Speech Chief of Defence Admiral Rob Bauer Berlin Security Conference
Speech by the Netherlands Chief of Defence Admiral Rob Bauer at the Berlin Security Conference on 28 November 2018.
Deep integration: what does it mean to literally join forces?
Ladies and gentlemen, dear military colleagues,
It is an honour to speak to you today.
And it is a pleasure to do so right after my esteemed colleague and
friend General Eberhard Zorn. General Zorn has just convinced us once more that we should walk
together on the path to peace.
Friendship is a very powerful concept. It can overcome manproblems, also from a very different and less friendly history. But friendship requires two or more parties and the deliberate choice to form such a bond.
So it is not so much a question of whether we should work together,
but a question of how we can make working together a success.
As we all know, views on European defence are changing.
In the past, a lack of consensus was often used as a showstopper.
But the world is changing.
And we are all striving to improve our readiness to face current and future threats, whilst taking into account the principles of national sovereignty.
What I want to talk to you about today is how we can maximize
essential military capabilities…
… whilst making sure military investments are put to optimal use…
… and without losing national sovereignty.
The topic I want to talk to you about today is ‘deep integration’.
And that term may sound scary to some.
Because it sounds as if you may be losing control.
But I’m here to tell you that it is quite the opposite.
Deep integration can help you to become stronger.
It can help you to gain knowledge. To gain capabilities. And to gain power.
It is a form of smart international defence.
And it is a way in which we can deliver better on our promises to NATO.
That being said, I have to add that deep integration is not easy…
It is a process of give and take.
It requires deep investments. Not just in terms of money.
But, more importantly, in terms of relations.
And above all: it requires trust.
Luckily, over the past few decades a number of nations have proven that they can make this a success.
Germany and the Netherlands are part of this group.
You could even argue that we are pioneers in this area.
So what I want to do is to give you some examples of how this, the deep integration, works in practice.
To share with you how deep integration has helped us.
But also to share some of the challenges we encountered.
One example that I’d like to start with is 414 Tank Battalion, a mixed German-Dutch tank battalion consisting of around 400 soldiers.
The structure of this integration, is basically the structure of a Matryoshka doll.
A Dutch company, using German materiel (Leopard2 tanks),
... is part of a German tank battalion,
... which in turn is part of a Dutch brigade,
... that falls under the command of a German Panzer division.
The integration reaches the level where – in exercises and training –
we have German and Dutch soldiers operating the same tank.
They have aligned procedures, techniques and tactics.
So procedural and technical interoperability is established.
And they have now reached the third stage of integration: cultural interoperability.
One would think that, because we are neighbours, we are very similar and that cultural differences would be practically non-existent.
(I’m sure there’s not a Dutch person in the world who hasn’t, at some point, been identified as German, when they’re on holiday. To everybody else: we’re basically interchangeable....)
And sure… we all like beer, bratwurst and bitterballen.
But in military operations… that only gets you so far :-)
In working together on a day-to-day basis, these Dutch and German servicemen and women discovered that they are more different than they thought…
For instance: if a German commander is handed two options and he decides to go right, everybody will follow him.
Even if his team encounters difficulties on that route, they will make sure they find a way to stick to the plan.
Whereas… when a Dutch commander makes the decision to go right…
that decision is very often considered the starting point for a discussion on the risks and benefits of left versus right.
And even after everybody decides to go right, Dutch soldiers will always continue to develop new ideas and insights… which they are not afraid to share.
Another example: giving feedback.
In German training sessions, if your superior sees that you are making a mistake, he/she will tell you right away.
Whereas, in Dutch training sessions, that superior will let you make that mistake (and several subsequent mistakes) and then ask you at the end of the day the deadliest of all questions:
“So, how do YOU think it went?”
Needless to say, this is a completely different way of working.
Not better, not worse, just different.
And of course, the examples I´m giving to you today are not true for EVERY Dutch soldier, or EVERY German soldier.
But they do demonstrate that there are real cultural differences, even between neighbouring countries.
If you want to achieve interoperability, you have to deal with these differences as well.
I am proud to say that 414 Tank Battalion has found ways to incorporate both cultures and develop its own unique character.
You could say, they have found a way to combine the best of both worlds.
Dutch soldiers are making more of an effort to stick to the staff process for decision-making.
And German soldiers are finding ways to use their informal network for formal business.
And during a recent shooting exercise, one of the company commanders was heard giving radio orders in a mixed language that can only be described as ‘Germutch’ or ‘Durman’.
… and still everybody understood him.
Getting better at cultural interoperability is not about changing who
It is about realizing who you are.
And how you come across.
German and the Netherlands soldiers are Waffenbrüder.
Brothers in arms, with much to offer one another.
There may well be cultural differences… but when it comes down to it:
Dutch soldiers appreciate the German way of well-planned structuring.
And from what I’ve heard: German soldiers appreciate the Dutch innovative way of thinking and their ability to improvise.
We value their politeness. And they value our directness.
Achieving this level of deep integration is not something we did overnight.
And the process is far from finished.
The foundation for our cooperation was laid by the First German Netherlands Corps, now 23 years ago.
Since then, Germany and the Netherlands have built on their experiences by integrating the Dutch Airmobile Brigade into the German Division Schnelle Kräfte in 2014.
One of the challenges of this integration was: how do we make sure German helicopters can fly with Dutch underslung loads?
Until recently, Germany and the Netherlands did not recognize each other’s certification programme.
