Open letter to a new Dutch government: the armed forces at risk

December 11, 2012 - nr.22

The Advisory Council for International Affairs (AIV) has the task of advising the government and the States General on foreign policy, including security and defence policy. Since the end of the Cold War, the main focus of Dutch security and defence policy has been the promotion of the international legal order and the deployment of the armed forces in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations around the world. This policy has entailed transforming the armed forces into a smaller, fully expeditionary force. Major reference points for this transformation include the Defence Priority Review (1993), the Defence White Paper (2000), the Budget Day Letter (2003), the policy letter ‘Service Worldwide’ (2007) and the policy letter ‘The Ministry of Defence after the Credit Crisis’ (2011). Each of these policy documents has led to further reductions in the armed forces’ size and resources. The decisions made in 2011 raise questions regarding the deployability and the level of ambition of the armed forces.

At the same time there is great uncertainty about the future development of the international and national security situation and the growing potential for new conflicts. The AIV is therefore greatly concerned about possible new cutbacks to defence, which would seriously harm the effectiveness of Dutch foreign and security policy. In the party leaders’ debates in the run-up to the recent elections on 12 September security and defence policy was not discussed; these debates were entirely devoted to the economic and social impact of the parties’ other policy plans. As a new government is now being formed, we are addressing this advisory letter to Parliament and to the future government, particularly because new cutbacks to defence would be in conflict with the constitutionally mandated tasks of the armed forces and the Netherlands’ obligations under international agreements.

The gravity of this situation has led the AIV to confine itself in this letter on the formation of a new government to the issue of defence spending.

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