Dutch Defence Minister discusses cutbacks and Asia in US

Dutch Defence Minister discusses cutbacks and Asia in US

Dutch Minister of Defence Hans Hillen and his American counterpart Leon Panetta met in Washington on 12 January to discuss the Strategic Defence Review. In that review, President Obama and Mr Panetta announced that their military will focus its attention increasingly on the Asia-Pacific region. It was also announced that US defence spending will be reduced by 450 billion dollars in the next ten years.

The 2 ministers reaffirmed the good relations between the 2 countries and the continuing involvement in each other’s forces, the operation in Afghanistan and the counterpiracy mission. During his stay, Mr Hillen visited military locations in the United States where Dutch and American personnel work together.

Mr Hillen said that he was pleased that NATO and Europe continue to be the main security partners for the US. Mr Panetta said the Netherlands was one of the most important allies within Europe, but repeated his call for the European military contribution to be strengthened. Mr Hillen said it was “a mature invitation to a mature continent”. He indicated that he saw a role for the Netherlands in bringing partners together. He also thinks that European countries should work together better in order to spend the total defence budget, which still amounts to 200 billion euros, more efficiently. This he considers to be even more important in these times of shrinking defence budgets as a result of the financial crisis. With this remark, Mr Hillen was anticipating the NATO summit in Chicago planned for May, where smart defence will be high on the agenda.

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