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Cablegate: Netherlands/Scenesetter: Foreign Minister Bot's

DE RUEHTC #2282/01 2931153
O 201153Z OCT 06





E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2016

Classified By: Ambassador Roland Arnall, reasons 1.4 (b,d)


1. (C) Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot's upcoming visit to
Washington DC comes just one month before national elections.
It therefore provides an excellent opportunity to move some
difficult issues forward in a way that helps ensure that the
next Dutch government, whatever its configuration, comes into
office on a positive note with regard to the bilateral
relationship. Although we have had, and will continue to
have, differences with the Dutch on a variety of issues, they
remain one of our staunchest allies in continental Europe,
willing to put their credibility, resources, and even troops
on the line again and again to support transatlantic
objectives. Bot's support was critical in the Dutch
decisions to deploy troops to Afghanistan, to participate in
UNIFIL, and to provide significant assistance to Darfur. He
has also been an outspoken advocate of tougher measures to
restrain North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions, and is a
strong supporter of our goals for the 2006 NATO summit.

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2. (C) The current government's close ties to the U.S. have
not been without cost to the coalition government or to Bot
personally. Parliamentary and public concerns about
Guantanamo/Detainee issues, in particular, have put Bot in
the uncomfortable position of having to defend the bilateral
relationship in Parliament while carrying out explicit
parliamentary instructions to criticize U.S. policies at
every opportunity. John Bellinger's successful visit here
October 10-11 helped shift our bilateral discussions in a
more positive direction, and Bot has expressed strong
interest in continuing the dialogue; we need to move quickly
to exploit this opening to support our broader efforts to
influence Dutch and European opinion.

3. (C) In addition to his meeting with you, Bot has meetings
with Sen. Chuck Hagel, Deputy NSA Crouch, and Deputy
Secretary of Defense England on Oct. 23. He will also give a

press conference and attend a dinner hosted by the American
Enterprise Institute on transatlantic relations. On Oct. 24,
Bot will meet with Deputy NSA Eliott Abrams, deliver a speech
at Georgetown University on Saving Democracy in a World of
Change, and attend a lunch at the Dutch ambassador's
residence on Afghanistan. While Afghanistan,
Guantanamo/Detainee issues, and the upcoming Riga summit will
be the main items on his agenda, Bot will also be interested
in hearing about your recent visit to the Middle East. This
cable contains brief summaries of the current state of play
of these and several other issues -- North Korea/Iran,
Venezuela, Sudan, the Human Rights Council, Joint Strike
Fighter, and Law Enforcement cooperation -- as viewed from
The Hague.


4. (C) Bot's visit to Washington comes against the backdrop
of the November 22 national elections, in which Bot's
governing Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) has recently
pulled from behind to run neck-in-neck with the opposition
Labor Party (PvdA). Regardless of which party gains the most
seats in the next parliament, the next Dutch government --
like all previous Dutch governments -- will be a coalition,
probably containing at least one of the current government's
two center-right parties (CDA and VVD), either governing
together or individually in partnership with the PvdA. For
that reason alone, it is clear that many of the current
government's policies will continue. In the heat of a hotly
contested campaign, however, opposition candidates will
continue to exploit perceived weaknesses in the
Bot/Balkenende foreign policy for political gain, and Bot
will feel compelled to respond -- sometimes in ways that
appear unnecessarily critical of the U.S. While we enjoy
excellent working relations with the Dutch on a wide range of
issues around the world -- including, most obviously, in
Afghanistan -- we should not underestimate the level of
public frustration with U.S. policies or the current
government's hyper-sensitivity to criticism from a volatile
and divided electorate.

5. (C) Bot could retain the Foreign Minister portfolio in any
future coalition government in which CDA is a partner.
Although Bot wants the job, however, he faces stiff
competition, including from within his own party, as Maxim

THE HAGUE 00002282 002 OF 004

Verhagen, the CDA's leader in parliament, is also a prime
contender. Bot is actively using visits such as this one to
demonstrate his value to his party and the general
electorate. By choosing not to stand for parliament
personally, he may also hope to remain somewhat above
politics in order to make himself more attractive to
potential coalition partners. Even if it turns out to be a
last hurrah, a successful visit to the U.S. at this moment
is important to Bot personally, to the Balkenende government,
and for the bilateral relationship in general.


