Instability around Europe: confrontation with a new reality

September 15, 2015 - nr.94
Summary

Conclusions and recommendations

1. Conclusions

The international security situation around Europe has changed drastically over the last few years. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq and the disintegration of Libya have created a ‘arc of instability’ on Europe’s borders that poses a direct threat to its security and thus to the security of the Netherlands.

The following questions are central to this advisory report:

  1. How should these developments on Europe’s borders be assessed? Is there truly an ‘arc of instability’ and will it affect Europe for a considerable length of time?
     
  2. How should the EU and NATO respond to the challenges on Europe’s borders? What options are available and what is the impact of the American shift towards South-East Asia?
     
  3. What Dutch interests are at stake and to what extent do the developments on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks pose a threat to Dutch security? What is the best way to promote and/or protect these interests? What are the implications for the foreign and security policy and defence efforts of the Netherlands?

Threats to European security
The conflicts on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks are largely different in nature and present different security risks. To the east, Europe is faced by a region that is scarcely integrated at all in terms of security policy, with several weak states afflicted by internal instability, and above all with an assertive, indeed aggressive Russia. The AIV does not think it very probable that President Putin’s power will be undermined in the near future. The EU would be well advised to give more emphasis to security policy considerations in its relations with Russia. This would better acknowledge the nature of those relations (competition, spheres of influence) and the political realities in the neighbouring region. The AIV concludes that for a long time to come account will have to be taken of instability on Europe’s eastern border as a result of Russian intimidation. There is also a serious possibility of Russian destabilisation of the Baltic states.

To the south Europe is confronted by a wide range of security risks, such as the arms trade and returning jihadists, deriving from weak or even failed states such as Iraq, Syria and Libya, large parts of which are at present under ISIS control. The situation in Libya poses the greatest and most direct security risk to the EU. The options available to the EU and the US to help increase stability in Iraq, Syria and Libya are limited. At most, the airstrikes carried out in Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve have been able to slow ISIS territorial expansion for the time being. The AIV expects that it will be at least a generation before the region witnesses legitimate democratic governance or substantial economic progress.1

Policy options for NATO and the EU
Over the last few years the international importance of the EU has declined, partly as a result of the euro crisis. The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy is not yet sufficiently developed and the role played by the EU on the international stage is not commensurate with its economic power. Individual member states’ strong drive towards self-assertion still stands in the way of united action by the EU. Germany has taken the lead within the EU in the conflict with Russia and seems prepared to gradually take on a prominent position in the security field as well.

The AIV believes the time is not yet ripe for the establishment of a European defence force. First, more progress will have to be made with European defence policy and the EU will have to develop further towards a political union. The AIV sees more potential in pragmatic cooperation in the form of pooling and sharing by like-minded EU member states; this will produce more tangible results.

The scope for the EU to influence developments in the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region) is relatively limited. The fight for the political future of the Arab region is one which should be fought primarily by the Arab countries themselves. The EU should focus on taking advantage of opportunities and managing threats to Europe’s security and energy supply. A solution must be found, in the West as elsewhere, to the attraction exercised by ISIS for young Muslims and other young people. The recruitment of ISIS adherents in Europe for the armed struggle must be obstructed, by means of preventive intervention and anti-radicalisation programmes. Joint efforts by the intelligence services, educational institutions and civil society organisations are crucial in this connection.

There is a resurgence of interest in the importance of peace and security, the significance of transatlantic cooperation and the value of collective defence as NATO’s core task. The drafting of the Readiness Action Plan and the establishment of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) represent the first steps taken in response to the new security risks stemming from Russian activity on NATO’s eastern borders. New contingency planning is called for, especially in the field of hybrid warfare. NATO member states will have to invest heavily in building capacity at division and corps level to prevent a dangerous gap opening up between the VJTF (and the NATO Response Force), as the tripwire, and the nuclear arsenal, which would undermine the credibility of article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Most NATO member states have not yet acted on the decision taken at the NATO summit in Wales to increase defence spending towards the 2% NATO benchmark. There are several honourable exceptions: a number of East European countries and Germany, which will be adding a total of EUR 8 billion to its defence budget over the next four years. The US still accounts for the lion’s share of the alliance’s defence spending. This lack of burden-sharing is unsustainable, especially because South-East Asia, rather than Europe, has become the most important region for the US. In the AIV’s view, the European NATO member states can no longer avoid assuming more responsibility for European security.

