Defence cuts will weaken Dutch influence abroad: ex-army chief

The government’s planned cuts in the armed forces will weaken the Netherlands’ influence in the international arena, the parliamentary defence committee heard on Wednesday.

Former armed forces chief Dick Berlijn told MPs Dutch policy since World War II had been to work together with its allies to ensure peace and security in the region.

To do this you need ‘an armed forces which can support requests for help on a regular basis,’ the Volkskrant quoted Berlijn as saying. ‘Otherwise you will damage the Netherlands’ reputation.’

‘The major problems facing us, such as the credit crisis, climate change and cross border crime, can all be solved at an international level,’ he said. ‘So it is not good to lose influence. One has to ask if this is the sort of country we want.’

Low level

Defence expert Rob de Wijk told the committee the planned cuts – totalling an extra €348m – are ‘dramatic’.

‘We will be at the level Cyprus, Malta and Finland in terms of our defence activities,’ he said. ‘We are totally underperforming and that is unworthy of the world’s sixth biggest economy.’

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