6. (C) Despite a contentious parliamentary debate last winter
and low public support, the Dutch deployment to Uruzgan as
part of NATO's ISAF III mission has not emerged as a
difficult election issue for the current government -- at
least not yet. In retrospect, the lengthy debate, in which
the PvdA ultimately voted in favor of the deployment despite
serious reservations, effectively neutralized most serious
critics of the mission early and locked all the major parties
into supportive positions. In an effort to destroy this
consensus, opposition parties to the left of Labor, notably
GreenLeft and the Socialist Party, have argued noisily that
the GONL has failed in its promise to maintain a clear line
between ISAF and OEF operations, and that the focus of the
mission has shifted from reconstruction -- which the public
largely supports -- to a far more controversial combat
mission. So far, however, PvdA politicians have not taken
the bait, and the GONL has effectively countered these
charges by stressing that a secure environment is necessary
for any effective reconstruction effort, and that Dutch
military forces are fully prepared to deal with the
challenges they face.

7. (C) Meanwhile, the Dutch have performed well in the field,
engaging and killing the enemy. That said, the Dutch
continue to place a higher emphasis on hearts and minds
reconstruction efforts than on the hunt for terrorists --
combat missions have been largely reactive instead of
proactive. They are set to take over regional command in the
south in November. The Dutch have not suffered any
casualties as a result of enemy fire -- an F-16 crash and
apparent suicide are the only casualties thus far. Some
speculate a high casualty count might put Afghanistan back in
play for the elections. FM Bot should be congratulated and
encouraged for the Dutch deployment and performance in
Uruzgan as they continue to punch above their weight. Bot
most likely will raise increased security along the Pakistani


8. (C) This is perhaps the most difficult issue in our
bilateral relationship right now. All major parties,
including the CDA, condemned the recent revelations of secret
prisons and continue to demand that Guantanamo Bay be closed
-- without offering credible alternatives. Bot has been at
the center of this particular storm, repeatedly called to
testify before Parliament to defend the bilateral
relationship in the face of the widely-shared perception that
the U.S. is not abiding by international law -- an especially
sensitive issue for the Dutch, who are proud of The Hague's
traditional role as the preeminent center of international
law -- and ignoring the concerns of allies. Bot has received
explicit instructions from Parliament to raise detainee
issues bilaterally and in international fora including the EU
GAERC and NATO NAC; he has done so with a vigor bordering on
obsession. That said, a recent visit to The Hague by John
Bellinger and other senior officials appears to have made
modest inroads into Bot's thinking. and he now supports
continuing a serious dialogue to find legally viable, long
term solutions to the detainee issue, including revisiting
portions of the Geneva Conventions. Since Bot expects to
speak publicly about the issue during his visit, it would be
useful to re-emphasize in your meeting with him that the
Military Commissions Act provides every detainee in
Guantanamo some means of judicial review and that the secret
prisons remain subject to Congressional oversight and U.S.

NATO/Riga Summit

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9. (C) The GONL for the most part agrees with our Riga Summit
goals, including especially the need to demonstrate progress
in Afghanistan. The Dutch have been supporters of our global
partnership initiative, although they have previously
expressed concern that building stronger ties with security
providers might create first- and second-class partnerships
at the expense of security consumers. The Dutch strongly
support a single tool box from which all interested parties
might seek to enhance ties with NATO. They are conscious of
other Allied concerns -- notably France -- regarding the use
of global terminology. They advise at Riga an understated
and fact-oriented approach to NATO's role as a global player
to garner French support for initiative.

10. (C) The Dutch also are with us when it comes to the nuts
and bolts for Riga -- it's the whither NATO question that
causes consternation. They support various military
capability enhancement initiatives, including the C-17
consortium, the special operations center, and the Middle
East training center, and eventually supported Intensified
Dialogue (ID) for Georgia. That said, the Dutch are
concerned about the direction of NATO and remain leery of
enlargement plans. While the MFA working level has been
supportive of Croatia's membership aspirations, Bot and
Political Director Pieter de Gooijer believe the EU and NATO
are expanding too quickly. They have called for an Allied
existential discussion to determine NATO's path, both at Riga
and at subsequent summits in 2008 and 2009. Following the
President's recent announcement, Bot's visit provides an
excellent opportunity to make a pitch for Croatian NATO
membership at the 2008 summit.

Lebanon/Middle East Peace Process

11. (C) The Dutch are contributing a 150-person frigate as
part of the maritime component of UNIFIL. But MFA Head of
Middle Eastern Affairs Henriette van Lynden-Leijten told
Ambassador Arnall October 17 the Dutch are taking a
step-by-step approach to the Middle East, especially
regarding Syria and Lebanon, to determine where the Dutch
might have value added. This involves a review of possible
options, including better cooperation with the Middle East
Quartet, more meetings with moderate Arab states, and better
definitions of end goals. She added, however, that Dutch
influence over Syria has been clouded by a contentious
custody case involving two Dutch-Syrian children currently
encamped at the Dutch embassy in Damascus. Otherwise, van
Lynden-Leijten said Bot has excellent relations in the Middle
East, and will no doubt ask for a readout on the Secretary's
recent trip to the region. Bot should be encouraged to take
a greater role, especially with regard to influencing the EU.

