Viewing cable 05THEHAGUE2309, AMBASSADOR’S PARTING THOUGHTS ON TAKING THE DUTCH
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|05THEHAGUE2309||2005-08-22 17:05||2011-01-17 00:12||SECRET||Embassy The Hague|
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 07 THE HAGUE 002309 SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 08/18/2025 TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, ECON, EAID, NL, EUN, USUN SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR’S PARTING THOUGHTS ON TAKING THE DUTCH TO THE NEXT LEVEL Classified By: AMBASSADOR CLIFFORD SOBEL FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D). ¶1. (S) SUMMARY: With the EU divided and its direction uncertain, the Dutch serve as a vital transatlantic anchor in Europe. As one of the original six EU members, the Dutch ally with the British to counter Franco-German efforts to steer Europe off a transatlantic course. The Netherlands’ solid European and international credentials create a powerful “multiplier” effect. In Iraq, Dutch forces provided the physical and political cover for Japan to deploy and the Dutch are using their NATO Training Mission commitment to push others to do more. In Afghanistan, the Dutch drove much of the Phase III planning for ISAF and deployed Dutch troops in combat operations for the first time in more than 30 years. The Dutch have led Europe in launching pilot projects to strengthen international counterterrorism cooperation, and initiated the U.S.-EU dialogue on terrorist financing which laid the groundwork for a proposed major international Terrorism Financing Conference in 2006. ¶2. (S) (SUMMARY CONTINUED) The Dutch are expanding their leadership beyond Europe. Dutch strategic interests in the Caribbean make them logical partners to counter Venezuelan meddling in the region. They are expanding their military involvement in Africa, in part to provide a secure environment for their robust development assistance program, and in part to add “eyes and ears” on the ground. In the Middle East, the Dutch enjoy good relations with Israel and the Palestinians and would welcome a more active role; they quickly promised funds for an expanded Multinational Observer Force (MFO) and might, under the right circumstances, commit troops. Even in areas where we disagree, such as drugs and trafficking in persons, Dutch views may be shifting. As the headquarters for major international legal institutions, the Netherlands offers a unique opportunity for advancing foreign policy goals far beyond Dutch borders. ¶3. (S) (SUMMARY CONTINUED) The coalition government, headed by PM Balkenende, is naturally inclined to work closely with the U.S. The balance could shift toward Brussels, however, if a center-left government comes to power in 2007 (or earlier), as predicted by most polls. The nearly one million Muslim immigrants are largely non-integrated, which is forcing the Dutch to question long-standing assumptions about Dutch “tolerance” and “identity.” The murder of Theo van Gogh focused attention on Islamic extremism, and the Dutch feel they are ahead of much of Europe in addressing this growing problem. Strengthening U.S.-Dutch ties across the political spectrum is necessary to ensure that the Dutch continue to enlist others to pursue interests in line with the U.S., especially in the political-military sphere. Early and active consultations are the key to harnessing Dutch energies in enhanced pursuit of U.S. interests. END SUMMARY. LEADERS IN EUROPE ----------------- ¶4. (S) Along with the British, the Dutch form a strong, reliable transatlantic anchor in Europe. As a founding member of NATO, one of the original six members of the EU, and Britain’s strongest ally on continent, the Dutch are an influential voice in Europe despite having a population of just under 16 million. Prime Minister Balkenende states often that the Dutch “take their responsibilities seriously” and therefore expect to be heard. While the Dutch “no” to the EU’s constitutional treaty embarrassed Balkenende, the vote revealed that the search for EU integration and consensus has its limits, capping a trend that started in the 90’s with then Liberal Party leader (and later EU Commissioner) Fritz Bolkestein’s proposals to redefine the scope of European integration to protect Dutch national interests. ¶5. (S) With the French-German engine of European integration stalled, German elections pending, and the EU unable to agree on finances, leadership opportunities for the Dutch are growing. This trend is enhanced by the gravitation of EU decision making to smaller groups, as Dutch participation can make or break internal groupings. The Dutch and Italian refusal to attend a “group of six” meeting recently proposed by Schroeder, for example, effectively squelched his initiative. The British Ambassador here recently confided that Blair sees the Dutch as essential to pursuing his European objectives and ensuring that transatlantic relations remain high on the European agenda. The leaders of the Netherlands, UK, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden already meet quietly several times a year to coordinate positions prior to EU Council and other high-level EU meetings. ¶6. (S) Dutch leadership within the EU does not weaken