The international position of the Netherlands
The Netherlands still defines itself as a medium-sized EU member state, but its influence has diminished over recent decades. Like the other EU member states, it will have to give priority to security and security policy in the years ahead. This will indisputably affect other areas of Dutch foreign and security policy, such as human rights policy. The decline in the West’s power and the harsher cast of international relations mean that securing compliance with human rights agreements requires even greater efforts than in the past. The Netherlands will have to work more closely with like-minded countries if it is to achieve results. Championing human rights should not be separated from a country’s security conditions. The creation of a safe, stable situation is essential for the construction of a sound administration and judicial apparatus, which form the basis for protecting human rights and promoting humane values in general. Conversely, if human rights are more firmly rooted in a country, this contributes to greater security and stability in the longer term.

Instability on the EU’s borders is forcing the Netherlands to reposition itself in Europe. In this connection, the AIV believes that the Netherlands should aim for some form of special partnership with one or more large member states. In view of the leading role played by Germany in the EU with regard to Ukraine, the obvious move would be for The Hague to line up closely with Berlin. While Dutch security policy used to look to the UK and the US, the changes in the security situation in mainland Europe and the UK’s limited involvement are now forcing the Netherlands to orientate itself more towards continental Europe. When it comes to NATO, the Netherlands should speak even more loudly than before on behalf of the countries that are pressing for Europe to take a bigger share of the allies’ efforts. Paradoxically, this would be the best way to ensure an abiding US sense of commitment to Europe.

The Netherlands’ defence efforts
The AIV notes that, at 1.16% of GDP, the Dutch defence budget is well under the current average for European NATO member states of 1.6% of GDP. The AIV also notes that repeated cuts in the Dutch defence budget have been made at the expense of the full spectrum deployability, sustainability and escalation dominance of the Dutch armed forces. The limited ground-based manoeuvre capability of the armed forces – army and marines – has as a consequence turned them into a light army with insufficient escalation dominance. This is alarming and must be urgently remedied, particularly inthe light of current tensions with Russia. The government must be prepared for NATO to call on the Netherlands, as on other countries, to make a sizeable military unit available to deter potential offensive operations by Russia on the borders of the NATO treaty area.

The AIV advocates a gradual increase in the Dutch defence budget within the next ten years to approximately 1.6% of GDP, while being mindful of the NATO 2% benchmark. The AIV considers it advisable to draw up a ‘Delta Plan for the armed forces’, providing for a multi-year financial framework for the stable development of the armed forces. In the first instance this would involve replenishing the store of spare parts and munitions and restoring basic combat capabilities that have been scrapped over the last few years. Restoring the balance between combat and support capabilities is a prime requirement.

Should a considerable increase in the defence budget prove politically feasible, the armed forces’ level of ambition – and thus their sustainability – could be stepped up again. That would create scope for replacement investment (including submarines, frigates and additional fighter aircraft) and new investment. The emphasis in new investment should be placed firmly on intelligence and cyber capabilities and on special forces because of the increased threat from hybrid warfare. The helicopter capability also urgently needs expanding in the interests of implementing the second core task. An investment ratio of at least 20% of the total defence budget is essential. To implement a specific plan to expand defence capability, the House of Representatives could adopt the Danish system of multiyear budget agreements to provide the defence organisation with financial stability in the longer term. A separate adequate financial arrangement should also be made to fund deployment of the armed forces in a range of operations.

