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"Turbulent Times in Unstable Surroundings" PDF

Turbulent Times in Unstable Surroundings
Policy letter on international security
1. Introduction
In its International Security Strategy ‘A Secure Netherlands in a Secure
World’, the government concluded that peace and security cannot be taken
for granted. In the year and a half since the strategy was published on 21
June 2013, the international security environment has changed. The trend
towards destabilisation on Europe’s southern flanks has continued, and there
have been far-reaching developments on the eastern borders of the
European Union and the NATO alliance. Russia’s disruptive intervention in
neighbouring Ukraine has widened the arc of instability around Europe, while
the situation within the arc has been further destabilised by increasing
conflict and unrest in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Sub-Saharan
and West Africa. The situation has rapidly deteriorated in Syria, Iraq and
Libya in particular. These developments are impacting on our own security
and prosperity and call for an updated analysis of the international security
environment to supplement the government’s International Security Strategy.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine
were an abrupt reminder to Europe and NATO that even after almost 40
years since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, respect for territorial integrity
and sovereignty in Europe cannot be taken for granted. The Netherlands
itself was drawn into this crisis by the crash of flight MH17, which resulted in
the deaths of 298 innocent victims, including 196 Dutch nationals. What had
seemed to be a far-off foreign conflict suddenly struck at the very heart of our
The rapid advance of ISIS in Iraq and Syria not only has far-reaching
consequences for the region itself – already severely disrupted by years of
repression by the Assad regime and the long-drawn-out civil war in Syria and
violent conflict in Iraq – but is also having a direct impact on our society and
national security. Internal and external security are now more closely
interconnected than ever. Terrorist networks pose a threat not only in conflict
areas but also closer to home. Young men and women are leaving the
Netherlands to take part in violent jihad, pro- and anti-ISIS demonstrations
have been held in The Hague, and there is a substantial threat of terrorist
attacks within our borders.
The conflicts closer to Europe have deeper, more complex causes that call
for international cooperation and for an integrated ‘3D’ approach by the
government, comprising a properly coordinated mix of diplomacy,
development and defence as well as instruments in the police, justice and
trade sectors. In addition, it is necessary to strike a good balance between
addressing acute symptoms and tackling the underlying causes of instability
within a multiannual, structural approach that can generate sustainable
This policy letter examines the most relevant developments in our
international security environment and how they affect our foreign policy and
our national and international security policies. The general trends and
developments described in the International Security Strategy are as relevant
as ever, but we are also faced with new security threats that demand new
As announced in the letter from the Minister of Defence to the House of
Representatives of 7 November 2014, this policy letter also outlines the
foreign policy aspects of the government’s response to the motion by MP
Kees van der Staaij (Parliamentary Papers 34000-23). The motion requested
the government to indicate the required ambition level of the Netherlands’
armed forces in the years ahead and what kind of International Security
Strategy is required to achieve it. The government’s response to the motion
will also take account of the advisory report that the Scientific Council for
Government Policy (WRR) intends to publish in the spring of 2015 on the
Netherlands’ security and defence policy. This letter also responds to the
requests from the Permanent Parliamentary Committees on Foreign Affairs
and Defence, of 5 June and 3 July respectively, for a response to the reports
published by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) in the context of the
Strategic Monitor. Both reports were used in preparing the contextual
analysis for this policy letter.
As internal and external security are so closely interconnected, good
coordination is required between the various government bodies concerned
with national and international security. Such cooperation is growing closer
and closer, both on a systematic basis and in the face of acute crises, and it
takes place both at policy and – increasingly – at operational level. This letter
ties in with the national security strategy, the national counterterrorism
strategy and the national cyber security strategy.
2. Turbulent times in unstable surroundings
This section looks first at the instability on Europe’s eastern flanks, which
manifests itself most visibly through the crisis in Ukraine, and the
consequences of Russia’s increased assertiveness. That is followed by
closer examination of the unrest and crises on Europe’s southern flanks,
especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Lastly a number of broader
trends are described that may have an impact on foreign and security policy.
Ukraine crisis: power politics and spheres of influence
For some time, Russia has been becoming increasingly assertive, primarily
towards its neighbours, but also in its relations with the West. This is not
simply a matter of rhetoric, but is also – increasingly – expressed by Russia’s
actions. Rising defence spending and military activity are a source of growing
concern. More and more, Russia is pushing the bounds of what is
permissible and sometimes even overstepping them. This is increasing
Since the defence policy review ‘A New Foundation for the Netherlands’ Armed Forces’ was published in 2010, Clingendael and
HCSS have conducted an annual survey of the changing world order and the Netherlands’ position within it, from a security
perspective. The survey contributes to policy development at both ministries.
tensions between it and the US, NATO and the EU. The Ukraine crisis has
clearly shown that, in Russian eyes, the West’s essential security interests
are incompatible with its own. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine must be seen
in this light. Russia’s increasing assertiveness was expressed earlier during
the Georgia crisis in 2008 and in the form of destabilising activities elsewhere
in the region.
The annexation of Crimea is a violation of the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of Ukraine, and of the principle of non-intervention. What is more, it
contravenes the assurances that various powers, including Russia itself,
gave to Ukraine in the context of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, on the
basis of which Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arms. The fact that in 2014 a
country in Europe should violate the most fundamental principles of
international law by unilaterally annexing the territory of another state is
alarming enough in itself, but equally disturbing is the way in which it
happened: through hybrid warfare, using unannounced large-scale military
exercises and rapid troop movements, secret support for separatist groups,
economic pressure (on Ukraine and other states in the region) and
The developments that followed in eastern Ukraine exacerbated international
concerns. By providing separatist groups with military as well as political
support, Russia became more and more directly involved in the fighting as
the armed conflict evolved. Its actions led to a political and humanitarian
crisis and an unprecedented degree of destabilisation in eastern Ukraine.
The MH17 disaster on 17 July 2014 took place against this background. The
disaster and its aftermath show how the consequences of destabilisation in
Ukraine have repercussions beyond the immediate region.
The far-reaching interdependence of security and the economy referred to in
the International Security Strategy is explicitly reflected in the Ukraine crisis.
One of the triggers for Russian intervention in Ukraine was the latter’s efforts
to seek closer economic ties with the European Union, including the
proposed signing of an association agreement. Russia’s actions can also be
seen as a response to what it perceived as a threat to its ambitions for a
Eurasian Union, the success of which it sees as depending on Ukrainian
participation. In addition energy politics play a significant role in the Ukrainian
question and the crisis has further clarified the need for the EU to diversify its
external energy policy and reduce its dependence on Russia.
There is no reason for alarmism, but we should be realistic. Russia’s
annexation of Crimea and subsequent intervention in eastern Ukraine have
brought about a fundamental change in its relations with the EU and NATO.