their commitment to NATO, where they are “go-to guys” for resolving potential EU-NATO conflicts. Their active, if often behind the scenes, support for NATO SYG (and former Dutch Foreign Minister) Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, as well as their commitment to the NRF (and SRF, ISAF, and NTM-I), have helped push back efforts, such as Tervuren, which might otherwise create tensions between the NRF and EU battlegroups or other emerging ESDP capabilities. Foreign Minister Bot recently proposed restructuring NATO’s decision-making and funding mechanisms to make them more effective. The appointment of Herman Schaper, the former deputy director general of political affairs at the Dutch MFA and a good friend of the U.S., as the new Dutch permrep to NATO should create more opportunities for productive cooperation. POLITICAL-MILITARY COOPERATION BEYOND THE EU -------------------------------------------- ¶7. (S) The Dutch are increasingly aware that strategic interests outside Europe warrant their attention and leadership, especially in the political-military sphere. For example: - Venezuela: The Dutch have strategic interests in the Caribbean (i.e., the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba) and are deeply concerned about Chavez’ meddling in the region. As a Caribbean power, the Dutch have good reasons to lead an effort to balance traditional Spanish dominance on Latin American issues in the EU, but the U.S. and others will need to push them to take this role. The Dutch are active partners in regional drug enforcement efforts, and recently demonstrated their ability to deploy military forces (F-16’s) on short notice. Persuading the Dutch to counter Chavez’s destabilization efforts more actively would give us a reliable European partner in the region. - Afghanistan: According to CENTCOM, the Dutch took a strong lead in organizing and soliciting forces to staff ISAF Phase III, and are now preparing to deploy up to 1,400 personnel in conjunction with British, Canadian, and possibly Australian forces. Separately, the Dutch deployment of Special Forces in a combat role represents a major shift in Dutch priorities away from peace-keeping to combat missions for the first time since the 1960’s. The Dutch remain a strong supporter in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. We should encourage them both to continue to make significant contributions, and to push others to do more. - Africa: Senior Dutch military officials say they are considering expanding their military presence in Africa to include Burundi, Rwanda, Eastern Congo, Botswana, Zambia, and Ivory Coast, adding new “eyes and ears” on the ground. The Dutch have requested embedding a cell at EUCOM (similar to that already operating in CENTCOM) to coordinate their actions with the U.S. and other allies. One objective of the Dutch military deployments is to provide a secure environment for what is already one of the most ambitious assistance programs in the world. The Dutch are the fourth largest provider of assistance to Africa world-wide. In 2005 they established a 110 million Euro Stability Fund for security sector reform in the African Great Lakes Region and Sudan (as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.) Dutch deployments in Africa have solid support in Parliament, while the focus on security as an aspect of development provides an attractive justification for potential European partners. We should not only encourage the Dutch to increase their direct involvement in Africa, but also explore whether the Dutch could act as a “clearinghouse” for other interested parties. - Iraq: The Dutch were instrumental in providing early logistic support to U.S. forces in Iraq (including permitting transshipments through Rotterdam when other ports in Europe would not.) The Dutch deployed 1,200 troops directly to the southern province of al-Muthanna for 20 months, including two controversial extensions. Although the Dutch have since withdrawn from al-Muthanna, their presence provided the political and military cover necessary for Japan to commit forces. The Dutch provided 25 trainers for the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, and have offered to provide up to 100 if other countries would make comparable contributions. We should urge the Dutch to continue to push their EU and NATO partners to do more in Iraq. - Middle East: The Dutch enjoy a reputation for “balance” almost unique in Europe, as they are strong supporters of Israel, yet trusted by Arabs. Given Foreign Minister Bot’s expressed willingness to take a more active regional role. We should look for opportunities to harness Dutch interest through participation in the Forum for the Future and other initiatives. The Dutch have already promised to make a financial contribution to an expanded Multinational Observer Force (MFO) if asked, and, under the right circumstances, might be prepared to send peace-keepers to the region as well. ¶8. (S) These commitments demonstrate how the Dutch “take their responsibilities seriously” in practice by committing real resources -- money, troops, hardware, and political capital -- to tackle real problems, as well as their “multiplier” effect in the political-military realm. The fact that the