2. Recommendations

  1. In the light of the mounting crises on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks, the AIV believes it necessary to review Dutch defence policy, focusing on three priorities: a higher valuation of collective defence, European security and defence cooperation,and a substantial increase in the Dutch defence budget.
     
  2. The AIV would advise the government to remodel its relations with Russia along more realistic lines. Constructive cooperation on European security matters would appear to be impossible for a considerable time to come. Russia is no longer a partner but an opponent in many respects. The EU member states must not let Russia play them off against one another.
     
  3. The AIV calls on the government to use its influence to ensure that the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement is implemented as soon as possible by the EU and the International Monetary Fund, in order to bolster Ukraine’s weak economy. Priority should be given to much-needed improvements in public administration, strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption. For the time being EU membership is not on the horizon for Ukraine, nor is it desirable in the present circumstances. This applies even more strongly to membership of NATO.
     
  4. The AIV takes the view that resolving conflicts in the MENA region is primarily the responsibility of the countries themselves. Western governments should remain in the background wherever possible and confine their efforts to aiding and supporting moderate Arab governments and groups. The AIV advises the government to counter the fragmentation of Dutch aid programmes and to channel Dutch contributions to Iraq and Syria mainly to security sector reform and humanitarian assistance. In the AIV’s opinion, the Netherlands should also contribute to possible EU support, for example in the form of trainers and advisors, in the interests of achieving a measure of stability in Libya.
     
  5. In the preliminary stages of EU decision-making, the AIV advises the government to seek to align itself, on a case-by-case basis, with one or more large member states with a view to exercising timely influence. The obvious course would be for the Netherlands to orient itself politically towards Germany. The Netherlands should encourage Germany to take a more clearly defined position in security matters as in other fields.
     
  6.  In the AIV’s opinion, the EU should formulate a new security strategy as soon as possible, as a means of giving a new boost to EU defence cooperation. European countries can no longer afford to be thought of as free riders. The new security strategy should incorporate realistic targets for the required European defence capabilities. The introduction of a European semester, enabling defence ministers to allow one another access to their respective draft defence budgets and investment plans and hold one another to account for them, will make a key contribution to closer defence cooperation.
     
  7. The AIV recommends that during the Dutch EU Presidency in 2016, the government propose that the EU reach specific agreements on new joint defence investments, for example the formation of a European pool of transport helicopters. Further integration of support units (such as air transport) and closer operational cooperation between combat units are also possible and desirable.
     
  8. NATO should work more on its contingency planning, in particular with regard to hybrid warfare, so as to be prepared for any eventuality on the borders of the treaty area. The AIV advises the government to urge NATO to develop the Readiness Action Plan further so as to increase the credibility of the deployment of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and, if necessary, the NATO Response Force as a whole. NATO’s deterrent capability should be strengthened primarily by increasing the alliance’s response capability and sustainability. NATO should also give much higher priority to threats from cyber attacks and cyber warfare and develop the resources required for this purpose within the alliance.
     
  9. The AIV believes it necessary to adhere to the level of ambition of an ‘agile force’ and to bring the Dutch defence budget up to approximately 1.6% of GDP within the next ten years, while being mindful of the NATO 2% benchmark. Additional funds should be used to remedy acute deficiencies in the armed forces and to invest in combat capability (such as tanks). If the government decides on a substantial increase in the defence budget, this will create financial scope for replacement investment (including submarines, frigates and additional fighter aircraft) and new investment in transport helicopters and intelligence and cyber capabilities.
     
  10. The AIV advises the government to deploy the Dutch armed forces more selectively and to prioritise military operations or peace missions that address direct threats to Europe’s security and stability.

1 For the AIV’s recommendations on democratisation, employment, diplomacy and the prevention and/or combating of violence, see AIV advisory report: no. 91, ‘The Netherlands and the Arab Region: a Principled and Pragmatic Approach’, The Hague, November 2014, pp. 32-34.