This does not mean a return to the Cold War. However, the revival of power
politics in Russia – typified by thinking in terms of spheres of influence within
which it is not prepared to respect the sovereignty of neighbouring states –
will clearly affect our security analyses and the policies based on them. The
West faces the challenge of mounting a unified response to Russia that does
not lead to potentially dangerous escalation. That calls for the right balance
between a resolute and clear response to Russia’s actions, like that now
being pursued through NATO and elsewhere, and the need to keep looking
for dialogue and confidence-building measures that serve to de-escalate the
Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan and West Africa:
destabilisation and conflict
As noted in the International Security Strategy, the number of interstate and
intrastate conflicts has fallen sharply in recent decades, but in the Middle
East and North Africa, and parts of Sub-Saharan and West Africa,
destabilisation has actually increased. Since the strategy was published, this
trend has accelerated. Clingendael has concluded that the dynamics of
conflict in this region have changed, with more and more parties involved
(sometimes working together, sometimes fighting each other), making it more
difficult for the international community to respond. In addition, conflicts are
becoming increasingly international in nature, and involve more and more
external parties. The warring parties are violating international humanitarian
law and showing less and less respect for national borders. In the
background, geopolitical and regional rivalries often play an important role
too, with third parties waging war by proxy, pursuing their conflicting political
interests by providing different groups with financial and other forms of
The underlying cause of destabilisation in this region is complex: it is often a
matter of local tensions or dissatisfaction among certain groups with the
status quo, fuelled further by uncertainties and changes brought about by the
process of transformation in the region. Sometimes there are links with
transnational organised crime. Another factor is that many countries are
experiencing fragmentation and polarisation. They are embroiled in a
struggle for identity and the direction they – and the region as a whole – wish
to take. HCSS specifies four ‘paths to conflict’: 1) political turmoil (as a
consequence of a radically altered political landscape and/or regimes that
feel their survival is under threat); 2) social and economic issues (caused for
example by food and water insecurity and large groups of young people
without jobs or prospects); 3) vulnerability as a result of excessive, one-sided
fuel export dependence, and 4) religious and ethnic tensions. The countries
of the Middle East and North Africa region are very vulnerable in all four of
these areas. There have also been – albeit limited – hopeful developments
since the ‘Arab Spring’, including the emergence of freer and more
democratic societies. Democratisation is also progressing elsewhere, with
elections, the formation of governments and national dialogue on the agenda
of all continents. In Africa alone, national elections will be held in around 20
countries in 2015. That is of course a positive development, but experience
shows that processes of transformation and democratisation often go hand in
hand with conflict and unrest.
Two significant trends can be observed in Syria and Iraq: sectarian
polarisation and the spread of Salafist jihadism. This has led in recent years
to the rapid rise of the group that initially called itself ISIS/ISIL, a name it has
since changed to simply ‘Islamic State’ (IS). ISIS, which emerged from a
variety of previous groupings, some related to al Qa’ida, is building on
experience gained fighting US troops after the military intervention in Iraq in
2003 and during the subsequent sectarian tensions between Sunni and
Shiite militias. The group has been fuelled largely by reactions to the
marginalisation of Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria, but it has also benefited
from the years of repression by the Assad regime in Syria. ISIS rapidly
gained considerable influence in Syria in 2013, taking advantage of the
power vacuum in a country torn apart by civil war, the porous border between
Syria and Iraq, the proliferation of arms in the region and available funding
flows. Other terrorist groups, such as Jabhat-al-Nusra (JaN), which is allied
with al Qa’ida, have also made good use of the destabilisation of Syria to
strengthen their own position.
What makes ISIS unique is the combination of its terrorist nature and its
pretensions and ambitions in terms of state-building. In June 2014, it
declared the establishment of a ‘caliphate’ on Syrian and Iraqi territory. This
‘Islamic State’ could have a considerable impact on power relations in the
region and on national borders in the Mashreq. Moreover, it is attracting
jihadists from around the world, including the Netherlands. The ultimate aim
of ISIS is to establish a caliphate in all the areas of the world inhabited by
Muslims, starting in the Mashreq. The group considers all means justified in
achieving that end. In recent months the world has been confronted with
images of people being stoned to death and beheaded, including Western
journalists and aid workers. The movement is actively encouraging its
supporters elsewhere in the world to carry out attacks.
The civil war in Syria has already cost the lives of more than 200,000
civilians, largely victims of the Assad regime. One in three Syrians have fled
their homes, more than six million within the country itself and over three
million to other countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The
number of refugees seeking safety is imposing a heavy burden on Syria’s
neighbours. The conflict in Syria and the massive influx of refugees is
increasing tensions in Lebanon and fostering divisions between religious
groups. The number of Syrian refugees to the EU has also risen sharply. In
Iraq, the crisis has made more than five million people dependent on aid.
Not only in Syria and Iraq, but also elsewhere in the arc of instability around
Europe and the broader circle of surrounding countries, jihadist organisations
and individuals are uniting behind the ISIS flag or are being inspired by
similar ideologies. On several occasions in the past two months, the
Lebanese army has fought ISIS and JaN units trying to enter the country. In
Yemen, Al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is fanning sectarian
tensions and has its sights set on regional domination. In Nigeria, Boko
Haram has displayed its territorial aspirations by announcing the
establishment of an ‘Islamic state’. A possible spillover of instability and
violence from Nigeria to the surrounding region could have far-reaching
consequences. Al Shabaab, a group responsible for various attacks in
Somalia and Kenya, has also called for international jihad.
Libya is caught in a downward spiral. The country is threatening to become a
safe haven for jihadist groups and a key hub in the international network of
trafficking in arms, drugs and persons. The security situation has severely
deteriorated since the summer of 2014. There is no effective state authority;
there are currently two governments and two parliaments. The violence
between armed militias in Libya is threatening the security and stability of
other countries in the region, from already-fragile Mali to Egypt. In Mali itself,
the security situation in parts of the north has worsened in recent months.
Armed groups have strengthened their grip on the area and there are regular
attacks causing casualties among civilians and UN military personnel. The
situation is complex. The confrontations between different armed groups in
northern Mali often have their roots in long-standing local conflicts. One
hopeful development is that, in both Libya and Mali, peace talks have started
under the leadership of the UN.
The lack of progress in the Middle East peace process remains a source of
tension in the region. After the peace negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, ground to a halt, the
situation involving Gaza escalated over the summer. The agreement of a
ceasefire put a stop to the rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and Israel’s
‘Operation Protective Edge’. It is crucial to find a lasting solution to the Gaza
issue to ensure that this cycle of violence does not keep repeating itself
every few years. At the same time, there is little genuine prospect of a
resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. That has led
to the current stalemate and the associated risks of escalation and
counterproductive action by one or both parties.
Of a completely different order, but also extremely serious, is the Ebola
epidemic that has held West Africa in its grip since March 2014. The impact
of the epidemic, which has already claimed around 5,000 lives, has been
disastrous. Besides the human tragedy, it is having far-reaching economic,
political and social consequences in the affected area itself and far beyond.
The UN Security Council has declared the outbreak a threat to international
peace and security and the World Bank estimates that the economic damage
could rise to €25 billion. The longer the crisis goes on, the greater its
consequences for regional stability: the slow process of reconciliation in
Sierra Leone and Liberia is coming under pressure as political and social
turmoil spreads. Even after the epidemic has been brought under control, the
region will need long-term support to prevent destabilisation and renewed
General trends and developments
A number of alarming trends can be identified in the regional developments
outlined above. Power politics and thinking in terms of spheres of influence
have made a resurgence on the European continent. Our beliefs about the
rights of women, minorities and LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people), and our views on the freedom of religion and
expression, democracy and the legal order are being questioned more and
more openly. Instability has increased around Europe’s flanks. On both our
eastern and southern borders we are faced with hybrid warfare, combining
conventional, irregular and cyber tactics. There are not always clear
battlefields, and non-regular troops are at the forefront of the fighting, which
often takes place in civilian-populated areas, sometimes with the covert
support of other states, though this is often difficult to prove. We are facing
armed conflicts that increasingly also take place in the virtual domain, where
propaganda and misinformation can be effectively deployed through new
Underlying all this are a number of general trends that were identified in the
International Security Strategy: the interconnected nature of internal and
external security, changing global power relations, the blurring of divisions
between state and non-state actors and between ‘war’ and ‘peace’, the
changing nature of conflicts resulting from the expanding arsenal of
instruments available to the belligerents, partly due to rapid technological
advances – for example, in the cyber domain – and the increasingly heavy
pressure being exerted on natural resources by rapid population growth and
climate change.
