Viewing cable 09THEHAGUE196, SCENESETTER FOR THE SECRETARY'S MARCH 31 MEETING
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|09THEHAGUE196||2009-03-23 10:10||2011-01-17 00:12||SECRET||Embassy The Hague|
VZCZCXRO6964 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV DE RUEHTC #0196/01 0821038 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 231038Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2688 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 THE HAGUE 000196 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2019 TAGS: PREL OVIP PINR MOPS PHUM AF NL SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE SECRETARY'S MARCH 31 MEETING WITH DUTCH FM VERHAGEN Classified By: Charge d'Affaire... 198269,3/23/2009 10:38,09THEHAGUE196,"Embassy The Hague",SECRET,,"VZCZCXRO6964 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV DE RUEHTC #0196/01 0821038 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 231038Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2688 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC","S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 THE HAGUE 000196 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2019 TAGS: PREL OVIP PINR MOPS PHUM AF NL SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE SECRETARY'S MARCH 31 MEETING WITH DUTCH FM VERHAGEN Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Michael F. Gallagher for reasons 1.5(b ,d) Madam Secretary: -------- Overview: -------- ¶1. (S) Your participation in the Afghanistan conference and the March 31 meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen is well-timed to advance key U.S. priorities, particularly in securing Afghanistan. Verhagen and the whole Dutch government remain among our strongest allies, but Dutch domestic politics threatens to limit progress on our common agenda. On Afghanistan, Verhagen faces an uphill battle to convince parliament and the Dutch people to continue combat missions after 2010. At stake is the deployment of 1,700 Dutch troops in Uruzgan, one of the toughest provinces in Afghanistan. By agreeing to host the Afghanistan conference, Verhagen is taking the first step to extend the Dutch commitment. The Foreign Minister said the Netherlands had been asked to host the conference due to the success of its comprehensive (&3-D8) approach in Uruzgan. ¶2. (C) Verhagen is a skilled politician, having previously served in parliament as party spokesman for the Netherlands, largest political party, the center-right Christian Democrats (CDA). Accordingly, Verhagen is extremely close to Prime Minister Balkenende and is trusted to take the lead on foreign affairs while most of the Dutch government is focused on the economic crisis. The weak governing coalition -- which includes CDA, the center-left Labor Party (PvdA), and the small Christian Union (CU) -- is held together less by a common vision than by fear of electoral losses if the government were to collapse ahead of the next scheduled election in 2011. Despite these divisions, Verhagen and Balkenende have successfully steered the Dutch government toward an active foreign policy that largely aligns with our interests. ¶3. (C) Verhagen plans to use his bilateral meeting with you to start building a close working relationship. He wants the new Administration to see the Netherlands as a reliable partner with the U.S., sharing many of our goals. We recommend you focus discussions on Afghanistan and human rights (including Guantanamo) (paragraphs 5-11), but other possible topics are also discussed below (paragraphs 12-17). ¶4. (SBU) 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson,s &discovery8 of the Hudson Valley and New Amsterdam in 1609. The Dutch government and the city and state of New York have planned a yearlong celebration (New York 400 ) NY400) honoring our strong bilateral ties and stressing our ""shared DNA"" -- including our values of freedom, democracy, entrepreneurship, diversity, and tolerance. You may wish to comment on our joint history and shared future when you meet Verhagen, especially when you talk to the press. ----------- Afghanistan ----------- ¶5. (C) The Netherlands is a small ally making a big impact in Afghanistan since 2001. They are the fourth largest aid donor in Afghanistan. Ranked by percentage of their military forces deployed, the Netherlands is the second largest military contributor in Afghanistan )- proportionally they are making three to four times the contribution of France or Germany. And Dutch soldiers are deployed to the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan. However, the Dutch are considering dramatically scaling back their combat presence in 2010, perhaps to just a few hundred soldiers, and concentrating more on development assistance. ¶6. (C) Although the public supports its soldiers in the Q6. (C) Although the public supports its soldiers in the field, involvement in Afghanistan is not popular in the Netherlands. Thus far the Dutch have lost 18 soldiers. The 2007 decision to extend the Dutch military deployment was prolonged and politically difficult. Any government decision to stay engaged in Afghanistan past 2010 will be even more difficult to sustain. Among the challenges is a Dutch perception that they have done more than their