Dutch are providing the head (Peter Feith) and observers to the EU’s new monitoring mission in Aceh is the latest example of their assuming leadership of an important international mission in a region where they feel special ties (as witnessed by FM Bot’s historic decision this year to attend the commemoration of Indonesian independence, the first such visit by a senior Dutch official since Indonesian independence). ¶9. (S) The Dutch have one of the largest, most geographically diverse deployments of military forces in the world, with more troops deployed as a percentage of their total forces than any other ally. Defense Minister Kamp and CHOD Berlijn recently restructured the Dutch military to eliminate layers of bureaucracy, including independent service chiefs, thereby creating a leaner, more deployable force. Kamp and Berlijn believe firmly in the “use or lose” principle, and have accordingly sought increasingly challenging operations -- such as the Special Forces deployment to Afghanistan and potential operations in sub-Saharan Africa. Their desire to maximize the military’s capabilities and their preference for U.S. equipment, even when alternative European suppliers exist, make the Dutch strong supporters of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The Dutch are one of only two countries (Italy is the other) whose financial contributions merit Tier II status in JSF development. Berlijn is pushing to lock in an early commitment for 50 planes (out of a total of 85) to prevent JSF from becoming an issue in the 2007 elections. The Dutch are also seeking Tactical Tomahawks for Dutch frigates, additional lift capacity (CH-47, C-130, KDC-10), and are continuing to update their remaining hardware (AH-64D, F-16’s, Patriot Missile System, etc.) all of which are focused on meeting their Prague Capability Commitment objectives as well as their ability to sustain extended expeditionary operations outside the European theater. COUNTERTERRORISM COOPERATION ---------------------------- ¶10. (S) Faced with growing threats in their own country, as witnessed by the murder of Theo van Gogh in November 2004, the Dutch believe they are in the forefront of Europe with regard to counterterrorism, arguing that legislation and other steps earlier adopted by the Dutch are only now being considered in countries like the UK and Italy. Led by Justice Minister Donner and Finance Minister Zalm, the Dutch were the first in Europe to implement the Container Security Initiative (CSI), Radiological Gates, DOE’s Megaports program, U.S. Customs’ Green Lane Program, and, soon, Trusted Flyers. China has engaged the Dutch on next generation protocols and standards for transport security, includng RFID technology. It will be important to monitor and work with the Dutch as they work with China. The Dutch have also expressed an interest to participate in DHS’s “Centers of Excellence.” While the EU was arguing with us and itself over releasing personal records to airlines, the Dutch allowed U.S. immigration teams (IAP) to operate at Schipol airport. The Dutch were instrumental in pushing the EU in 2003 to designate Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist entity; an EU-wide designation of the Dutch branch of the Al-Aqsa followed. During their EU Presidency the Dutch hosted an EU-wide seminar to raise awareness of terrorist financing issues and have offered to host a major international conference on the same subject in 2006. The Dutch continue to push for EU designation of Hizballah in its entirety and to strengthen the EU’s “Clearinghouse” designation process. Given their record, we should continue to look to the Dutch to launch joint pilot programs in Europe, and, more generally, to push counterterrorism issues to the top of the European agenda more generally. DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE ---------------------- ¶11. (S) The Netherlands is among the world’s leading aid donors, having budgeted USD 4.2 billion (0.74 percent of GDP, with a target of raising it to 0.8 percent) in assistance in 2004. It is a top donor of unearmarked assistance to UN humanitarian programs. In 2003, the Netherlands introduced a more focused aid strategy, which phased out smaller aid programs in wealthier countries. Dutch bilateral aid is now directed to 36 partner countries, including 18 in Africa. In 2003, President Bush and Prime Minister Balkenende signed an MOU to coordinate HIV/AIDS programs in Ghana, Zambia, Rwanda and Ethiopia that emphasizes public-private partnerships. Balkenende recently expressed interest in using the Millennium Challenge Corporation as a model for promoting public-private partnerships world-wide. USAID’s involvement with a Heineken AIDS treatment and education program in Rwanda has been particularly successful, and the World Bank has adopted it as a model. Dutch creativity and credibility in development makes them good potential partners for future joint initiatives with the U.S. We should also take advantage of their experience and insights to help shift global aid efforts in the direction of sustainable long-term development. CENTER OF INTERNATIONAL LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS -------------------------------------------- ¶12. (S) With the