North Korea/Iran

12. (C) The GONL -- and Bot in particular -- share our deep
concern over nuclear developments in North Korea and Iran.
Bot publicly labeled North Korea's nuclear test
irresponsibly provocative and totally senseless, and
called for Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks. He
also said the use of force would be counterproductive, given
the large population in nearby Seoul, and suggested China was
crucial in getting North Korea to return to the table. While
the Dutch continue to push for a diplomatic resolution, they
worry about the message the international community is
sending to Iran and its nuclear program. Although publicly
supportive of the EU-3's efforts to engage Iran, in private
he has frequently expressed frustration at being left out of
the process. Recently, he called publicly for the UN
Security Council to become directly involved given the
apparent lack of progress on the EU track. The Dutch have
offered on several occasions to play a more active role on
the margins of the six-party talks and in dealing with Iran,
suggesting that any and all diplomatic pressure would be
helpful in persuading these states to abandon their current
courses. Bot should be encouraged to continue to press EU
members to engage on North Korea and Iran.

Venezuela and Latin America

13. (C) As Venezuela's neighbor -- the Netherlands Antilles
and Aruba sit just off the Venezuelan coast -- the Dutch are

THE HAGUE 00002282 004 OF 004

understandably worried about Chavez' intentions, but also go
to great lengths to avoid provoking him. For example, the
Dutch were unwilling to lobby on behalf of Guatemala for the
UN Security Council or otherwise draw attention to their
intention to vote against Venezuela. They have significant
interests in Venezuela, including a new Shell exploration
concession and a major subcontract on new light frigates.
While the Dutch posture toward Venezuela is less forward
leaning than we would like - and while Bot has at times made
statements we consider unhelpful - the Dutch have been
leaders within the EU on other regional issues. Dutch
participation in Colombian paramilitary reintegration, coca
eradication efforts, Nicaraguan election monitoring, and
other regional initiatives has been superb. On Cuba and
other Latin American issues, they have been a useful
counterbalance to traditional Spanish sway within the EU.

Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

14. (C) The Dutch Parliament is expected on October 24 to
approve the GONL's signing of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
Production, Sustainment, and Follow-on Development (PSFD)
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). A solid majority in
Parliament supports the GONL's continued participation in
JSF, while the Dutch press views MOU signature as a foregone
conclusion. The MOU signing ceremony hosted by Deputy
Secretary of Defense England is planned for November 14 in

the Pentagon. Dutch State Secretary of Defense van der Knaap
and Foreign Trade Minister van Gennip are expected to
represent the GONL. The Dutch and Italian governments are
considering a joint signing ceremony, although this has not
yet been confirmed.


15. (C) Dutch financial contributions to Sudan relief,
development and peacekeeping, exceed all but our own, on a
per capita basis. We have worked extremely closely with the
MFA and Development Minister Ardenne (Bot's close colleague)
on Darfur and southern Sudan. The Dutch have been close
allies on several other regional initiatives, including
efforts to deal with the Lords' Resistance Army in Uganda,
promote reconciliation and intelligence cooperation in the
Great Lakes, train peacekeepers, and develop effective
HIV/AIDS programs. Van Ardenne, rather than Bot, takes the
lead on these issues.

Human Rights Council

16. (C) Bot would like the U.S. to run for the HRC in 2007.
The Dutch worked very closely with our mission in Geneva this
fall and were among our closest EU allies during the
Israel/Lebanon debates - this despite severe criticism at
home, both of Bot and Israel. He is committed to HRC reform,
and frustrated by the course of events so far, but believes
like-minded nations can best protect their interests and
effect change by remaining involved.

Law Enforcement Issues

17. (SBU) Attorney General Gonzales will visit The Hague a
few days after your meeting with Bot. Gonzales will open a
bilateral conference on cyber crime that the Embassy is
co-sponsoring with the Dutch Justice Ministry. The
conference will spur our bilateral cooperation on high-tech
crime, which is emerging as a priority for the law
enforcement communities in both countries. Law enforcement
cooperation is good and getting better. While bureaucratic
and privacy restrictions continue to hamper some direct
police-to-police cooperation, we have made significant
advances in the last two years. In particular, Dutch efforts
to stem the flow of ecstasy to the United States have
resulted in dramatic declines in the volume of Dutch-linked
ecstasy seized in the U.S. since 2000. Cooperation with DEA
on narcotics, and the FBI on cyber crime and
counter-terrorism investigations, is excellent.

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