Viewing cable 07THEHAGUE714, NETHERLANDS/JSF/AFGHANISTAN: POSITIVE ON JSF;
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|07THEHAGUE714||2007-04-17 13:01||2011-01-17 00:12||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy The Hague|
VZCZCXYZ0000 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHTC #0714/01 1071327 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 171327Z APR 07 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8880 INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2163 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 000714 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR EUR/UBI, EUR/RPM E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2017 TAGS: MARR MOPS NATO PINS PREL AF NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/JSF/AFGHANISTAN: POSITIVE ON JSF; OTHER ISSUES LOOMING C... " 104668,4/17/2007 13:27,07THEHAGUE714,"Embassy The Hague",CONFIDENTIAL,,"VZCZCXYZ0000 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHTC #0714/01 1071327 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 171327Z APR 07 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8880 INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2163 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY ","C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 000714 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR EUR/UBI, EUR/RPM E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2017 TAGS: MARR MOPS NATO PINS PREL AF NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/JSF/AFGHANISTAN: POSITIVE ON JSF; OTHER ISSUES LOOMING Classified By: Ambassador Roland Arnall, reasons 1.4 (b,d) ¶1. (C) Summary: In his first meeting with Ambassador Arnall since the formation of the new government, State Secretary for Defense Cees van der Knaap acknowledged the GONL will make a decision on extending in Afghanistan by the end of the summer -- but his instincts tell him the Dutch will remain in Uruzgan province in a reduced role. He positively described relations with the United States, especially regarding continued Dutch involvement with the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. However, several issues -- noise pollution from NATO AWACS aircraft, the C-17 strategic airlift initiative, and some defense investment projects like NATO's Air Ground Surveillance (AGS) program and the acquisition of tactical Tomahawk missiles -- remain troublesome. Van der Knaap discussed these issues with Ambassador Arnall on April ¶16. End summary. Afghanistan: Extension Decision Looming --------------------------------------- ¶2. (C) Van der Knaap briefly addressed Afghanistan, noting that due to reduced helicopter and engineering support, it will be very difficult to continue the Dutch deployment in Uruzgan province in its current capacity beyond the two-year commitment ending in July 2008. Van der Knaap said the Cabinet will make a decision on possibly extending by the end of the summer, but added that his instincts told him the Dutch would stay in a reduced role. Getting to this decision will not be easy, he said. Van der Knaap was confident that Defense Minister van Middelkoop and Foreign Minister Verhagen will fight to extend, but the government coalition member Labor Party (PvdA) -- including specifically Finance Minister and Labor Party leader Wouter Bos -- does not support continuing the Dutch mission in Uruzgan. ""And Bos holds the purse strings"" to a possible extension, van der Knaap said. AWACS Re-Engining: The Sound and the Fury ----------------------------------------- ¶3. (C) Van der Knaap said he continues to face stiff questioning from the Dutch parliament on finding a solution to noise caused by NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) E-3 aircraft from the airbase just across the border in Geilenkirchen, Germany. He said on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst problem currently facing the Dutch MOD, AWACS noise pollution rated an eight. Parliamentarians constantly demand the GONL refuse AWACS aircraft flight permission over the Netherlands, he lamented. To date, he has successfully argued that would do more harm to Dutch credibility within the alliance than the good it would afford Dutch inhabitants nearby Geilenkirchen -- but even that was becoming more difficult. ¶4. (C) Van der Knaap said Defense Minister van Middelkoop will raise AWACS noise pollution with his colleagues at this year's defense ministerial. Van der Knaap argued that with the possible exception of moving the base -- which would be cost prohibitive -- the only noise reduction option the Dutch see is replacing current AWACS aircraft engines with a quieter, more efficient engine. He noted the possibility of replacing AWACS engines with those currently being replaced in JSTARS E-8 aircraft or with rebuilt engines coming out of JSTARS aircraft, but acknowledged that the Dutch have to research whether such a swap is feasible and economical. ¶5. (C) As