International Court of Justice (ICJ), International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international legal institutions all located in The Hague, our ability to have an impact in the Netherlands on international issues ranging from Iraq to the Balkans is unique. With a historical interest in international law dating back to Grotius, the Dutch view themselves as natural defenders of international legal norms and practices. This tradition made them the perfect hosts for a conference of Iraqi judges in The Hague in 2004, and has pushed them to the forefront of international efforts to train a new generation of Iraqi jurists. While their legalistic approach can be frustrating, they are flexible. Their concerns about U.S. interpretations of the Geneva Protocols have not prevented their Special Forces from deploying in Afghanistan. The Dutch also helped sway the EU to vote against the Cuban-sponsored resolution on Guantanamo at the Human Rights Commission last year despite concerns about the treatment of detainees. But, as Foreign Minister Bot told Deputy Secretary Zoellick recently, over the long run Dutch human rights concerns must be addressed to ensure that public and parliamentary support does not erode; we and the Dutch need to work together to resolve this concern. Finally, the Dutch combination of seeking pragmatic solutions while remaining true to their legal principles could make the Dutch an important asset in resolving our differences with the EU over the ICC and article 98 agreements under the right circumstances. ECONOMICS AND TRADE ------------------- ¶13. (S) Balkenende shares our interest in promoting an open international trading system and has been an ally in U.S.-EU trade disputes such as Boeing-Airbus and the Foreign Sales Corporation Tax. The Dutch share with the British a vision of a market-friendly Europe driven by free trade. They are the third largest investor in the U.S. and the fourth largest recipient of U.S. investment world-wide. Their efforts to shift the Lisbon agenda in a more cooperative direction and to promote innovation and competition are creating additional opportunities for U.S. investors in Europe. Because the Netherlands has one of the highest broadband penetrations in Europe, emerging research efforts in the areas of nanotechnology, life sciences, and other IT-related areas, and a new tax treaty, the country offers U.S. companies an important gateway into Europe. If consulted early and regularly, the Netherlands can also be an important ally in navigating the EU’s regulatory environment and removing obstacles. DRUGS AND TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS -------------------------------- ¶14. (S) Narcotics and trafficking in persons remain areas of difficulty. Despite fundamental differences regarding “soft drugs” and legalized prostitution, the Balkenende government has worked to prevent these differences from defining our relationship. There are also signs that Dutch attitudes may be shifting. The Dutch remain a major producer of synthetic drugs. On the other hand, Dutch Health Minister Hoogevorst recently signed a precedent-setting MOU with the U.S. to share information on the health risks of new strains of marijuana with higher concentrations of THC, which may convince the Dutch to rethink their approach to “soft drugs” in general. The Dutch are addressing drug tourism -- a recent proposal to restrict the sale of marijuana to Dutch passport holders in Maastricht, for example, could cut down on cross-border smuggling and other drug-related crime. We should support such initiatives actively. BALKENENDE SOLID INTERNATIONALLY... ----------------------------------- ¶15. (S) We are fortunate to have in the Balkenende government an outward-looking partner for whom working with the U.S. and the U.K. comes naturally. Balkenende and FM Bot take pride in building bridges between the U.S. and Europe. Nowhere was this more evident than during the Dutch presidency of the EU. On two issues of great importance to the U.S. -- the China Arms Embargo and accession talks for Turkey -- the Dutch moved, with our active urging, from following an EU “consensus” set by others to redefining the issue on their, and our, terms. In both cases, Bot and Balkenende overcame initial skepticism and concluded that Dutch and U.S. interests coincided -- a pattern we have seen repeated on other less important issues. FM Bot began the EU presidency telling us that lifting the Arms Embargo was a “done deal.” Later, however, he actively intervened to prevent a lift on “his” watch, saying that he did not want the blame for causing a rift between the U.S. and EU. Despite Balkenende’s personal skepticism about bringing Turkey into the EU, he and Bot (a former Ambassador to Turkey) worked hard to ensure that Turkey got its date to start accession talks with the EU during the Dutch presidency, and want to see the agreement they helped negotiate successfully implemented. We will want the Dutch to continue to draw on the relationships they developed during the presidency to coax both sides to move in the right direction as October 3 approaches. ¶16. (S) Specific U.S. policies provoke squalls of anger and frustration here, but President Bush’s visit to the Netherlands