The International Security Strategy already considered at length on the
increasing interconnectedness of internal and external security. Instability
around the world is affecting us ever more directly and ever more visibly.
This impact can be seen very clearly in the crises in Syria and Iraq and the
terrorist threat they pose, not only in the surrounding region but also in
Western countries.
The ongoing shift in global economic and political power relations will also
affect our security and interests in the longer term. Russia’s increasing
assertiveness – including in military terms – has already been mentioned.
China is also making its presence felt more directly on the world stage.
China’s central concern is the integrity of its territory and territorial waters,
and its growing need for natural resources and safe transport routes as a
result of the structural growth of its economy. Although the Chinese
government stresses that it wishes only to secure the country’s future and is
in favour of a multipolar world, its rising defence expenditure, rapidly growing
cyber capabilities and increasing assertiveness in the East and South China
Seas are an increasing cause of concern for other countries in the region.
China is following America’s re-orientation towards (East) Asia with growing
suspicion. As a result of these developments, the precarious security balance
of recent decades within Asia and between China and the US is coming
under increasing pressure. In the meantime, China continues to insist to the
outside world that it has no ambitions to become a ‘global power’. The
growing tensions and divisions between the major international players
hamper cooperation in international fora at a time when resolute multilateral
institutions are sorely needed. The risk of open confrontation is increasing.
The international arena has also become more complex as the dividing lines
between state and non-state actors, such as NGOs and businesses, become
less clear. Non-state actors are also increasingly active in conflict areas.
Both Clingendael and HCSS refer to the still-expanding role of non-state
actors, but conclude that states remain relevant in the world order. The
resulting hybrid international environment, with a growing number of actors,
is posing new challenges for diplomacy and the security sector. In today’s
network society, diplomats must be able to wear many different hats. They
still have to maintain traditional interstate relations, but must also play a
unifying role in a network made up of civil society organisations, businesses
and other non-state actors. Steps have already been taken to modernise the
Dutch diplomatic service to enable it to embrace these new tasks. Militarily,
this hybrid environment presents a wide range of challenges, and our
flexibility and technological advances will have to keep pace with the
changing context. The armed forces have to be able to respond quickly,
conduct a range of simultaneous missions in various areas of deployment
with sufficient capacity, and continue to do so as long as is necessary.
3. How this policy letter relates to the International Security Strategy
As mentioned above, the general analysis and policy choices made by the
government in its International Security Strategy remain as relevant as ever.
However, the international security environment has changed substantially
since the strategy was drawn up, in that the developments it describes are
now manifesting themselves more explicitly. Potential threats have become
real threats. In addition, with Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the rapid
advance of ISIS, new threats have emerged that were not foreseen in the
Strategic interests
In the International Security Strategy, the government identified three
strategic interests: defence of our own and our allies’ territory, an effective
international legal order and economic security. All three are affected by the
developments referred to above.
The importance of defending our own and our allies’ territory has
returned with a vengeance. Strategic relations in the Black Sea region have
changed radically. The Ukraine crisis has given transatlantic cooperation,
one of the policy constants in the International Security Strategy, a new
dimension. NATO solidarity has become even more crucial: our allies must
be able to count on us, and vice versa. Within NATO, the Ukraine crisis has
led to a reaffirmation of the importance of collective defence. In response,
measures have been taken for both the short and the long term, designed to
safeguard solidarity and enable NATO to respond more rapidly to potential
threats to its territory. The alliance has raised the requirements for the
readiness, rapid deployability and availability of its military capabilities. In the
spirit of solidarity, all 28 allies are contributing to these measures, which can
be stepped up as the situation demands. Of NATO’s three core tasks –
collective defence, crisis control and security cooperation – the first has
gained in importance. In the years ahead, the Netherlands’ armed forces will
be required to play a structural role in the alliance’s collective defence task.
We are also facing new challenges where the international legal order is
concerned: how should we, for example, respond to Russia’s annexation of
Crimea and its broader and persistent undermining of Ukrainian stability and
sovereignty? With its actions, Russia is harming the trust required to achieve
international agreements and cooperation. This kind of behaviour from a
permanent member of the UN Security Council transcends regional interests
and sends a very negative signal to the rest of the world. A related question
is how to respond to the phenomenon of hybrid warfare, as we now see
being applied in eastern Ukraine. And how to deal with a non-state actor like
ISIS which has no respect for national borders and operates in the territories
of several states? How do we deal with a Security Council which, due to
conflicts of interest and fundamental differences of perspective between the
major powers, is not able to respond adequately, for example, to the crisis in
Syria? How can we prevent serious violations of human rights in, say, the
Central African Republic, and if we fail to prevent atrocities, how can we
combat the impunity of the perpetrators? Another source of concern is the
fact that increasing instability and erosion of the legal order are often
accompanied by a rise in organised crime that quickly becomes transnational
in nature. This, too, is a threat to Europe. How should we respond to it, or
even better, anticipate it? These are questions to which there are no
conclusive answers at hand, but which will have to be discussed in the
international arena in the coming period.
As the government stressed in the International Security Strategy, the
Netherlands’ efforts to promote a strong international legal order are directly
related to our position as a relatively small, open and therefore vulnerable
country. In the current international context, multilateral cooperation and
strengthening the complex international legal order are more crucial than
ever. Promoting the international legal order is also one of the main
principles underlying the deployment of the Dutch armed forces. The
Netherlands’ aim is to ensure that countries around the world understand that
they have a joint responsibility to safeguard the international legal order. The
Netherlands’ ambition to obtain a seat on the UN Security Council for the
2017-2018 term is part of this effort.
Security of Europe’s energy supply for has become an acute issue in the
context of our economic security. The Ukraine conflict requires that we
review our energy ties with Russia. We feel the need to diversify our energy
sources and suppliers more than ever. As described in the government’s
response to the AIV’s advisory letter ‘The EU's Dependence on Russian
Gas’, the Netherlands and Europe are working towards diversifying the
countries from which gas is, or could be, imported. As a consequence of the
shale gas revolution, the US and Canada together are expected to export
more gas than Russia within five years. The transport of liquid gas by sea will
increase considerably in the next five years, making maritime security and
anti-piracy operations a higher priority. The Middle East and North Africa
region is another important supplier of energy to Europe. Not only is this
region highly unstable politically and economically, but domestic demand for
energy is also growing explosively, placing exports from the region under
pressure. To promote exports to Europe it is important that these countries
reform their energy sectors, improve energy efficiency, phase out energy
subsidies and develop renewable energy sources. The Netherlands and the
EU can help in these efforts. Such cooperation contributes not only to the
region’s economic development and stability, but also to Europe’s security.
Free trade routes and a stable world trade system remain essential for our
economy and security. Together with piracy, the territorial conflicts in the
East and South China Seas remain a potential threat to vital maritime
transport routes. Because of the acute crises on Europe’s borders, there is a
danger that less attention will be devoted to these potential future threats.
Trade conflicts, especially those between the major economic and political
powers, also affect our security. With insufficient progress being made in
WTO talks, the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the Transatlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is crucial. The TTIP can help move
the talks forward and lay the basis for new worldwide trade rules and
Policy focuses
On the basis of the three strategic goals referred to above, the International
Security Strategy introduced six policy focuses for the government: 1. More
responsibility for Europe; 2. Unstable regions near Europe; 3. Prevention; 4.
Disarmament and arms control; 5. Integrated approach; and 6. Cooperation
with the private sector. All six of these focuses remain relevant in the
changed international security context but, in terms of their application in
practice, some aspects need to be adapted to the new situation.