share. Many political leaders supported the previous deployment decisions with statements that another NATO ally would replace the Dutch at the conclusion of their tour. Dutch opinion leaders are also concerned about the effect of the deployment on military readiness and recruitment. Often cited is the shortfall of 7,000 personnel in a 42,000-member service. The Dutch are also daunted by reports that the ISAF mission is THE HAGUE 00000196 002 OF 004 failing to bring security to the Afghan people, and that development assistance programs are ineffective. The public at large is skeptical that the situation in Afghanistan presents a threat to Europeans. Finally, although casualties have been relatively light by U.S. standards, their emotional impact on a small country with limited recent combat experience cannot be overstated. In April 2008, for example, the country was shocked to learn of the death of First Lieutenant Dennis van Ulm on the same day that his father, General Pieter van Ulm, was sworn in as the new Dutch Chief of Defense. ¶7. (C) Such traumatic events have not swayed Verhagen and PM Balkenende's commitment to the NATO/ISAF mission and the Afghan people. In 2009, just as in 2007, we expect that both Verhagen and Balkenende will be strong and effective allies in winning support from the parliament. The support of the Labor Party, particularly Development Cooperation Minister Koenders, will be essential. The Dutch are expecting a request through NATO for continuing military support, but it is important the request come in the form of consultations among equals rather than through public pressure, which would backfire with the Dutch public and politicians. The Afghanistan Conference this month will do a great deal to show that the Dutch are not only active participants but leading members in the review and strategic planning process. Your meeting with Verhagen will further emphasize this point. Other &selling points8 for the public will be (1) recognition that Afghanistan poses a clearly defined threat to international stability and (2) an improved military strategy that shows that we can and will prevail. Most importantly to the Dutch public, perhaps, will be concrete success stories that we are creating a better life for the Afghan people. Finally, Dutch policy-makers believe in the &3D8 approach and welcome your effort to integrate defense, development, and diplomacy. A previous Dutch commander of Task Force Uruzgan argued that the Dutch 3D approach can &make the Taliban irrelevant8 by winning hearts and minds. ¶8. (C) The Dutch will be interested in the U.S. analysis of Pakistan,s role in solving the Afghanistan quandary. After suspending aid to Pakistan in 2008, the Dutch expect to provide as much as 112 million euro in development aid to Pakistan over the next three years, with the timing of a public announcement yet to be determined. The government will continue to watch political developments there closely out of concern the government may not live up to its democratic commitments. --------------------------- Human Rights and Guantanamo --------------------------- ¶9. (S) Verhagen has made human rights a priority for the Dutch government and his hallmark as Foreign Minister. The Dutch are anxious to work closely with us on human rights issues and welcome the return of the U.S. as an observer to the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. The Dutch are serving a second consecutive term on the Council, and while they share our frustration with the results, Verhagen will probably encourage you to seek an HRC seat in 2009 or 2010. In addition, Verhagen may suggest a joint U.S.-Dutch initiative to counter violence against women or to attack child labor. The Dutch are also trying to salvage the Durban review conference on racism, including by circulating an abbreviated draft that removes references to Israel that are offensive to us and the Dutch. Perhaps the best opportunity Qoffensive to us and the Dutch. Perhaps the best opportunity for expanding cooperation is in the area of development assistance. The Netherlands is the world,s sixth largest aid donor, providing over 4 billion euro ($6.1 billion) annually, and Dutch programs are rated as highly effective compared to other nations. ¶10. (S) Verhagen has been critical of Guantanamo, and did not lose an opportunity to raise his concerns about Guantanamo with the previous administration. The Dutch parliament,s debate and fierce criticism of Guantanamo have permeated the Dutch press and public,s perceptions. Closing Guantanamo, therefore, will go a long way toward improving Dutch skepticism of U.S. policies on human and civil rights. Verhagen publicly saluted the President,s decision to close Guantanamo, but he also publicly told Parliament that the Dutch government has no plans to accept detainees. Nonetheless, Verhagen,s personal staff recommended that you raise the issue with him privately, to encourage him to stay open to the idea of supporting an EU proposal to help the United States. A less difficult alternative for the Dutch than accepting detainees would be providing funding to assist with the transfer of detainees to third countries. With an eye to the future, FM Verhagen is funding a two-year study of THE HAGUE 00000196 003 OF 