in 2005 to commemorate V-E day at the WWII Dutch American Cemetery at Margraten was met with universal acclaim and provoked remarkably little protest. Even Dutch opposed to U.S. policies warmly welcomed the visit as a reminder of enduring, shared values forged in the crucibles of World War II and the Cold War. This mission has pursued an ambitious program of outreach to future Dutch leaders to ensure that these emotions are passed to the next generation. In this effort, the President’s youth roundtable in Maastricht and former Secretary of State Powell’s town hall meeting with young leaders in The Hague were notable successes, which can serve as models for future efforts. Given the disproportionate influence wielded by the Dutch in international fora, we should expand our active exchange programs (including the Fulbright and International Visitor Leadership Programs) to help shape the successor generation. ...BUT FACES DOMESTIC CHALLENGES -------------------------------- ¶17. (S) Unfortunately, the outward-looking, transatlantic orientation of the Balkenende cabinet is offset domestically by strong strains of Euro-centralism and Dutch-provincialism. This division will become more pronounced as the parties prepare for local elections in March 2006, and national elections in May 2007. Current polls show that Balkenende’s center-right coalition (his second government) is falling in the polls, while the main, center-left opposition Labor party (PvdA) and fringes on the right and left are gaining. Balkenende is gambling that his economic reform agenda will pay dividends in time for the 2007 elections, but that is uncertain. There is a strong chance that a center-left government dominated by the PvdA will come to power in 2007 -- or earlier if the 2006 local election results prompt national elections. ¶18. (S) Although U.S.-Dutch relations should remain fundamentally sound despite a shift to the center-left, a PvdA-led government would present new challenges. PvdA leader Wouter Bos has made clear his tendency to look to Brussels first in setting Dutch international priorities. He sees the Netherlands less as a transatlantic “bridge builder” than as a follower of EU consensus. As with Schroeder in Germany, Bos might also find it tempting to adopt a critical attitude toward the U.S. during elections to lock in his left flank. The PvdA is already raising allegations of U.S. abuses to challenge the rationale for Dutch deployments in Afghanistan, and does not support the JSF program. It is in our interest both to support the current government’s transatlantic orientation and to engage actively with the opposition to shift them in a favorable direction. THE ISLAMIC FACTOR ------------------ ¶19. (S) A new, but potentially serious factor in Dutch domestic politics is its large, poorly integrated Muslim population, currently numbering just under 1 million, or 5.8 percent of the population. USG-sponsored polls show that 83 percent of Dutch Muslims identify much more strongly with their religion than with their host country, while 51 percent have little or no faith in the Dutch government as an institution. While the problems of Dutch integration captured international headlines following the van Gogh murder, the Dutch believe they have an early start on the rest of Europe in seeking creative ways to address these concerns. Their strong interest in sharing and soliciting ideas has opened up opportunities for Embassy and USG outreach and consultations throughout Dutch society, providing insights into a growing problem throughout Europe. We expect our experiences here will provide good indications of broader European trends as well as opportunities to influence their direction. CONCLUSIONS ----------- ¶20. (S) The Netherlands is a complicated, multi-layered society. Prevailing myths about the Dutch -- e.g., they are homogenous, universally tolerant, pacifist, etc.-- do not accurately gauge differences within society or reflect Dutch potential to influence international events. While the Dutch prefer to see themselves as “balancing” between Europe and the U.S., this balance can shift due to domestic and international factors. ¶21. (S) The key to maximizing Dutch effectiveness is to involve them early through high-level consultations and exchanges. Dutch pragmatism and our similar world-views make the Netherlands fertile ground for initiatives others in Europe might be reluctant, at least initially, to embrace. ¶22. (S) As multipliers, the Dutch should be encouraged to play an increasingly prominent role on the global stage. Coaxing the Dutch into the spotlight can take effort, but pays off royally. Dutch credentials, credibility, and capabilities make them effective leaders across a wide range of geographic regions and substantive issues. ¶23. (S) The Dutch are actively and favorably involved in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caribbean, Indonesia, and elsewhere. They are our best partner in developing pilot projects in the counterterrorism area, and are world leaders in development, free trade, international law and human rights. In pursuit of U.S. interests in all these areas of interest and leadership, we should build upon our successes to date to take the Dutch to the “next level.” SOBEL