The first two focus areas identified in the strategy – more responsibility for
Europe and a focus on unstable regions near Europe – have become
more urgent as a consequence of the developments outlined above. One of
the main messages of the International Security Strategy was that Europe
must take greater responsibility for and invest more in stability in its own
neighbourhood. The Ukraine crisis has underlined more than ever the
pressing importance of strengthening European security. Europe itself must
be able to play a leading role in dealing with crises in neighbouring countries
and regions. The capacities and decision-making processes at national and
European level for crisis management are, however, not yet sufficiently
developed to respond promptly and effectively to serious challenges,
especially in regions bordering on the Union. Efforts are needed to address
shortcomings in strategic capacity and to improve the planning and control of
missions and operations. Another complicating factor is that the interests of
the member states do not always coincide, especially when it comes to
countries on the Union’s borders.
The Netherlands believes that – within the limits of the EU Treaty and the
financial frameworks agreed within the Union – everything possible must be
done to ensure that the EU acts as effectively and efficiently as possible in
the areas of security and defence. That means strengthening and deepening
the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), greater risk-sharing and
burden-sharing by the European countries within NATO, and enhancing
cooperation on defence within Europe. These points will be addressed in
greater detail below in section 4.
The importance of the third policy focus, prevention, is also underlined by
current developments. Europe and the international community have, to too
great a degree, allowed themselves to be surprised by the current crises.
The EU, NATO, the UN and the OSCE are now all working to strengthen
their early warning mechanisms. We have to learn to recognise signs that
things are threatening to get out of hand and respond to them earlier. The
best opportunities – and at the same time the least visible successes – lie in
the pre-conflict phase. It is in this phase that addressing the underlying
causes of conflict can make the greatest difference. Through strategic
partners like the International Crisis Group, the UN Department for Political
Affairs, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Interpeace and the Conflict
Research Unit at Clingendael, the Netherlands supports efforts to increase
the capacity to recognise conflicts in fragile environments at an early stage
and to seek solutions, for example through dialogue. In addition, the
Netherlands actively supports organisations like UNDP and the World Bank,
which are engaged in conflict-sensitive development work. The OSCE’s High
Commissioner on National Minorities, based in The Hague, also performs
important preventive work with the active support of the Netherlands.
As the Ebola crisis has taught us, the international community needs to be
more alert to outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases and respond to
them more quickly and effectively. This applies equally to outbreaks in
regions that are further afield, when our own interests may seem at first not
to be under threat. Without our being aware of it, such outbreaks can have a
deep impact on our own security. If the international community had
intervened at an earlier stage on a fraction of the scale that it is doing now,
Ebola could have been brought under control much more quickly. We all
have to learn lessons from this outbreak, so that we can respond more
effectively in the future.
In today’s international security context, it is essential that we continue
pressing to keep disarmament and arms control, the fourth policy focus, on
the agenda. The government continues to strive for the reduction and
eventual removal of non-strategic nuclear weapons from the whole of
Europe, on the basis of negotiations and reciprocity. The ultimate aim is
‘Global Zero’, a world without nuclear arms. The scope for significant steps in
this direction has not increased in the current international context. Partly as
a consequence of the developments that led to the Ukraine crisis, the
dialogue between the US and Russia on the further reduction of their nuclear
arsenals has practically come to a standstill. Although the US remains ready
and willing to enter into a dialogue, Russia does not seem prepared to
reciprocate. In addition, as a consequence of its intervention in Ukraine and
its extensive military exercises, mistrust of Russia has grown considerably
among several of our allies. There are also concerns that Russia may violate
the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, one of the pillars of the
European security architecture. In the current circumstances, therefore, there
is little scope within the context of US-Russian relations or within NATO to
discuss nuclear disarmament or transparency.
Nevertheless, the Netherlands will continue to draw attention within NATO to
reducing the role of nuclear arms and will actively work to ensure that nuclear
arms and the nuclear deterrent do not once again come to play a greater
role. The Netherlands will also continue pressing for a focus on arms control
and confidence-building measures. It is especially crucial in times of rising
tension that these key issues continue to be discussed; and that, when it
comes to conventional arms control, Russia and NATO continue to inform
each other of troop movements or exercises so as to avoid
misinterpretations. Increasing the predictability of Russia’s actions also
remains important. Nuclear and conventional arms control, transparency and
confidence-building measures can all help in this respect.
In addition, the Netherlands will play a constructive and proactive role in the
run-up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in the spring of
2015. For the Netherlands, the NPT is the cornerstone of the global
architecture for disarmament and non-proliferation. During the conference
preparations, it emerged that many countries feel frustration and impatience
about the slow pace of disarmament. Moreover, the increased focus in recent
years on the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear weapon explosion can
partly be explained by dissatisfaction about this lack of progress. There is a
widening gap between these expectations and developments in Europe (and
their impact on countries’ opportunities and willingness to disarm). The
Netherlands aims to help make the review conference a success by playing
the role of bridge-builder, for example through initiatives in the context of the
Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative. Lastly, the Netherlands will
closely follow and – where possible and necessary – support the efforts of
the International Atomic Energy Agency and the negotiations between the
E3+3 (the UK, France, Germany, the US, Russia and China) and Iran.
The transnational threats facing the Netherlands and other countries,
whether international terrorism or organised crime, including drug and human
trafficking, can be tackled only at international level and call for an
integrated approach. That requires a good balance between diplomacy,
development cooperation, economic measures (including sanctions) and the
deployment of defence, police, judicial and intelligence capacities. The
various available instruments must be used as effectively as possible in
combination with one another, in cooperation with government bodies in the
conflict areas themselves, international partners and organisations, and civil
society organisations. The Netherlands actively stresses the importance of
the integrated, or comprehensive, approach in the international arena.
Fortunately, within the EU and the UN there is increasing recognition of the
importance of such an approach. The Netherlands’ perspective is described
in detail in the recently published ‘Guidelines on the Integrated Approach’. In
addition, cooperation with non-state actors like NGOs and think-tanks has
been stepped up. The integrated approach is crucial for effective results and
is therefore a core thread in all of the policy measures outlined below.
The value of Dutch efforts depends heavily on the extent to which the
Netherlands is properly informed, in good time, of new developments. This is
true of all the policy focuses set out in the International Security Strategy, but
particularly those concerning unstable regions, prevention and arms control.
The intelligence and security services play a key role in this respect,
underlining the importance of their work and how it is aligned with policy.
The last policy focus of International Security Strategy is cooperation with
the private sector. In the international network society that has now
emerged, cooperation with the business community is crucial on many fronts.
Whether it is the impact of climate change, developments in the cyber
domain, or the security of our energy supplies and transport routes, these are
issues that exist to a significant degree in the private domain and call for a
public-private approach.
4. Specific consequences for government policy
This section describes the government’s specific actions in response to
current threats on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks. First it examines
policy aimed at the immediate arc of instability around Europe and several
countries and regions in the broader ring around it. It then describes how the
government plans, in practical terms, to promote greater European
responsibility, a more effective CSDP, greater burden-sharing within NATO,
and higher quality UN and EU peace missions and operations.
Geographical focus on the arc of instability around Europe
Eastern Europe
As a result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, destabilising interventions in
and around eastern Ukraine and broader external activity generally, DutchRussian relations have been fundamentally damaged. Trust has dissipated
and will take time to restore. The Netherlands is focusing its efforts on
reaching a sustainable solution to the conflict in Ukraine, based on that
country’s stabilisation and the recognition and restoration by Russia of its
neighbour’s territorial integrity. That is not only crucial for Ukraine’s future as
a sovereign state, but is also important for other countries in the region,
especially those with Russian-speaking minorities, and for European security
as a whole. Various routes towards a sustainable solution are being
explored, with a focus on dialogue and pressure: the political route
(especially through the EU and the OSCE), sanctions (primarily through the
EU), and the security route (through the EU, the OSCE (monitoring and
border observation) and NATO).
