried on the important CIOR tradition of broadening knowledge of key military issues and learning how best to work with reservists from across NATO.

The cultural learning element of the workshop included a personal tour of the Estonian Parliament and representatives chamber with the former Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas who is now himself a Reserve Lieutenant.

He outlined to the workshop attendees the nature of Estonian democracy, and the concerns the country has in relation to exterior threats. The nation has a deep pride in its identity.

The cultural learning element of the workshop included a personal tour of the Estonian Parliament and representatives chamber with the former Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivass who is now himself a Reserve Lieutenant.

Amongst those attending was Lieutenant Natalie Gardner (34) who reflected on how fortunate she was to become aware of the YROW programme in light of what she will take away from the Congress:

“I really think this programme should be more widely publicised,” said Lt Gardner,” as it allows for great junior officer networking and learning.” “Being able to gather in Estonia’s Freedom Square in uniform with those from other nations was a real highlight. I have no doubt that this is something every young reserve officer should try and come on, and knowing it is there could be an excellent retention tool as an activity you would not get to attend as a civilian.”

An unusual event in which YROW participated was the Annual Baltic Defence Conference (ABCD) enabling them to hear from key defence leaders in Spain, Sweden, the US, the UK and elsewhere about how reservists are being best used during the Pandemic, and on wider aspects of assessing future threats.

YROW participants following the ABCD event online from the Late Summer Congress venue.


Getting acces to such an event is not something which comes along easily, so yet another reason to remember Estonia 2020 as a key year in the YRO and RO workshop members’ development.

On top of this, long-time YROW participant, Lieutenant Sarah Alexandra George, UK Army Reserve, was entrusted with the role of moderator in one on the three ABCD sessions – the one dealing with ‘The role of reserves in the foreseeable security environment’.

Lieutenant Sarah Alexandra George, UK Army Reserve, moderating one on the three ABCD sessions.