Advice request
Government reactions

Chairman of the Advisory Council on International Affairs
Mr J.G. de Hoop Scheffer
P.O.Box 20061
2500 EB   The Hague
 

Date      11 November 2015
Re          Advisory report no 94 'Instability around Europe'
 

Dear Mr De Hoop Scheffer,

Please find below the government's response to advisory report no 94 of the Advisory Council on International Affairs 'Instability around Europe: Confrontation with a New Reality'.

The government's response is also send to the President of the Senate and the President of the House of Representatives.
 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs
Bert Koenders
The Minister of Defence
J.A. Hennis-Plasschaert

________________________________________

Government response to the AIV advisory report ‘Instability around Europe: Confrontation with a New Reality’

September 2015 

On 30 April, the AIV published an advisory report on its own initiative entitled ‘Instability around Europe: Confrontation with a New Reality’ (referred to below as ‘the report’). The government welcomes the AIV’s contribution to the discussion on the new security situation in Europe. Partly because of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the disintegration of Libya, and the migratory pressure that these developments have generated, the arc of instability along Europe’s eastern and southern borders has grown. This poses a direct threat to the security of Europe and therefore of the Netherlands. It is a new situation that calls for a new way of thinking. In that context, the government welcomes the AIV’s analyses and recommendations and will take them into account in considering the direction that foreign policy needs to take. This response first examines a number of the report’s major concerns, and then looks more closely at its recommendations and their implications for Europe’s eastern and southern flanks, the EU and NATO, and the Dutch armed forces. A number of issues, such as the level of the defence budget, are discussed in detail elsewhere. Therefore, with regard to certain points, this response will refer to other relevant policy documents for the sake of brevity. The Minister of Defence responded earlier, in a letter sent to the House of Representatives on 1 May (2015Z08276), to questions in parliament on the AIV advisory letter.

1. The arc of instability and an integrated approach

The government agrees with the AIV that the security situation in Europe’s immediate vicinity has changed drastically in recent years and become much less stable, and that this has consequences for the Netherlands’ foreign and security policy. In its policy letter on international security ‘Turbulent Times in Unstable Surroundings‘ of November 2014, the government builds on its 2013 International Security Strategy (ISS) with an analysis of current developments in our international security environment, outlining the implications for policy. Like the AIV’s advisory letter, the policy letter examines threats on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks and what they mean for Dutch policy. The government indicates that the Netherlands must be prepared for instability in the arc around Europe for the foreseeable future, and the AIV report confirms this perspective.  

In taking steps to combat this instability, the government emphasises the need to strike a good balance between tackling the most acute symptoms and addressing the underlying causes more structurally. Such an integrated approach demands coordinated use of the various policy instruments at the government’s disposal through a coherent mix of diplomacy, development cooperation, defence, intelligence, the police, the justice system and sanctions. The AIV advisory letter endorses the importance of a broad approach embracing a range of policy instruments. Like the advisory report, this government response focuses primarily on the defence dimension, thereby responding to the report’s recommendations.

2. Europe’s eastern and southern flanks

Eastern flank
The government agrees with the AIV that Europe must take account of an assertive Russia on its eastern flank for the foreseeable future, and that the government should model its relations with Russia on realistic lines (recommendation 2). In its policy letter of 13 May, the government examined relations with Russia in detail and how policy on Russia should best be spelled out. As a consequence of changes in Russia’s approach, its relations with the West have entered a new phase and are different in nature than they were before the crisis in Ukraine. The Netherlands’ response to Russia is a combination of pressure and dialogue, in which unity with our EU partners and NATO allies is essential. Pressure is exerted on Russia in various ways, including sanctions, conciliatory measures through NATO, and a ‘no business as usual’ strategy. At the same time, the Netherlands remains open for dialogue, for example in the form of military contact to prevent incidents that may arise from Russian aircraft flying too close to or through the airspace of NATO member states, or by means of the political dialogue aimed at finding a solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

The government agrees with the AIV’s observation that it is important to bolster Ukraine’s weak economy, whereby efforts by the EU (the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement) and the IMF are of great importance (recommendation 3).