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has an
important role to play in the political route. As a regional security
organisation, it is well placed – thanks to its inclusive model – to operate in
the Ukraine crisis. It acts as mediator in the Trilateral Contact Group on
Ukraine, which drew up the Minsk Protocol, and is helping to supervise the
Protocol through the Special Monitoring Mission and the Border Observation
Mission. The Netherlands is contributing human and financial resources to
these missions and supporting the OSCE in its important mediating role. It
also envisages the OSCE playing an important role as a platform for
intensive dialogue with Russia on the security structure in Europe. The
Ukraine crisis raises fundamental questions about the principles enshrined in
the Helsinki Final Act (on the eve of the 40th anniversary of its signing) and
about how to respond to violations of the basic principles of respect for
sovereignty and territorial integrity by a member state.
Viewed in this light, pursuing the Helsinki +40 process is especially crucial.
The process could play a significant part in addressing the current situation.
It is important that we not be swept up in thinking in terms of 19th-century
spheres of influence and zero-sum games. The Netherlands will continue to
work on the assumption that we have shared interests with Russia and the
rest of the world. Furthermore, long-term stability in Europe is only possible if
we can find a modus vivendi with Russia.
The EU’s efforts are therefore focused on keeping the pressure on Russia to
genuinely implement the agreements in the Minsk Protocol and on reaching
a sustainable solution to the conflict. Until this has been achieved, a
combination of sanctions and dialogue will remain necessary.
NATO has responded to Russia’s actions by taking a number of measures to
reassure our Eastern European allies, in both the short and the long term.
The Readiness Action Plan (RAP) agreed at the recent summit in Wales was
a first step towards achieving a higher level of preparedness. The RAP aims
to provide a set of measures to allow NATO to respond quickly, flexibly and
adequately to the changing security situation on the flanks of the treaty area.
The plan does not provide for the permanent stationing of large military units
in eastern NATO countries. Instead, training and exercises will be carried out
on a rotational basis, and advance command and logistics facilities will be set
up. The RAP also entails establishing a Very High Readiness Joint Task
Force (VJTF), which will allow troops to be deployed in a very short time
frame with a view to reassurance and deterrence. A greater NATO presence
in the eastern parts of the treaty area and the higher level of readiness will
require a more intensive effort from all 28 NATO states, including the
Netherlands. In 2014 the Netherlands has contributed to reassurance
measures by providing F16s for Baltic Air Policing, minehunters for NATO’s
permanent fleet and AWACS (airborne warning and control system) tankers.
In addition, together with other countries that are making an important
contribution in 2015 by supplying rapid deployment units for the NATO
Response Force, the Netherlands has offered to develop a programme of
exercises for SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) as a testing
ground for the interim VJTF. The VJTF concept will be further developed and
tested in 2015. After giving little cause for concern for the past 25 years,
collective defence once more requires our close attention.
Lastly, the Netherlands is providing emergency aid to alleviate the most
acute humanitarian suffering in eastern Ukraine and will support the reforms
and reconstruction required in the country in the coming period, both
bilaterally and through the EU. Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU
is an important instrument in a reform process that will take a long time. In
many respects, the Ukrainian state will have to be completely restructured.
The reforms may have the backing of the country’s political leaders, but at
lower administrative levels, support is still limited. For its part, the general
public has clear expectations of reform. The conflict in the east of the country
and the annexation of Crimea have made the process more complex. The
Netherlands is also contributing to EUAM Ukraine, the civilian EU mission
aimed at helping to strengthen the rule of law in Ukraine through reform of
the civilian security sector. In addition, the Netherlands will work at bilateral
level to promote security sector reform in Ukraine in the coming period.
Syria / Iraq / ISIS
The situation in Syria and Iraq calls for a long-term commitment in the region.
Only a robust, inclusive political solution for both countries can contribute to
de-escalation and help restore stability. The Netherlands supports the efforts
of UN representative Staffan de Mistura to this end, and those of the EU to
develop an integrated action plan for the region. Parallel to these activities,
the Netherlands is also engaging in its own diplomatic initiatives, for example
supporting moderate forces in the region.
In the short term, Dutch involvement in Iraq is aimed at degrading the military
effectiveness of ISIS, both through airstrikes and by contributing to
international training activities in the country. These activities are part of the
efforts of the international coalition which, besides the US and the Iraqi
government, primarily includes countries in the region itself. To ensure that
international action to combat ISIS does not strengthen the position of the
Assad regime, the Dutch government is also exploring options for providing
moderate armed groups in Syria with military and other support, with the
exception of supplying arms.
In addition, the Netherlands is contributing to international efforts concerned
with early recovery, preparing for reconstruction and a sustainable solution. It
continues to support activities aimed at promoting accountability and
safeguarding data and information on human rights violations. The
Netherlands will also broaden the initiative to bring together Syrian women
who could play a role in the future peace process to other countries in the
region. Furthermore, to prevent spillover effects of the crisis in Syria, the
Netherlands will continue to provide humanitarian assistance in various
countries, including Lebanon and Jordan. It is contributing to the Lebanon
Syrian Crisis Trust Fund and supports the efforts of the Lebanese army to
promote stabilisation.
Organisations like ISIS and al Qa’ida benefit from polarisation and the
incitement of ideological conflict between Muslims and the West. The
advance of Salafist jihadism through ISIS goes hand in hand with terrorist
activity in Iraq and Syria, and possibly also in Western countries. This calls
not only for concrete counterterrorism measures, but also for efforts to
identify and address the complex causes underlying jihadism and the
terrorism it engenders.
ISIS presents itself as the defender of the Sunni Arabs. An effective strategy
to combat ISIS must expose this myth and devote attention to the deeper
causes of radicalisation and conflict. These often lie in local circumstances
and dissatisfaction among disadvantaged groups suffering economic and
political exclusion. The most effective way to combat ISIS is to address the
justified grievances of these population groups and promote efforts to
introduce inclusive and effective forms of governance with the constructive
involvement of the entire region, and to ensure that this gives young people
in these countries better prospects for the future so that they have
opportunities to build a normal life. That calls for a long-term approach
combining political, humanitarian, economic and development efforts.
The EU has recently developed a broad counterterrorism strategy that
focuses on integrating European policy with the international community’s
broader efforts in Syria and Iraq and cooperation with strategic partners,
especially in the Gulf region. Important elements in this strategy – included
partly at the insistence of the Netherlands – are combating the financing of
terrorism, tackling jihadist fighters and supporting an inclusive Iraqi
government. At national level, an integrated action plan to combat jihadism
was presented in August, coordinated by the National Coordinator for
Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV). The plan anticipates national and
international developments. Its aims include finding better ways of identifying
and restricting the movements of jihadists in good time, for example through
administrative measures. The Netherlands also supports efforts to identify
radicalisation processes at an early stage and address the underlying causes
of violent extremism. Initiatives aimed at countering violent extremism,
bilaterally and within the EU and the UN, aim to eliminate breeding grounds
for violence and terrorism. The Netherlands is also actively involved in the
International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, which focuses on
building judicial capacity in regions like North Africa and the Middle East.
