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Cablegate: Netherlands: Defense Issues Heading Into Bucharest

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1140
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2752
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0352
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C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 000185

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/RPM

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2018
TAGS: MARR PGOV PREL AF NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: DEFENSE ISSUES HEADING INTO BUCHAREST

Classified By: CDA Andrew Schof...


143233,2/27/2008 12:30,08THEHAGUE185,"Embassy The Hague",
CONFIDENTIAL,,"VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB
DE RUEHTC #0185/01 0581230
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 271230Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1140
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2752
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0352
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0138
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
","C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 000185
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/RPM
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2018
TAGS: MARR PGOV PREL AF NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: DEFENSE ISSUES HEADING INTO BUCHAREST
Classified By: CDA Andrew Schofer, reasons 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Summary: The Dutch MOD is facing several defense
issues leading up to and beyond the NATO Bucharest summit in
April. Dutch MOD senior leadership is facing criticism over
the way it is handling the investigation into three possible
friendly fire incidents in January. The MOD continues to
review a possible Georgian contribution to its ISAF extension
in Uruzgan. Defense officials remain hopeful that funding
can be found to allow the Dutch to participate fully in the
C-17 strategic airlift initiative, but are doubtful they will
be able to sign the MOU prior to the summit. Noise pollution
associated with AWACS aircraft at Geilenkirchen Air Base
continues to cause political problems for the Dutch, who are
looking for creative ways to address parliamentary concerns.
The Dutch also are looking to contribute 60 marines to the EU
mission in Chad, although parliamentary support at this point
is questionable. Finally, the MOD is leading a 18-month long
task force designed to examine the possibility of defense
budget increases as a fixed percentage of GDP. End summary.

2. (SBU) On February 26, Dutch MOD working level contacts
discussed defense issues leading up to the NATO Bucharest
Summit in April. Dutch participants included CAPT Turnhout
(MOD Policy Officer for the United States), LTC Parthesius
(Dutch military liaison for the United States), and COL
Vermeij (acting head of the Joint Chiefs International
Military Cooperation Directorate).

Afghanistan
-----------

3. (SBU) Vermeij and Turnhout addressed recent parliamentary
and public criticism of Dutch CHOD Gen. Berlijn's interim
report regarding three possible friendly fire incidents in
mid-January. Berlijn's report found that all three incidents
were likely the result of friendly fire in which Dutch forces
did not ""fully comply in accordance with tactical
procedures."" Defense Minister van Middelkoop is awaiting the
results of a separate investigation by the prosecutor's
office before releasing the ""final"" MOD report on the
incidents in question.

4. (C) Parliament and public criticism has lambasted Berlijn
for issuing a report that is not yet final, while Dutch
troops in Afghanistan are incensed the report does not take
into account the ""extreme circumstances"" (night time,
inclement weather, lack of radio equipment) under which the
incidents transpired, and depicts Dutch troops as ""rank
amateurs."" Vermeij argued that Berlijn and van Middelkoop
would equally have been criticized for ""keeping parliament in
the dark"" if they had decided to wait until the investigation
had been completed before releasing any findings --
essentially, the Dutch MOD senior leadership is ""damned if
you do, damned if you don't.""

5. (C) On the possible Georgian contribution to the Dutch
ISAF extension in Uruzgan, Vermeij acknowledged the Dutch are
still determining whether they will be able to use the
Georgians, and expected an answer in three to four weeks --
any questions regarding potential Dutch funding of task force
training will have to wait until after the Dutch assess
whether the Georgian offer was more than ""just a political
facade"" to bolster NATO membership action plan aspirations.
He understood ""high interest"" in Washington -- and
potentially Canada -- to use the Georgians elsewhere should
the Dutch determine they are not a good fit for the Dutch
task force.

C-17
----

6. (C) Turnhout still expected the Dutch to be able to
participate in the C-17 strategic airlift initiative, but
noted that funding remains an issue within the GONL. He
understood that the United States and others seek to soon
sign the C-17 MOU so that it may be announced as a
deliverable for the Bucharest summit. Turnhout said the
timing is unfortunate for the Dutch -- and for the Swedish
and Italians for different reasons -- especially since the
Dutch will not be able to resolve their internal budget
funding questions until after the summit.

AWACs Re-Engining
-----------------

7. (C) Turnhout raised Dutch efforts to reduce the noise
pollution associated with NATO Airborne Warning and Control
System (AWACS) aircraft flying into and out of the NATO air
base just across the border in Geilenkirchen, Germany. He
acknowledged that the ""business case"" to replace the noisy
E-3 engines is proving difficult to make to NATO Allies. As
a result, the Dutch have been forced to think creatively,
including van Middelkoop's proposal at the NATO Defense
Ministerial in Vilnius to replace 1,380 training sorties with
a flight simulator. Unfortunately, Turnhout doubted the
Dutch would receive an official answer from NATO until the
next NAMSO board of directors meeting in June -- and the GONL
is on the hook to report to the Dutch parliament by the end
of March ""progress by NATO"" on resolving the noise pollution.
Turnhout appreciated any assistance from NATO Allies -- and
the USG specifically -- to indicate in advance that the
flight simulator proposal might prove acceptable. Turnhout
also said that the Dutch Minister for the Environment was
taking a more proactive role on this issue, and has tried to
gain support from other EU environment ministers for the
Dutch cause. (Note: On February 21, the Dutch floated a paper
at the EU Environmental Council requesting EU legislation
assistance in restricting noise pollution associated with the
AWACS aircraft. End note.)

Chad
----

8. (C) Vermeij noted that the MOD has proposed contributing a
reconnaissance unit of 60 marines as part of an Irish
battalion to the EU mission in Chad. He expected the Cabinet
to approve the deployment on February 29, followed by a
parliamentary debate the following week. Parthesius
confirmed strong opposition in both parliament and the
military labor unions, noting the argument that the Dutch
military is already stretched too thin by its deployment to
Afghanistan. (Note: Members of the previous coalition
government Liberal Party (VVD) approved the extension in
Afghanistan under the condition that no other significant
Dutch military deployment happen concurrently. VVD
traditionally has frowned upon Dutch involvement in Africa.
End note.) Vermeij expected parliament to ultimately agree
with the deployment given coalition party support for the
mission, including especially efforts by the Labor Party
(PvdA) to engage in Africa.

Defense Budget Review
---------------------

9. (C) Turnhout has been picked to lead the working level of
an interagency task force to examine whether the defense
budget should be structurally increased as a fixed percentage
of the GDP; the 18-month long task force will officially
begin work on March 5. Turnhout explained that from the MOD
perspective, the aim of the task force is to lay the
foundation necessary to effectively make the case to the next
coalition government that the defense budget should be
increased. He noted, however, that the issue is politically
sensitive: the Ministry of Finance -- headed by PvdA party
leader Wouter Bos -- will argue in favor of decreasing the
defense budget. He said the results of the task force will
be highly scrutinized, and may carry significant weight in
determine the future direction of the Dutch military.
Schofer

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