More than 9 in 10 Dutch people believe that the country is not well prepared for a war

More than 9 in 10 Dutch people believe that the country is not well prepared for a war
More than 9 in 10 Dutch people believe that the country is not well prepared for a war
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This is evident from a representative survey among 1,125 Dutch people by the Atlantic Commission Foundation, conducted in collaboration with independent research agency Verian.

The Netherlands plans to spend 1.95 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense this year. This means that the Netherlands will probably just miss the directive that NATO countries drew up in 2014 in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea. The NATO countries then agreed that every country would spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense from 2024.

Most NATO countries, including the Netherlands, have increased their defense spending since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. In total, 18 of the 32 NATO member states are expected to achieve the two percent standard this year, compared to 7 of the 31 in 2023. The Netherlands is therefore not (yet) among them. However, NATO as a whole will collect 2 percent of the GDP of all member states this year.

According to research by the Atlantic Commission, almost three-quarters of Dutch people believe that the country should invest more in defense if the threat of war increases. 42 percent of Dutch people believe that the government should increase defense spending to fulfill the agreements with NATO. Another 21 percent believe that the Netherlands should increase defense spending in any case, even if our economy is not doing so well. 10 percent of respondents believe that defense spending should be increased after the economy recovers.

Conscription

The annual survey, which focuses, among other things, on the knowledge that Dutch people have about NATO, also shows that an overwhelming majority of the population (93 percent) feels that the country is not well or even very poorly prepared for a possible war. Six in ten believe that the Dutch government should better inform the population about the possible consequences of a war.

Half of those interviewed are in favor of ‘some form of military service’. The percentage was lower among respondents under 30 years old (42 percent). This is consistent with results from a study that A.D did earlier last month.

Many Dutch people are concerned about the consequences of the possible return of American ex-president Donald Trump to the White House. More than three-quarters of respondents say they are concerned about this.

During his presidency, Trump has regularly threatened to withdraw the US from NATO because member states would not invest enough in defense. During a recent campaign rally, the Republican presidential candidate suggested that, as far as he is concerned, the US will not assist countries that do not meet the two percent standard if they are attacked.

Negotiation tactics

Trump himself called those statements a “negotiating tactic” to encourage NATO countries to spend more money on defense. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that he was confident that the US would remain committed to NATO regardless of the outcome of the November elections.

Even if he were elected and wanted to, Trump cannot simply withdraw the US from NATO. Last year, with Trump in mind, the US Congress passed a law that makes it impossible for a president to withdraw from NATO without the support of a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Yet experts and politicians warn that such statements could undermine the US’s reliability as a NATO partner. Nowhere in the NATO treaty does it state that collective defense is conditional. Moreover, the two percent standard is a guideline, not a hard agreement, and will only apply from this year.

“The suggestion that NATO allies would not defend each other undermines the security of all allies and puts the safety of American and European soldiers at risk,” NATO chief Stoltenberg said in February.

That year

In the Netherlands, on paper, military service still applies to 18 to 45 year olds. However, the Ministry of Defense has not called up conscripts since 1997. According to the government, there are no plans to do this again.

According to the outgoing Minister of Defense Kajsa Ollongren, conscription is ‘not the most efficient way to fill the places we need’. “The current armed forces are very different from the armed forces during the Cold War. Much more advanced equipment is now used, for which we need specialized people.”

Instead, Ollongren hopes that more people will volunteer. In the conscription letter that 17-year-olds receive this week, reference is made to the so-called service year for the first time. This is a voluntary year in which people who want to and are suitable can work for a year in paid employment in the defense sector.

Tom Kieft is foreign coordinator at Het Parool. He writes about the latest developments in Ukraine, the EU and the US, among other things.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Dutch people country prepared war

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