Middle East Peace Process
The Netherlands will continue to pursue its active policy on the Middle East
Peace Process bilaterally, through the EU and at the UN, in support of a
negotiated two-state solution. A sustainable solution based on the two-state
principle is of crucial importance and demands urgent attention, partly in light
of the fragile situation in the region. In the current context, the Netherlands
and its EU partners will continue to work to promote de-escalation and the
resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
A failed state on the borders of Europe is a great risk. Stabilising Libya is of
crucial importance for the Netherlands and the EU, especially the southern
member states, which are confronted with an influx of refugees fleeing the
civil war in the country. The problems in Libya are high on the international
agenda, and the UN is currently taking the lead. The Netherlands supports
the international mediation efforts under the leadership of UN Special
Representative Bernardino León. The emphasis is on facilitating and
promoting an inclusive and transparent national dialogue. The EU is also
actively seeking ways to contribute to the stabilisation process. The EU
Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya), which aims to build
border control capacity, cannot effectively carry out its mandate given the
current political and security situation. In December 2014, there will be a
strategic review of EUBAM Libya, which will be used to decide on the future
of the mission. The EU is also exploring alternative ways to promote
stabilisation, including sanctions on individuals and parties that hamper the
peace process.
In 2012, after an uprising in the north of the country, Mali was in danger of
being overrun by rebels and jihadists. The insurgents were repelled after an
intervention by French forces (Operation Serval) at the request of the Malian
government. In 2013, the UN sent a mission to Mali (MINUSMA) to bring
stability to the country, so that a political solution to the conflict could be
sought. MINUSMA is also working to strengthen the rule of law and facilitate
the restoration of government control in the north of the country. The mission
is important for the people of Mali, for regional stability in the Sahel, and
therefore for the Netherlands, too. It is crucial to prevent spillover from
terrorism, crime and migrant flows from Mali to other countries in the region
and to Europe. To this end, since the spring of 2014, the Netherlands has
been making a substantial contribution to MINUSMA, with a special focus on
improving the mission’s intelligence capability. It is the first time that a UN
mission has had this level of intelligence capability at its disposal. MINUSMA
has a robust mandate, with particular attention being devoted to protecting
the civilian population. The presence of the UN mission underscores the
international community’s commitment to promoting stability in the country.
One positive development is the start of negotiations in Algiers on a political
solution to the conflict, which has led to a roadmap for peace talks. At the
Netherlands’ suggestion, the roadmap also addresses the need to resolve
local conflicts.
The number of refugees seeking safety is putting considerable pressure on
the affected regions. The Netherlands has therefore increased its support for
reception and assistance in the region itself. Providing reception facilities
locally makes it easier for refugees to return home after the conflict has
ended. The Netherlands is supporting host countries like Yemen, Lebanon
and Kenya in migration management and in providing adequate protection
for refugees. It is also devoting attention to host communities, as exclusively
focusing on refugees can lead to tensions and conflict with the local
The Netherlands advocates stronger cooperation at European level and with
third countries on migration and development, return and combating illegal
immigration and crime related to migration. The migration issue cannot be
seen in isolation from political instability and socioeconomic conditions in
countries of origin and transit. It is therefore essential to address the
underlying causes, such as crises or widespread unemployment. Poor
socioeconomic or security conditions, even in distant third countries, can
increase the pressure of illegal migration on the EU as a whole. We can see
that from the many ramshackle boats that leave North Africa for Europe’s
southern borders, many of which never reach their destination. The
importance of European cooperation was again emphasised last September,
when some 500 migrants drowned after – according to survivors – people
smugglers had sunk their boat. Strengthening cooperation within the EU (for
example through Frontex), combating organised crime and people
smuggling, targeting development cooperation at the underlying causes and
effective return policy are all essential elements in a comprehensive
approach to illegal immigration.
West Africa: Ebola
The first cases of Ebola were reported in March 2014. The international
community did not respond until mid-August. In that month, the World Health
Organization declared the outbreak a ‘Public Health Emergency of
International Concern’ and in September the UN decided to set up its first
medical mission ever (UNMEER). The epidemic calls for a coordinated
international response. A financial contribution alone is not enough to contain
this crisis: there is an urgent need for medical personnel, aid goods and
transport. Within the structures set up to address the crisis, the Netherlands
is supporting efforts to combat Ebola in a variety of ways. Besides
contributing €31.1 million towards preventing the disease from spreading
further and towards treatment of patients, the Netherlands has placed the
Joint Support Ship (JSS) Karel Doorman at the disposal of the EU and the
UN for the transport of aid goods, and the executive boards of Dutch
healthcare institutions have been requested to cooperate if their medical staff
want to help in the affected countries. In addition, the Netherlands has
decided to appoint a special representative for Ebola to coordinate Dutch
efforts both at home and abroad.
With all the attention being paid to the crises in Europe’s immediate vicinity, it
is important not to lose sight of the situation in Afghanistan. Steps must be
taken to ensure that the country does not once again become a haven for
terrorist elements that pose a threat to both the Afghan people and the
international legal order. Over the past decade, the international community
has worked to enhance the quality of the army and the police, and improve
the human rights situation, especially women’s rights, and the legal system in
Afghanistan. These efforts have borne fruit, but the situation remains fragile.
Corruption, poor governance and drugs production and trafficking continue to
threaten the country’s future. Further efforts to strengthen the capacity of the
police and the army are preconditions for ensuring security and restoring the
rule of law in Afghanistan. To pursue this aim, the Netherlands will supply up
to 100 military personnel to the new NATO mission Resolute Support, which
will train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces. In the
coming years, the Netherlands will also help fund the police and army and
contribute to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which the World
Bank uses to invest in the economy, infrastructure, education system, health
care and capacity-building there. Lastly, the Netherlands is helping to
strengthen the rule of law in Afghanistan, with a special focus on the position
of women.
Central America and the Caribbean
In addition to the above, the Netherlands continues to be actively involved in
improving the security situation in Central America and the Caribbean, in line
with the EU’s security strategy for the region. This effort is described in detail
in the policy letter on security in Central America and the Caribbean, sent to
the Dutch Senate on 19 September. Since the publication of the International
Security Strategy, stability in the region has not improved. The spillover
effects of the drugs trade and other international organised crime and the
relatively unstable economic situation could impact negatively on the
Kingdom’s Caribbean territories. Developments in the region therefore
require our ongoing attention.
More European responsibility
The nature of the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and in SubSaharan Africa, as well as the integrated missions required to respond to
them, call for an integrated and effective approach by the EU and the UN.
The EU has a special responsibility in this connection. Both the UN and the
EU will have to invest in the quality of their crisis management mechanisms.
Within NATO, too, the European allies will have to take greater responsibility
for safeguarding their own security. Greater attention will need to be paid to
collective defence and balanced burden-sharing.
Strengthening the Common Security and Defence Policy
The international security context requires that the CSDP be strengthened.
The complexity of the threats and conflicts in the immediate and more distant
neighbourhood of Europe, and their underlying causes, call more than ever
before for an integrated and effective approach at European level. The
European Council of December 2013 generated new momentum for
strengthening the military aspects of the CSDP in particular. The Council
resulted in a package of tasks to be pursued in three main areas: improving
the effectiveness, visibility and impact of the CSDP (for example, by
developing a more efficient and effective integrated approach for EU crisis
management), capacity-strengthening (e.g. by ‘pooling and sharing’ and
long-term defence planning in close coordination with NATO) and
strengthening the European defence market and industry. These tasks are
currently being elaborated in greater detail.
During the Council, the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy
was requested to draw up an analysis in the course of 2015, in close
consultation with the member states and the European Commission, of the
changes in the European security environment and its impact on the Union.
The current European security strategy dates from 2003 and its view of the
world is primarily determined by the events of 11 September 2001. It would
seem to be time for a new strategy that provides frameworks for priority27
setting within the CSDP, institutional reform (especially reorganising and
strengthening crisis management structures) and the allocation of resources.
This should lead to better coordination and more efficient deployment of
civilian missions and military operations within the CSDP and of the EU’s
diplomatic, trade and development cooperation instruments. A genuinely
integrated deployment of the full range of external policy instruments at the
Union’s disposal is required, so that the EU’s efforts in third countries and
regions reinforce one another. That calls for close coordination between the
High Representative and other Commissioners in the ‘external policy’ cluster.
