Visit by UK Defence Secretary focuses on concerns about Ukraine

Netherlands Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren welcomed her British counterpart Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to the Ministry of Defence in The Hague today. The visit, during which the ministers made each other’s acquaintance for the first time, took place at the initiative of Wallace. The main topic of conversation was the major concern over the troop build-up along the Ukranian border and Russia’s increasingly assertive behaviour. Ollongren also shed light on the recently instated government’s plans for the Defence organisation, which include strengthening military cooperation with our neighbouring countries such as the United Kingdom.

Enlarge image The Dutch minister of Defence and the British Defence Secretary.
Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren welcomed the British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to the Ministry of Defence.

Both Ollongren and Wallace stressed the importance of maintaining a dialogue and de-escalation. They shared the opinion that, at the same time, NATO should be prepared for any scenario. The Netherlands and the United Kingdom both contribute to existing NATO coalitions aimed at deterrence and the defence of NATO member state territory, as do other member states. In addition to this, the Netherlands will provide two F-35 fighter aircraft for air policing tasks in April and May 2022, stationed in Bulgaria. The Netherlands is also currently assessing requests from the Ukraine for support in the form of military materiel. The United Kingdom contributes to the defensive capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces by providing anti-tank weaponry, as well as British military personnel to provide training in the use of these weapons.

Last week, Defence Secretary Wallace published an article in The Times concerning the false accusations made by the Kremlin aimed at NATO. According to Russia, the Alliance demonstrates an aggressive and expansive approach. Wallace refuted this claim, stating that these fabricated stories are intended to disguise President Putin’s true agenda. In fact, Russia is not concerned with the NATO presence, he says, but rather with the attractiveness of NATO's common values. According to Wallace, this is the true threat to the Kremlin. He calls for people to read the essay published by Putin last summer. In it, Putin claims, among other things, that ‘Ukraine is Russia and Russia is Ukraine’, but also that countries can change and that independent nations should be treated with respect.

Cooperation

The excellent cooperation between the British and Dutch armed forces was also discussed; cooperation that dates back decades. The most striking example of this is perhaps Dutch and British marines working together within the UK/NLD Amphibious Force for 50 years now. Cooperation within joint maritime training, known as Fleet Operational Sea Training, even predates that by 10 years. The Netherlands also takes part in the Joint Expeditionary Force established a few years ago, a flexible construct for defence cooperation led by the United Kingdom.

Another example of close cooperation is the participation of the Dutch air defence and command frigate HNLMS Evertsen in the British Carrier Strike Group, which sailed to Asia in 2021. This flotilla spent 6 months of last year training in an international context at the highest end of the spectrum of force, while also lending support to operations and undertaking diplomatic activities.

The Netherlands and the United Kingdom work together in numerous other missions and operations, as well as during training and exercises.