by NICK OTTENS
The Dutch Government is reportedly contemplating huge cuts in defense spending. As part of a total €18 billion worth of austerity measures, the liberal-conservative coalition has planned some €1 billion in budget cuts to the defense department which could force the resignation of up to ten thousand service personnel.
While the government won’t announce its full plans until Friday, public broadcaster NOS reported on Wednesday that as part of the austerity operation, the Dutch military might have to give up all of its tanks, four out of ten minesweepers as well as its seventeen Eurocopter AS532 Cougar helicopters which were scheduled for an upgrade two years ago.
Dutch armed forces currently operate eighty-two Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks and recently acquired nearly two hundred Swedish Stridsfordon 90 infantry fighting vehicles. It wasn’t clear whether the latter would be scrapped as well.
Five Alkmaar class minesweepers were previously sold to Latvia while the Cougar was already slated for replacement with twenty NHI NH90s. The European built helicopter has proven too heavy for use in combination with Dutch frigates however.
Defense Minister Hans Hillen is further set to cut deeply in supportive services which altogether would make it nigh impossible for the Netherlands to single handedly mount a Orūzgān scale operation in the future.
Nearly two thousand Dutch soldiers were stationed in the Afghan province between 2006 and 2010 as part of the International Security Assistance Force. Two months ago, the Dutch legislature approved another Afghanistan mission to support the training of Afghan policemen.
Because of the involvement in Afghanistan, the Netherlands raised defense spending in recent years, from €7.7 billion in 2007 to €8.5 billion in 2009.