The Netherlands will press for such coordination and advocate a proactive
role for the High Representative in all priority dossiers.
Greater burden-sharing by European countries within NATO
European countries will also have to take greater responsibility for
safeguarding their own security within the context of NATO. More attention
will have to be paid to collective defence and balanced burden-sharing. As
crises arise quickly and the alliance sets high requirements for solidarity, a
high level of readiness and rapid deployability are extremely important. As a
member of the UN, NATO and the EU, the Netherlands is expected to make
a significant contribution to global and European security, including in military
terms. During the NATO summit in Wales, the allies agreed to reverse the
trend of falling defence spending and to deploy the available resources more
effectively, with a focus on the most important capacity deficits within NATO.
Allies that currently spend less than 2% of their GDP on defence have said
they will prevent expenditure dropping further and work to raise real spending
as their GDPs grow. They also expressed the aim of moving back towards
the 2% of GDP norm over the next ten years. The Netherlands has
emphasised the importance of looking not only at expenditure but also at
making defence efforts more effective.
As explained in the letter to parliament on implementation of the motion
submitted by Kees van der Staaij, the government emphasised in the Budget
Memorandum that recent developments warrant adjustments to the ambition
level of the Netherlands’ armed forces, which will affect their composition,
equipment and the level of defence spending. It is an ambition level that
requires the armed forces to be capable – usually together with international
partners – of conducting and maintaining a wide range of missions in various
areas of deployment, simultaneously and with sufficient capacity, and to be
rapidly deployable according to the demands of the situation.
Strengthening defence cooperation in Europe
The Netherlands is in favour of strengthening European defence cooperation
and increasing the EU’s joint strike power and capacity to act. The policy of
promoting further defence cooperation within the EU and NATO will be
continued, partly in light of the knowledge that, in this way, the Dutch armed
forces can contribute to the development of capacities for which there is a
great need in Europe. Our guiding principle remains that the Dutch armed
forces must be widely deployable in a broad range of missions. In addition,
defence cooperation ensures that NATO and the EU also possess
capabilities that individual member states no longer have, or have limited
capacity to maintain.
Investing in the quality of UN peace missions and operations
Peace operations are becoming more important and require greater attention
as a result of the increasing challenges. At the same time, UN peace
operations are under pressure. More UN peacekeepers are currently being
deployed than ever before (130,000), and they are operating in
circumstances that are more complex and dangerous than ever before. The
UN Secretary-General has therefore decided to conduct a strategic
evaluation of UN operations. The Netherlands supports this initiative and
sees it as an opportunity to draw attention to the need for an integrated
approach and to address important issues like protection of civilians, the
position of women in armed conflict, and combating impunity.
At the meeting on strengthening international peace operations during the
ministerial week of the UN General Assembly, the Netherlands offered to
organise a regional follow-up meeting on the issue in the spring of 2015, with
the aim of encouraging European countries to contribute more to UN peace
operations. The conference will examine the challenges and limitations
facing European governments and will discuss women’s rights and the
priorities of protecting civilians during conflicts. It will also address the
increasing technological capacity requirements of missions. Similar
conferences are to be organised in other regions, and the results will be
presented at the next summit in the margins of the 2015 UN General
When undertaking UN and EU missions – and deciding on how the
Netherlands is going to contribute to them – account should be taken of the
impact of emerging transnational organised crime, whether aimed directly or
indirectly at the Netherlands or Western Europe. Strengthening local and
regional rule of law structures should therefore be explicitly included in the
missions’ mandates. It is after all important not to lose sight of the lessons
learned from the past when investing in the quality of peace missions and
operations. Experience gained in recent years shows that peacebuilding and
institutional development cannot be imposed from outside. As outlined in the
New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, it is important that the
international community is aware of the context in which it is working and
supports the right local developments.
Protecting civilians and human security
More and more often, civilians are the victims of instability and armed
conflict, and UN missions rightly devote attention to this issue. Mission
mandates increasingly include the protection of civilians, but in practice this
has proved difficult to achieve. UN missions not only face serious capacity
challenges, but contrasting interpretations of their mandate and a lack of
accountability among government authorities in the countries concerned also
mean that civilians often get caught in the crossfire.
Since UN missions also have an advocacy and investigative component, the
UN Secretary-General has made protecting civilians and human security one
of their main priorities. This priority will be high on the agenda during
strategic reviews of UN operations. The Netherlands is actively supporting
this policy, including in practical terms by providing training for UN personnel
and supplying expertise in protecting civilians during missions, thereby
promoting civil-military cooperation. The Netherlands also aims to prevent
civilian casualties by working on conflict prevention: locally, it supports NGO
efforts to promote conflict resolution mechanisms in communities, and at
national level it works via mediation and peace talks, for example through the
UN’s Department of Political Affairs. Our capacity-building efforts aimed at
restoring the legal order in conflict areas and fragile states also help to
prevent civilian casualties. In the Central African Republic, for example, the
Netherlands is funding the restoration of the criminal justice system to
combat violence against civilians and impunity.
In relation to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the Netherlands is one of
the first countries to have set up a national R2P Focal Point. Since protecting
civilians is a high priority for the Netherlands, this was also explicitly added to
the Article 100 Assessment Framework for Military Missions in 2014.
Special attention needs to be paid to the position of women. The Netherlands
supports implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women,
peace and security. Specific issues include protecting women against sexual
violence in conflict situations and promoting their role in political and
reconciliation processes. The Netherlands supports the work of the UN
Special Representative on this issue. With Dutch support, UN Women trains
troops bound for UN missions in how to protect civilians and combat sexual
violence in conflict situations. NATO has taken an important step with the
Action Plan it has drawn up together with its partners in the Euro-Atlantic
Partnership Council, and the appointment of a Dutch diplomat as NATO’s
Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security. The Action Plan
aims to train and educate security personnel regarding this issue, both before
and during operations and missions.
Justice is very important for civilian victims of violence in conflict situations.
Investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of international crimes,
including war crimes and crimes against humanity, are therefore crucial. As
host country to a number of international tribunals, the Netherlands plays a
leading international role in combating impunity. It also actively promotes
investigation of and evidence-gathering on international crimes, for example
in Syria. Some time ago, the Netherlands started a debate geared at
improving cooperation on criminal justice in the area of international crimes.
The aim is to develop a multilateral instrument for mutual legal assistance in
criminal cases relating to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Looking beyond today’s crises
To safeguard our security we have to look beyond the acute crises that affect
us today and give sufficient attention to a number of global issues that are of
special relevance to the Netherlands and which can be expected, on the
basis of current thinking, to play a role in determining the international
security agenda in the years ahead. With national and international security
now more interconnected than ever, an international crisis can have an
immediate impact at national level. The Netherlands is therefore working
actively on a number of policy themes to help prevent future conflicts: cyber
security, the legal and ethical aspects of new weapons systems, foreign
terrorist fighters, and the consequences of climate change and increasing
competition for natural resources – a niche area in which the Netherlands
has a great deal of expertise. A good example of an issue that the
Netherlands has successfully put on the international agenda, together with
the US and South Korea, is nuclear security. The 2014 Nuclear Security
Summit in The Hague focused international attention on this theme and firm
agreements were made to limit the threat of nuclear terrorism.
Cyber security
Cyber security is already an important issue and will become even more so
in the future. By 2020 an estimated 25 billion devices will be connected to the
internet. The information, services and processes that keep our economies,
societies and daily lives running smoothly are becoming more and more
dependent on ICT. Cyberspace offers countless opportunities for economic
growth. The internet brings distant friends together, helps make our lives
more comfortable and opens up new paths for innovation. But our increasing
dependence on the internet also makes 21st-century society vulnerable.