The EU’s efforts to bolster Ukraine’s economy are framed by the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, to which the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area is linked. The Netherlands supports these efforts. The Association Agreement defines a political and economic reform agenda, aimed at ensuring that, step by step, Ukraine conforms to the EU’s norms and values. The agreement offers considerable potential, which the Ukrainian authorities now have to realise. Ukraine still has a long way to go, especially in light of the challenges in the east of the country, but since the Association Agreement was signed in June 2014 some initial steps forward have been taken, for  example in tackling corruption. In this respect, the IMF also plays a valuable role: although it is not formally party to the Association Agreement, in practice the EU and the IMF work closely together, for example to ensure that they do not give Ukraine contradictory advice on financial reform (recommendation 3).

The Netherlands is also supporting Ukraine bilaterally, devoting specific attention to improving governance, strengthening the rule of law and combating corruption. The government agrees with the AIV that EU membership and accession to NATO are currently not on the horizon for Ukraine.

Southern flank
On its southern flanks, Europe is confronted with the rapid rise of ISIS and other extremist terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and with growing instability elsewhere in the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and surrounding countries like Yemen. First of all, this calls for strengthening the counterterrorism chain and taking extra measures at home and abroad. The government gave an early indication on 27 February 2015 of the measures it considers necessary in this respect. In addition, in the coming years, there is likely to be a need for more crisis management operations in countries and regions close to Europe, together with greater efforts in diplomacy, development cooperation and other areas to prevent further destabilisation. Migration, too, requires urgent attention. Within the EU, besides the Frontex border control operations Triton and Poseidon, the EUNAVFOR MED maritime mission has been in operation since June with the aim of disrupting the business model of people smugglers in the Mediterranean. Migration demands a broad and coherent approach which also addresses its root causes, and which is based on close cooperation not only between the EU member states but also and above all with countries of origin and transit. The Netherlands seeks, through the EU in the first instance, to work with the affected countries on Europe’s southern flank. The forthcoming summit in Valetta is the first multilateral meeting at which migration is a main point of discussion with these countries.

In its recommendation 4, the AIV emphasises the primary responsibility of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) themselves to resolve conflicts in the region. The government agrees that this is important, but it should not be taken to mean that Western countries keep their distance. The initiative should preferably lie with the countries in the region, but Western countries must show their willingness to provide support. For this reason, many Western countries are participating with countries in the region in the military operation against ISIS. Many are also actively supporting democratisation, the strengthening of the rule of law and job creation, so that governments of Arab countries that are pursuing a democratic transition know that they have international support. This Western engagement must be sustained in the long term. Transition can take many years and is rarely a linear process. Periods of positive developments alternate with periods of regression. It is important that we not allow ourselves to be discouraged. The government’s response to AIV advisory report no. 91, ‘The Netherlands and the Arab Region: A Principled and Pragmatic Approach’ (2014-2015, 32623 no. 146) and the report of written consultations with the parliamentary Committee (2014-2015, 32623, no. 149) examine in greater detail issues like supporting democratic transition and applying conditionality. 

The AIV states that the government must counter the fragmentation of Dutch aid programmes (recommendation 4). In the government’s opinion, this applies not only to the Netherlands’ efforts, but also to those of other Western countries. There is much to gain from improving aid coordination, and the Netherlands is taking active steps to achieve this. Ideally, recipient countries should coordinate the aid they receive, but they often lack the capacity. 

Coordinated support is also important in Syria and Iraq. Efforts to respond to the crisis in both countries focus, on the one hand, on supporting the path towards a political solution in Syria and reconciliation and inclusion in Iraq and, on the other hand, supporting people affected by the conflict in both countries and the wider region. In addition, the Netherlands is active in the military coalition against ISIS.

