President Zelensky asks JEF member countries for more support

 “Help yourself by helping us” was President Zelensky of Ukraine’s message to the ten Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) leaders, who were meeting in London. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is ultimately an attack on the security of Europe. His message hit home and the JEF nations therefore agreed to continue to support Ukraine by sending military aid in order for Ukraine to defend itself against Russia. In response to the drastically changed security situation, the ten countries are also to conduct an increased number of integrated military exercises in order to strengthen the northern region. The leaders of the JEF, of which the Netherlands is also part, released a statement to that effect after the meeting. 

Enlarge image Minister Ollongren aan vergadertafel. Achter haar op een scherm de Oekraïense president.
Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren.

Government leaders from the JEF member nations were in London over the past two days on the invitation of British prime minister Boris Johnson. Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren was the Dutch representative. President Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the meeting via video link. The JEF is a military alliance of Northern European countries led by the UK. In addition to the UK and the Netherlands, it comprises Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden. The JEF thus brings together countries that are members of NATO and the EU or both.

Enlarge image Minister Ollongren naast de Britse premier Boris Johnson.
The British prime minister Boris Johnson invited government leaders from the JEF members.

Information exchange

In London, the JEF countries exchanged information on the situation in Ukraine and how they are lending bilateral support to that country. Ollongren stated that the Netherlands will continue to send military equipment. “President Zelensky’s message was clear. The Ukrainian army is putting up stiff resistance, but it urgently needs our help”. JEF nations are to assess whether military aid to Ukraine can be better coordinated. The idea is to provide better assistance to Ukraine and to restrict the impact of lending assistance on the readiness of the armed forces of the countries providing that assistance.

The JEF’s message is one of unity and clarity: Russia must stop its invasion of Ukraine immediately. In their statement, JEF leaders’ call upon Russia to implement and uphold an immediate ceasefire. “We call on Putin to de-escalate, withdraw his forces and return Ukraine to its internationally recognised boundaries.”

Enlarge image Groepsfoto's van regeringsleiders die deelnamen aan Joint Expeditionary Force.
Group photograph of the government leaders.

Defence in good order

For many countries, the Russian invasion has made it clear that European security has to move to a higher level. During this cabinet term, the Dutch defence budget has already received a boost. The United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark and Sweden have also announced further investment.

“There is a terrible war being waged in Europe and the Ukrainian people are the main victims. Putin’s illegal invasion has changed our world”, remarked Minister Ollongren. “We must reinforce our defence, both now and in the long term, and that costs money. The defence budget has already been increased by 25%, but more is needed. The House of Representatives agrees. In addition, we must also increase our military effectiveness by improving our interoperability. Collective military exercises can contribute to that.”

The JEF nations therefore intend to intensify military cooperation, by expanding and making better use of military exercises and troop movements. The exercises will be conducted at sea, on land and in the air in the High North, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea region.

Exercise in Norway

An important exercise in Northern Europe started yesterday in Norway. The Netherlands is one of 27 countries participating in Exercise Cold Response 22, an exercise bringing together a total of 30,000 troops. They will test the way Norway handles reinforcements from NATO countries in the event of an invasion by their neighbour, Russia. The exercise was announced eight months ago. 

The Defence organisation is already active on several fronts at the eastern flank of NATO territory. For example, F-16 aircraft are carrying out air policing duties. Dutch military personnel are also participating in a large scale exercise in Romania and the Netherlands is a contributor to the enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania. Participation in a battle group in Slovakia is also expected in the near future.