Cyberspace has become a full-fledged domain for military operations and for
crime. In order to safeguard the Netherlands’ long-term economic prosperity
and social development, the government, individuals and businesses must
be resilient to cyber threats. With the establishment of the National Cyber
Security Centre under the authority of the National Coordinator for Security
and Counterterrorism, the Netherlands now has a national body for
coordination and response when cyber incidents arise. The Ministry of
Defence has also set up a Cyber Command, making cyber security an
integral part of military operations. In addition, cyberspace is becoming
increasingly important in the intelligence arena.
To promote solid international agreements and cooperation, the Netherlands
is taking the lead at diplomatic level by organising the 2015 Global
Conference on Cyber Space, which will be held in The Hague on 16 and 17
April 2015. At the conference, representatives of more than 100 countries,
together with delegates from civil society organisations, academic institutions
and businesses, will discuss the economic and security aspects of
cyberspace, cyber security and cyber crime, as well as the importance of
internet freedom and online privacy. The participants are also expected to
discuss international peace and security in cyberspace. This will contribute to
efforts to reach agreement within the UN on standards of conduct in
cyberspace. The conference will also address the theme of capacity-building
in the area of cyber security. The Netherlands will take account of the results
of the conference when it takes over Presidency of the EU in 2016. This will
help the Netherlands to achieve its ambition of playing a leading role in
international efforts to enhance cyber security.
New weapons systems
Rapid technological advances are making it possible to develop weapons
systems which, increasingly, can operate autonomously. This raises ethical,
legal and technical questions that merit national and international attention.
In May 2014, the Netherlands contributed to the first international expert
meeting on ‘lethal autonomous weapons systems’ held in the context of the
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). To maintain the
momentum of this debate, the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and
Defence are seeking to work with universities and research institutes to
explore in greater detail the concept of ‘meaningful human intervention’ in the
use and control of the autonomous functions of weapons systems. The
Netherlands will also push to keep this issue on the international agenda in
the coming period.
Foreign terrorist fighters
Although radicalisation processes often have specific local causes, terrorist
ideologies can spread like an oil slick to other parts of the world. The
phenomenon of ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ also shows how national and
international security issues increasingly coincide. We need a broader
approach that reflects this reality, so that the problem can be contained more
effectively. The National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism and
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working together closely to this end, both in
the Netherlands and in the international arena. In October, the Ministry
appointed a special counterterrorism ambassador to improve coordination of
international efforts to tackle the problem of foreign terrorist fighters.
Addressing this problem requires striking the right balance between specific
repressive measures that address immediate threats and preventive
measures aimed at removing the underlying causes and preventing further
radicalisation. Attention will also be paid to preventing the stigmatisation of
religious and ethnic minorities, as well as specific groups and individuals. A
good example of this balanced approach is the memorandum on foreign
terrorist fighters initiated by the Netherlands and drafted in the context of the
Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF), which focuses on prevention, as
well as tracking down, prosecuting and re-integrating these individuals.
The GCTF is an informal platform of 15 Western and 15 non-Western
countries. The Netherlands has taken on a leading role in this forum,
together with Morocco, in promoting a multidisciplinary approach to foreign
jihadists. The UN Security Council recognised the importance of such an
approach in its Resolution 2178 on Foreign Terrorist Fighters (2014), which
has placed the issue on the international agenda. In the years ahead the
Netherlands will continue to play a leading role on this issue.
Global issues
Climate change will have an increasing impact on the global agenda.
Resource scarcity, land degradation, demand for fertile agricultural land and
growing consumption can potentially spark conflict or exacerbate existing
tensions. Global warming is having a negative effect on our ecosystems and
climate change is leading to more extreme weather conditions. Water
scarcity is another growing problem. This is all increasing the danger of
rivalry between countries and the emergence of ‘resource nationalism’.
Resource scarcity is a growing problem, even without climate change. A
good example is the rising global demand for rare earth metals. Lack of
access to energy is helping to maintain poverty in large parts of the world.
Enormously high subsidies on fossil fuels are causing economic disruption,
paradoxically in countries in North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere that
export fossil fuels. Countries or regions with large raw material reserves are
of strategic importance, while their economic dependence on those
resources makes them vulnerable to political instability.
Diplomatic efforts are focused on ensuring that countries do not use their oil
and gas reserves to achieve their geopolitical aims, though, as recent
experiences with Russia have taught us, this cannot always be prevented.
Scarcity and natural disasters resulting from climate change could lead to
migration flows and political and social unrest in various parts of the world.
Climate, water and resource problems can cause or exacerbate conflicts and
should therefore be an integral part of early warning systems. Making sure
that people living in rural and more densely populated areas are sufficiently
protected against the effects of climate change is the main challenge for the
coming decades, a challenge in keeping with a future-oriented foreign policy.
The Netherlands can fulfil its responsibility to foster a sustainable world and
living environment by, for example, using its knowledge and expertise to help
prevent instability elsewhere.
5. Conclusion: focus and commitment for the long term
An active foreign policy is crucial in order to defend our strategic interests,
our freedoms and our values of democracy, human rights and pluralism. That
policy must also be sustainable in the long term.
As the Clingendael and HCCS reports show, we must seriously consider the
possibility of a long period of instability in Europe’s immediate vicinity. All
indicators suggest that the current fragile security environment will be with us
for some time. There are no quick fixes for Iraq and Syria. Besides the
deployment of military resources to curtail the power of ISIS, a long-term
strategy is also required. The same applies to the situation in the rest of the
Middle East and North Africa. The conflict in Ukraine will also continue to
affect relations between Russia and the European Union and NATO for many
years. In addition, there are conflicts worldwide that are impacting on the
economic and security interests of the Netherlands and the other EU
member states, and may therefore require a response, military or otherwise.
Preventing and resolving conflict in the regions around us is in our own
interests. As described above, international crises can have a direct impact
on our national security. It is crucial that, in addressing these crises, we find
a good balance between tackling the acute symptoms and developing a
multiannual, strategic approach to address the underlying causes of
instability. ‘Fast’ security must go hand in hand with ‘slow’ security aimed at a
lasting solution. This calls for an integrated effort in the regions involved, with
coordinated deployment of diplomatic and development cooperation
instruments, where necessary supplemented by the efforts of the security
services, police and armed forces.
The developments in the international security environment described above
show just how interconnected the economy and our security are becoming.
In recent years, it has become obvious – sometimes painfully so – that
political, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic and security factors are closely
interrelated in conflict situations. Climate change, resource scarcity, energy
policy, sociopolitical disadvantage and sectarian differences are increasingly
a cause or catalyst of conflict. This is why the government believes that a
coherent approach is necessary, which takes the broader context into
account and addresses the underlying causes of instability.
One lesson from the recent past is that, while addressing the realities of the
present and the potential realities of the future, we must not lose sight of the
crises of yesterday. Iraq and Libya have shown us that an often relatively
short military intervention must be followed by long-term assistance to the
countries concerned on their path to a stable future. The period following a
conflict is usually very precarious. The attention of the international
community often shifts too rapidly to more acute crises elsewhere, while 2550% of post-conflict countries fall back into conflict within a few years. The
international community needs to create more scope and flexibility to support
reconstruction in post-conflict countries. This is when the development of the
rule of law, inclusive political processes and legitimate government are most
crucial. The Netherlands will continue to contribute to efforts to achieve these
aims, as part of multilateral initiatives and in cooperation with like-minded
partners, especially in conflict regions themselves.
We must commit ourselves to working with our international partners in the
long term to find sustainable solutions to the crisis hotspots that surround us.
The choices we make now must also be tenable in the future.
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