004 the nexus of human rights, humanitarian law, and use of force, thus aiming to resolve the knotty legal issues surrounding Guantanamo. ¶11. (SBU) Finally, Verhagen may ask you about U.S. support for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Dutch are proud of serving as the &home of international law8 and hosting many international legal institutions such as the International Court of Justice. If you or the President chose to make a major announcement on the ICC, or U.S. commitment to international law and human rights, no setting in Europe would be more appropriate than The Hague, the Netherlands. ------------------------------ Other Issues - Economic Crisis ------------------------------ ¶12. (U) The Dutch financial sector has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, due in part to exposure to U.S. mortgage-backed securities and other toxic assets. The government has responded assertively with several measures to assist banks and their customers, most dramatically by nationalizing the Dutch operations of Fortis Bank and by providing capital to ING and guaranteeing part of its U.S. mortgage portfolio. ¶13. (U) The Dutch real economy is struggling. After 2 percent GDP growth in 2008, the latest official estimate is a 3.5 percent contraction in 2009. Dutch exports are expected to decline by 12 percent this year, a major blow to this trade-dependent economy. The Port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest, has already seen a 15 percent decline in port traffic since October. Several Dutch industry giants have announced layoffs. The current unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is forecast to climb to 5.5 percent in 2009 (still considerably lower than the EU average). The GONL has passed two stimulus packages and is expected to announce a third shortly. ¶14. (U) An invitation to the G-20 summit in London is a major win for the Dutch, who fought hard to be included in the November 2008 Washington G-20 summit. Although not a G-20 member, the Dutch argued successfully that they play a major role in the international financial system (for instance, it is an active member of the Financial Stability Forum). Now, with a second invitation, the Dutch hope to have assured their seat at the table for future G-20 events. At the London summit, we can expect the Dutch to support Germany and other key member states in a call for much broader financial regulation ) but to refrain from supporting new stimulus packages until the results of current stimulus measures can be determined. They will support the G-20,s expansion to include more developing countries. In keeping with their reputation, the Dutch will also stress open markets and free trade. They have called on fellow EU Member States to avoid protectionist measures, and they were highly critical of the proposed ""Buy American"" provisions in the U.S. Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Dutch have repeatedly expressed their hope to see the economic crisis spur the U.S., China, India, and others to make the concessions necessary to conclude the WTO Doha Round ¶15. (SBU) Prime Minister Balkenende and his cabinet enjoyed widespread public support in late 2008 for their quick intervention in the financial sector. However, domestic and international criticism of the GONL's cautious, incremental approach to the crisis has gathered steam in recent weeks. Balkenende,s cabinet continues to consult closely with parliament, labor, and industry on the way forward. While Finance Minister Wouter Bos, the politically savvy Deputy QFinance Minister Wouter Bos, the politically savvy Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Labor Party (PvdA), has taken the lead on the Netherlands, international response to the economic crisis, Foreign Minister Verhagen has been less visible on this issue. ----------- Middle East ----------- ¶16. (SBU) Verhagen will welcome your readout on the Middle East; he is eager to play a constructive role. With an eye toward supporting a peace agreement, the Dutch participate in the Gaza maritime interdiction initiative to stop arms smuggling and thereby address Israel,s security concerns. Along with the Danish, the Dutch have proposed resurrecting the EU Gaza-Egypt border monitoring mission. At the same time, the Dutch push for greater access for humanitarian aid in Gaza. The Dutch are substantial donors to Gaza economic development and governance initiatives, providing 72 million THE HAGUE 00000196 004 OF 004 euro in 2008. ¶17. (S) The Dutch strongly support the UN sanctions regime against Iran and quickly follow up on efforts to curtail proliferation activities. The Dutch reported that sanctions are starting to work -- slowly )- although they are not targeting the right people. Nonetheless, the Dutch believe there is substantial interest among Iranian parliamentarians for an exchange with U.S. counterparts. The Dutch are willing to deepen our U.S.-Netherlands cooperation on information-sharing on Iran. On Syria, the Dutch welcome U.S. outreach to Syria and agree that the U.S. and the EU will get more from the Syrians if we keep a united front as we push for a peace agreement with Israel, a secure and stable relationship with Lebanon, and an end to support for militants. GALLAGHER