The chief of the Dutch armed forces says the army, navy and air force need strengthening so that the Netherlands can continue to contribute to conflicts on the edge of Europe.
Tom Middendorp says in an interview with the armed forces newspaper Defensiekrant that ‘I regularly have to say “no” or limit our contribution when asked to take part.’
‘We are on the edge,’ Middendorp said.
Research by broadcaster Nos shows that Dutch spending on defence has gone down from 2.4% of GDP prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and is now around half that.
In total, the defence ministry this year has a budget of €7.3bn on a total budget of almost €260bn.
The lack of resources is beginning to have an impact on staff and the pressure on them is rising, he said.
It is of ‘crucial importance’ that the fundamentals are strengthened, supplies are brought back up to the right level and equipment is usable, he said. ‘We have been stripped down over the past few years and we are now in a tricky position, given the worsening security situation,’ he told the paper.
Politicians, the defence chief said, recognised the situation. ‘We have had more money to reduce the worst of the problems and the minister is working hard to continue this,’ he said.
Last month, Middendorp told the NRC in an interview that there is ‘little chance’ of a solution to the fight against Islamic militant group IS unless the organisation is also tackled in Syria.
Therefore it would be logical for Dutch F-16 fighter jets to attack targets in Syria as well as Iraq, Middendorp told the paper. ‘From a military technical point of view, there are arguments to remove the limits on the mission,’ he said. ‘But we have to look at what the impact would be elsewhere. That homework has not yet been completed.’
The Netherlands has always insisted there be an international mandate for direct intervention in Syria.