This meant that if you wanted to fly a German load under a Dutch helicopter, a German infantry soldier would have to prepare the load before a Dutch infantry soldier was allowed to hook it to the
Early on, our soldiers realized that the certification demands were not that different and could in fact be harmonized.
But it still took us three years to get this through to the aviation authorities on both sides.
Because it meant we had to fully trust each other’s qualification criteria and we had to accept liability for each other’s work.
Luckily, we managed to fix this. And as of this year, our certification of underslung loads is harmonized.
A win-win situation!
German-Netherlands Cooperation is not only focused on landoperations. In 2016 Germany and the Netherlands expanded their deep land-based integration to the maritime domain.
Our countries became joint users of the joint support ship HNLMS Karel Doorman and we integrated the German Naval Force Protection Battalion (Seebataillon) into the Royal Netherlands Navy.
This form of naval integration is already showing concrete results.
This year, German and Dutch troops collaborated in the exercise Schneller Adler, where they trained to evacuate German citizens who are in danger in a foreign country.
A new – and important – capability for Germany.
But the benefits go both ways.
Because in working with the Seebataillon, the Dutch Navy is learning new techniques in port security and working with drones.
Currently, the German and Dutch navies are working towards participation in the 2020 amphibious task group for the NATO Response Force.
And I am confident that they will have much more to show us in the
Another recent example of Dutch-German integration is in the field of air and missile defence.
In April of this year, the German Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Army integrated ground-based air and missile defence units under Dutch command.
For now, the integration is mainly at staff level, but it will help us become a reliable and valuable capability for NATO.
Our cooperation and integration on land, at sea and in the air has also helped us to increase our output in military missions abroad.
In Mali, the Dutch long-range reconnaissance patrol receives invaluable help from the German Heron.
This unmanned aerial vehicle flies ahead to a location that the Dutch
troops plan to visit.
For instance, a village where they want to talk to the tribal leader.
The Heron not only scans the location itself, but it also checks theroute for IEDs.
And this saves Dutch soldiers’ lives.
German and Dutch troops have also been very flexible in exchanging spare parts, and using each other’s air transport capacity and 3D printers.
Our ideas about functionality and order have become so similar, that there was a very smooth transition when Germany took over the management of Camp Castor in Mali from us last December.
In Afghanistan, we have also seen clear advantages as a result of our cooperation.
Dutch soldiers use German materiel such as infantry mobility vehicles, the DINGO’s, and protected ambulance vehicles, the EAGLE’s, for which they received training in Germany.
In Lithuania, as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence, a Dutch company is part of the German-led multinational battlegroup with a German commander and a Dutch deputy commander.
In addition, a Dutch and a German cyber expert are working side by side to defend our troops against cyber threats.
And although they each have their own technical systems, national safety procedures, and privacy regulations…
… they always manage to come up with joint solutions to protect the
Again: as long as you trust each other, anything is possible.
In order to improve our cooperation on land, at sea and in the air, we are also looking at our digital communication.
This year, Germany and the Netherlands decided to investigate the possibility of expanding our integration in the physical domain to the digital domain.
How do we make sure our men and women on the ground are able to communicate directly and swiftly?
How can we harmonize the IT systems in for example our helicopters and tanks?
This is an extremely complicated process.
Not least because it is likely to impact our countries’ procurement processes.
We will know the outcome of this investigation in a few months…
Ladies and gentlemen,
In all the examples I’ve given you today, the defence cooperation between the Netherlands and Germany has allowed both countries to maintain, expand, and rebuild their military capabilities and operational knowledge.
And in every single example, the Netherlands armed forces have always retained the full capacity and authority to make their own decisions.
We have not ‘lost control’.
And it has not damaged the sovereign right of our government as commander-in-chief of our Armed Forces.
And of course, the Dutch-German deep integration is certainly not the only example of successful cooperation between European countries.
The Dutch and Belgian navies have been working together since 1948, resulting in fully integrated navies since the mid-nineties.
At present, the Dutch Navy performs the maintenance for the frigates of both countries in the Netherlands.
And the Belgian Navy does the same for the mine countermeasures vessels in Belgium.
And as of last year, Belgium and the Netherlands agreed to take turns in patrolling the Benelux airspace.
In turns we keep two F-16s on quick reaction alert, defending the airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Not only against military threats but also against renegade aircraft.
So in a worst-case scenario, the Belgian Minister of Justice can order a Dutch fighter aircraft patrolling Belgian airspace to shoot down a renegade aircraft over Belgium…
… while the Netherlands Minister of Justice and Security can order a Belgian fighter aircraft patrolling Dutch airspace to do the same over the Netherlands.
We even signed a new treaty for this.
These are all good examples of bottom-up initiatives that allow us to focus our resources on improving readiness and filling NATO shortfalls.
And I hope that it will inspire other nations, inside or outside the EU, to also look for ways in which they can take joint responsibility to ensure peace and stability.
Because interoperability is still not a given, especially when it comes to communication in the land domain.
Even after almost seventy years of working together in NATO.
Economic and industrial considerations, as we all know, remain part of the picture.
These sometimes hinder our operational effectiveness.
Interoperability at all levels – technical, procedural and cultural – is important for our collective defence.
And deep integration is a way in which we can put military investments and capabilities to optimal use.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Deep integration is not a panacea for all problems. But it is a way in which we can maximize essential military capabilities. In many ways, it is comparable to being in a relationship with someone.
It is about trust and compromise. Give and take.
About recognizing each other’s strengths.
And accepting each other’s weaknesses.
And above all: it is about the fundamental belief that together…
… you are stronger – and happier – than you are alone.