As regards Libya, the EU is currently focusing its efforts on supporting the UN dialogue aimed at the formation of a government of national unity (recommendation 4). Progress in the political dialogue is a precondition for a return to stability in the country, which has broken up into two political camps. The EU is also working on a support package for the future government of national unity. It has set up a Liaison & Planning Cell, for which the Netherlands has provided a military planner, in line with the AIV’s recommendation that the Netherlands contribute to EU support to Libya. 

3. The EU, NATO and the Dutch armed forces 

The EU
The nature and intensity of the conflicts in the arc of instability around Europe demand an integrated and efficient approach, for which the EU bears a special responsibility. The European Neighbourhood Policy (including the associated development cooperation and trade instruments), the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) (of which the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is part), and sanctions policy are the main instruments of the EU’s foreign policy for this purpose. At the same time an integrated policy also calls for a broader EU approach, in which foreign policy instruments are combined with other policy instruments.

The Netherlands attaches great importance to strengthening the CFSP and the CSDP, as described in the ISS and the policy letter on international security (recommendation 1). Strengthening these policies requires the necessary resources and capacities. 

To achieve its ambitions in the broader area of foreign, security and defence policy, the Netherlands works closely with other countries bilaterally or multilaterally (recommendation 5). It often seeks to collaborate with one or more countries to maximise the effectiveness of its influence. The AIV advises the Netherlands to encourage Germany to take a more clearly defined position on security matters. Germany is showing increasing ambition to play a role in European security. The government welcomes this development and is actively seeking closer cooperation with Germany, specifically in policy areas where our positions and interests coincide. At operational level, too, Dutch-German relations are rapidly growing closer, good examples being the joint headquarters in Münster, the integration of the Dutch Air Mobile Brigade and the German Rapid Forces Division, and close cooperation on defence materiel. The Netherlands has also encouraged Germany to increase its contribution to the UN mission in Mali. The German government is currently considering this and exploring its options.

Given the rapidly changing geopolitical and security environment, the government agrees with the AIV that a strategic review of the EU’s foreign and security policy is needed (recommendation 6). EU High Representative Federica Mogherini is now working on this and will present a new broad and integrated EU foreign and security strategy in June 2016. The Netherlands has already contributed to this new EU strategy through the Benelux. It has regularly argued for security to be seen as an organising principle, pointing to the strong links between internal and external security and the hybrid nature of new threats. Ideally, specific aims and action for European defence cooperation will be formulated on the basis of the new strategic framework.  

In line with the AIV’s recommendation 6, the Netherlands will present proposals during its EU Presidency for firmer commitments to defence cooperation, for example by increasing peer pressure and monitoring defence budgets. It will then be most important to highlight good examples and encourage other member states to follow them. The government does not mean, however, to propose a formal ‘European semester’ for defence like the existing annual cycle of coordination for European economic policy, as this would imply Commission monitoring of the member states’ draft budgets and investment plans. The government does not favour this, expects that it would be a bridge too far for many member states, and believes that a system of peer pressure would work better. 

The AIV recommends that, during the forthcoming EU Presidency, specific agreements be reached on new joint defence investments. Cooperation can be promoted through such new investments or by making better use of available funds, for example by the formation of pools or standardisation and joint training. The European Defence Agency currently has the potential to embark on new projects. The Netherlands is in favour of this and encourages other member states to take advantage of new and existing opportunities for cooperation. The Netherlands considers it important that new initiatives help eliminate existing shortages, as described in the current Capability Development Plan (CDP), and involve active contributions from at least several member states. It is also important that current EDA projects like Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), Governmental Satellite Communications (GovSatcom) and Cyber Defence make progress. Synergy between EU and NATO defence planning is key to achieving this.   

NATO
Russia’s destabilising intervention in Ukraine and, more generally, Moscow’s increasingly assertive and anti-Western stance have consequences for the territorial security of the Netherlands and its NATO allies. The government agrees with the AIV that this calls for higher priority to be given to collective defence and extra investments in our military capabilities. In its letter of 19 June, it therefore announced plans for strengthening the Dutch armed forces. Within NATO, the Wales Summit Declaration has been adopted, which includes commitments to raise defence expenditures, speed up response time and enhance deployability. 