the largest stakeholder in the AWACS program, van der Knaap asked if the USG could support the Dutch in their bid to ""re-engine"" AWACS aircraft. Ambassador Arnall sympathized but argued that the issue is one for NATO and not just the United States -- the Dutch should make the economic case in favor of re-engining to NATO. He noted no current operational requirement to replace AWACS aircraft engines, while USG resources were dedicated to other efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He offered assistance in getting the Dutch more information regarding the new JSTAR engines. Van der Knaap understood, noting that he had been told the same by Under Secretary of Defense Edelman last year. But the issue was ""not going away"" for the Dutch, and he intended to raise the issue again when he next visits Washington. JSF: On Track ------------- ¶6. (C) Van der Knaap was highly optimistic regarding continued Dutch participation in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, and said he intends to travel to Washington during the second week in July to sign the program's Operational Test and Evaluation MOU. He said the MOD soon will submit a prior permission request to purchase the first of two JSF test aircraft. He pointed to the new government's coalition accord as a positive signal on JSF, and stressed that purchasing the plane was one of the government's main goals. Much depends on the independent, third-party review of the program early next year, but he was confident that the review would confirm that JSF was the best plane for the best price. ¶7. (C) Van der Knaap also asked about USG commitment to the program citing press reports of program budget cuts. Ambassador Arnall assured him the USG was committed and that continual budget discussions between the executive and legislative branches was the norm. He promised to provide an update on the status of U.S. budget discussions concerning JSF to van der Knaap's staff. C-17 Initiative: Still Not Satisfied ------------------------------------ ¶8. (C) Van der Knaap reiterated the GONL's urgent needs for strategic airlift and expressed appreciation for on-going negotiations at NATO to reduce the cost associated with the C-17 initiative. However, he was frustrated that it was now clear the Dutch must pay an up-front finance charge despite earlier assurances. He doubted the GONL could afford the 100 million Euro up-front finance charge as it currently stands, while the 30,000 Euro cost per flight hour also was prohibitive. Van der Knaap said the Dutch believe there is still ""room to maneuver"" to reduce costs, and asked the USG to consider every possibility in working group negotiations. Ambassador Arnall pointed to other obstacles created by France and Germany regarding the initiative, and commended the Dutch for their leadership role in the working group deliberations. He added that reducing the cost of the initiative also was in the interests of the USG as a participating nation. Defense Budget Cuts: TACTOM Dead; AGS, Too? ------------------------------------------- ¶9. (C) Van der Knaap said the MOD continues to feel the effects of defense budget cuts, and is facing some difficult decisions regarding defense investment projects like NATO's Air Ground Surveillance (AGS) project or acquiring tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM) missiles. He described Dutch deliberations over AGS as ""purely an internal, Dutch problem"" -- the reduced budget has led to new priorities, and AGS has fallen victim to political posturing exacerbated by program delays. He said there was a 70-80 percent chance the Dutch will pull out of AGS; the GONL will make a decision by the end of April/early May. He was ""ashamed"" the Dutch may pull out, especially as he claimed the Dutch were recently instrumental in persuading the French and Germans to remain in the program. He feared a Dutch withdrawal may be used as an excuse by Paris and Berlin to do likewise. ¶10. (C) Turning to TACTOM, van der Knaap described the potential purchase as a ""toy"" of former defense Minister Kamp. ""The current defense minister does not approve of this toy,"" he said. He further explained that with the budget cuts and priorities like strategic airlift and JSF, there was no money for TACTOM. ""On a scale of one to ten, with ten being dead, TACTOM is an absolute ten,"" he quipped. Comment ------- ¶11. (C) Van der Knaap is an experienced politician that successfully brokered his continued role in the new government -- one of only three cabinet members to keep their portfolios. It is too early to tell whether van der Knaap and new Defense Minister van Middelkoop have a good working relationship. But given van der Knaap's comments on TACTOM and Kamp -- especially as the TACTOM purchase order was a relatively insignificant amount of approximately USD 60 million -- it appears he is working hard to ensure the relationship with his new boss starts out on the right foot. ARNALL