Netherlands - Doctrine

Military doctrine comprises fundamental principles which armed forces use to direct their actions. The need for an integrated defence doctrine has increased. In its fi nal report in April 2002, for example, the advisory committee on the introduction of a joint high commander stated that joint operations were fast becoming the norm and that close, internal cooperation in such operations was so vital that an overarching doctrine was required. The Netherlands Defence Doctrine (NDD) serves as a ‘doctrinal basis’ from which various doctrine publications, for instance for the individual Services, will be drawn and developed.

In order to meet this recognised need, it was proposed that doctrine be developed for all the main tasks of the Defence Ministry, using the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) doctrine as a basis. This NDD fills the gap between Service-specific doctrine and defense policy.

The usual procedure is that Service doctrine is drawn from national defense doctrine. The situation in the Netherlands has until now been different. There was no defense doctrine, but the Services had nonetheless developed their own doctrine. Because of this situation, a significant part of the contents of the NDD has been taken from the existing doctrine publications of the various Services, underpinned by a strategic foundation from current policy documents from the Ministry of Defence. The distinction between the policy documents and the various doctrine publications lies particularly in the fact that the policy documents determine the ambitions and the capabilities of the armed forces and the doctrine publications provide guidance for the conduct of military operations.

The Dutch policy of neutrality originated from 1839 onwards, due to the Dutch efforts to preserve the European balance of power and the need to pursue reinforcement from the neighboring countries if necessary, meanwhile enforcing a policy of armed neutrality. The Netherlands was well aware of its position as a neutral country surrounded by great powers. There was no single European country that could afford to invade the Netherlands or face the Netherlands being invaded by another European power.

This tradition of neutrality continued after the Great War. The complexity of the Dutch policy of neutrality had withstood the test of the Great War successfully and this would be the cornerstone for Dutch foreign policy in the period thereafter.

During the Cold War, the protection of national and Allied (NATO) territory was central to the thinking behind military operations. After the end of the Cold War, things began to change. Changes in the political situation and in political viewpoints had implications for military operations. The Dutch armed forces were transformed into a military apparatus which, besides performing the protection task and providing support for civil authorities in upholding the law and providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid, both nationally and internationally, also had to be deployable at short notice for crisis management operations anywhere in the world.

Doctrine development underwent a revival after the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the Cold War, the creation of Dutch doctrine had been confined to operations in a major conflict against aggression from the Warsaw Pact. This changed at the beginning of the 1990s. The increased importance of crisis management operations and the intensifi cation of the cooperation between the Services (joint) and between the armed forces of NATO, EU and Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries (multinational or combined), meant that the ‘old’ doctrine had to be revised and new doctrine developed.

A nation’s security policy is traditionally intended to promote or maintain the independence, integrity, stability and welfare of that nation. To this end, a nation undertakes political, diplomatic, economic, socio-cultural, humanitarian and military activities. Every nation has national interests. The deployment of the armed forces is often determined by the perception of the extent to which those interests are threatened. The translation of interests into objectives is done by the politicians.

A nation’s politics can also be viewed from the point of view of security. Seen from this angle, the nation’s security policy encompasses the body of measures relating to internal and external security. As one of the assets available to the nation, the military instrument can be used to achieve the objectives of the grand strategy7. The planning of military operations to achieve the political objectives is done at a lower level, that of military strategy.

The decision to use military force falls within the primacy of politics. Military strategy must be in keeping with the political strategy and international law and must bring the realisation of the objectives at grand strategy level closer.

The main aim of Dutch foreign and security policy is to ensure the independence, integrity, stability and welfare of the home nation. The Netherlands also sets great store by the promotion of the international rule of law and has long demonstrated a deep involvement in cases of human suffering and actions against human rights violations.

The Dutch market economy, which is one of the larger economies in the world, benefits from the unrestricted movement of goods and free access to trade areas and raw materials. Dutch defence policy has an objective that is derived from this: to form, maintain and deploy a military force in the context of the government’s security policy. Dutch security policy distinguishes between an internally and an externally oriented component. The armed forces can be deployed in the context of both components. Internal and external security have become increasingly interwoven in the security situation in recent years.

NATO is the most important pillar of Dutch security policy and epitomises the transatlantic connection. Good transatlantic relations will continue to be essential for our security in the future. Thanks to NATO, previous threats have been consigned to the past. The Alliance is the most important asset to ensure security and to nip in the bud any threat that may arise. NATO is also an important forum for political consultation and for harmonisation of the defence plans of the member states.

The Netherlands attaches great value to the further development of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), including civil crisis management tasks. Within the ESDP, the EU member states have agreed to counter threats such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts and failing states. The EU is thus able to make a signifi cant contribution to global security and stability. The EU has suffi cient structures to be able to take decisions with military implications and to undertake the implementation of those decisions by calling upon the member states.

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