The AIV’s call (in recommendation 8) for further development of the Readiness Action Plan, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) and the NATO Response Force (NRF) has been heeded. This year, along with Germany and Norway, the Netherlands is supplying army units for the interim VJTF. In the coming years, seven countries (Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK) will in turn head a ‘framework nation grouping’ and take the lead in broadening the VJTF. Six NATO Force Integration Units (NFIUs) are also being set up to support the VJTF. The NRF will expand in the coming period from around 13,000 to 40,000 military personnel (see the report of the meeting of NATO defence ministers on 24 and 25 June 2015, Parliamentary Paper 28 676 no. 226 of 9 July 2015). Partly to be able to respond to hybrid threats, NATO is also working persistently to improve its political decision-making procedures.

In response to cyber threats (recommendation 8), the Netherlands is pressing within NATO for the implementation of the Enhanced Cyber Defence Policy agreed at the Wales Summit in 2014. As stated in the update of the Defence Cyber Strategy, the Netherlands’ priority areas for combating cyber threats are to establish security standards for member states, to promote interoperability, and to improve the exchange of knowledge and information. The Netherlands considers it important that NATO have the capabilities and powers required to perform its tasks and will press to see that these aims are achieved in the run-up to the following summit in Warsaw.

Peace missions and the Dutch armed forces
The AIV advises the government to deploy the Dutch armed forces more selectively and to prioritise military operations and peace missions that address direct threats to Europe’s security and stability (recommendation 10). In the ISS, the government says that Europe must take more responsibility and invest more in stability in its own vicinity, especially in conflict zones in the semicircle around the Union where it has direct security interests.  

The deployment of the Dutch armed forces reflects this standpoint, being concentrated mostly along the unstable edges of the European Union. This also applies to the EU more generally, with a large number of missions being deployed in the regions adjoining the Union. The EU recently decided to strengthen its missions in its immediate vicinity and has consequently strengthened EUCAP Sahel Niger and initiated EUNAVFOR MED in response to the migration tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean. 

Not all threats to the Netherlands and the EU come from the immediate arc of instability along Europe’s borders, however. At times, the armed forces need to be deployed to respond to threats from further afield. A good and successful example is the deployment of troops to Afghanistan in recent years. The focus on the arc of instability does not exclude other regions. As stated in the ISS, the US and other NATO partners must be able to rely on the continued support of the Netherlands and other European countries in addressing more distant conflicts that affect our interests. In addition, there are transnational threats that cannot be tackled within clear geographical limits. 

The armed forces are deployed on both a small and larger scale. The smaller contributions are, however, always part of a broader effort linked to the priorities of Dutch foreign policy. In these cases too, political-strategic considerations and ties with international partners often play a role, so that smaller contributions can be of relatively great importance. It should be noted, however, that small missions also make demands on scarce capabilities. When deciding on small-scale participation in missions, the government will always have to explicitly consider factors such as political importance, our obligations to our allies, operational costs and the added value of a Dutch contribution. 

The AIV recommends adhering to the level of ambition of an ‘agile force’, bringing the Dutch defence budget up to the current NATO average of approximately 1.6% of GDP within the next 10 years, and using additional funds to remedy acute deficiencies in the armed forces and invest in combat capability (recommendation 9). In financial terms, the AIV states that the international security situation and the current financial position of the armed forces call for drawing up a multi-year ‘Delta Plan for the armed forces’.

In its letter of 19 June, the government outlined its plans for strengthening the Dutch armed forces. Depending on developments in the international security situation in the coming years, as well as the available financial options, the government proposes to take the following steps within a multi-year perspective: strengthening the armed forces’ Combat Support (CS) and Combat Service Support (CSS) units, strengthening combat units qualitatively and quantitatively in a targeted way, and replacing capabilities where necessary. With this approach, the operational readiness, deployability and capabilities of the armed forces can be steadily improved.

