Higher wages and more weapon systems. The defense increases its strike force, but primarily obtains arrears

More often, before, longer and on a larger scale – this is how the Dutch armed forces will be deployed in the coming years. This means that the Ministry of Defense mainly spends the extra money on increasing and improving what is already there. “From sports shoes to F-35 aircraft,” in the words of Onno Eichelsheim, commander of the armed forces.

The Chief of the Armed Forces said this on Wednesday at the presentation of what he believes is the “historic” defense memorandum 2022. The defense budget, which now amounts to about twelve billion euros a year, will be increased by 40 percent in the near future. years. In the coalition agreement at the end of 2021, the government has already earmarked an extra three billion for defense. Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, another two billion euros were added. “The largest investment in defense since the Cold War,” said Minister Kajsa Ollongren (Defense, D66) at the presentation.

The note with the title Stronger Netherlands, safer Europe shows broadly where the money will go in the coming years. Most spectacular are the weapon systems that appear to be a response to the frequent use of heavy-range artillery in Ukraine. For example, cruise missiles are installed on naval ships and submarines, and the army gets firing systems for long-range missiles. In the light of Russia’s super-fast missiles, the anti-missile systems on naval ships are being radically modernized into a system that few European countries have.

Most of the money closes the gaps created by a quarter of a century of savings after the fall of the Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Very outdated barracks are being renovated or disposed of. Ammunition stocks and spare parts are generously replenished. Items are bought that are bought when there is money, such as. The F-35 aircraft, which will soon make up three full-fledged squadrons with 52 aircraft.

Also read: Become a soldier? You deserve better at McDonald’s

Improving income

The first and certainly not the least investment is the 500 million euros to improve military revenues. On Tuesday, State Secretary Christophe van der Maat (Defense, VVD) entered into a collective agreement with the unions, which primarily benefit soldiers in the lowest ranks. “I’m very happy about that,” Van der Maat said Wednesday. The higher salary should also help to interest more people in jobs in the defense, which now have around 9,000 vacancies – 20 percent of the total number.

With the repair work, the Armed Forces largely follows the Advisory Council for International Affairs (AIV). In March, he advised that the extra money should be used mainly to bring the so-called emergency preparedness up to standard – by having so many soldiers and equipment that the defense can actually perform most of the tasks assigned. ‘This note gives me a feeling of optimism’, is the answer from Lieutenant General Jan Broeks, a member of AIV, who speaks in person.

Square Brigades

Not everyone shares that feeling. Niels van Woensel, chairman of the Dutch Officers’ Association, is happy with the extra money that will fill numerous gaps and raise salaries: “It will soon no longer be the case that a McDonald’s employee earns more than a soldier.” But he also believes that the Netherlands must comply with international obligations, such as the agreement reached in 2018 with the NATO alliance.

The Netherlands still does not comply with this agreement. The Netherlands must have two so-called ‘square brigades’, or brigades with four battalions each. Holland has one with two and one with three battalions. That’s how it will remain.

On the other hand, the brigade’s combat force – like other units – will be reinforced with additional firepower (such as armored howitzers) and their own logistics chains and medical services, Eichelsheim said after the presentation. “So I think we need to talk to NATO about redefining that agreement.” That could already be done this month when NATO meets in Madrid. “There is a good chance that the Netherlands can bend that agreement more in our direction,” Broeks expects.

It is also agreed within NATO that each member state spends 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. With a budget of (soon) around 18 billion euros and some ancillary costs for, among other things, real estate, the Netherlands will reach that limit in a few years. But, says Van Woensel, “If the economy continues to grow and spending remains the same, we will fall below that limit again.” And that while NATO is expected to agree in Madrid that the 2 percent is not a ceiling but a floor for defense spending.

Also read: Additional billions in defense for F-35 fighter jets and armed drones

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