 

Annexe: Recommendations in AIV advisory report no. 94 ‘Instability around Europe:
Confrontation with a New Reality’

  1. In the light of the mounting crises on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks, the AIV believes it necessary to review Dutch defence policy, focusing on three priorities: a higher valuation of collective defence, European security and defence cooperation, and a substantial increase in the Dutch defence budget.
     
  2. The AIV would advise the government to remodel its relations with Russia along more realistic lines. Constructive cooperation on European security matters would appear to be impossible for a considerable time to come. Russia is no longer a partner but an opponent in many respects. The EU member states must not let Russia play them off against one another.
     
  3. The AIV calls on the government to use its influence to ensure that the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement is implemented as soon as possible by the EU and the International Monetary Fund, in order to bolster Ukraine’s weak economy. Priority should be given to much-needed improvements in public administration, strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption. For the time being EU membership is not on the horizon for Ukraine, nor is it desirable in the present circumstances. This applies even more strongly to membership of NATO.
     
  4. The AIV takes the view that resolving conflicts in the MENA region is primarily the responsibility of the countries themselves. Western governments should remain in the background wherever possible and confine their efforts to aiding and supporting moderate Arab governments and groups. The AIV advises the government to counter the fragmentation of Dutch aid programmes and to channel Dutch contributions to Iraq and Syria mainly to security sector reform and humanitarian assistance. In the AIV’s opinion, the Netherlands should also contribute to possible EU support, for example in the form of trainers and advisors, in the interests of achieving a measure of stability in Libya.
     
  5. In the preliminary stages of EU decision-making, the AIV advises the government to seek to align itself, on a case-by-case basis, with one or more large member states with a view to exercising timely influence. The obvious course would be for the Netherlands to orient itself politically towards Germany. The Netherlands should encourage Germany to take a more clearly defined position in security matters as in other fields. 
     
  6. In the AIV’s opinion, the EU should formulate a new security strategy as soon as possible, as a means of giving a new boost to EU defence cooperation. European countries can no longer afford to be thought of as free riders. The new security strategy should incorporate realistic targets for the required European defence capabilities. The introduction of a European semester, enabling defence ministers to allow one another access to their respective draft defence budgets and investment plans and hold one another to account for them, will make a key contribution to closer defence cooperation.
     
  7. The AIV recommends that during the Dutch EU Presidency in 2016, the government propose that the EU reach specific agreements on new joint defence investments, for example the formation of a European pool of transport helicopters. Further integration of support units (such as air transport) and closer operational cooperation between combat units are also possible and desirable.
     
  8. NATO should work more on its contingency planning, in particular with regard to hybrid warfare, so as to be prepared for any eventuality on the borders of the treaty area. The AIV advises the government to urge NATO to develop the Readiness Action Plan further so as to increase the credibility of the deployment of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and, if necessary, the NATO Response Force as a whole. NATO’s deterrent capability should be strengthened primarily by increasing the alliance’s response capability and sustainability. NATO should also give much higher priority to threats from cyber attacks and cyber warfare and develop the resources required for this purpose within the alliance.
     
  9. The AIV believes it necessary to adhere to the level of ambition of an ‘agile force’ and to bring the Dutch defence budget up to approximately 1.6% of GDP within the next ten years, while being mindful of the NATO 2% benchmark. Additional funds should be used to remedy acute deficiencies in the armed forces and to invest in combat capability (such as tanks). If the government decides on a substantial increase in the defence budget, this will create financial scope for replacement investment (including submarines, frigates and additional fighter aircraft) and new investment in transport helicopters and intelligence and cyber capabilities.
     
  10. The AIV advises the government to deploy the Dutch armed forces more selectively and to prioritise military operations or peace missions that address direct threats to Europe’s security and stability.
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