Cooperation between the Bundeswehr and the Royal Army has reached a new level. The German-Dutch corps was set up in Münster in North Rhine-Westphalia as early as 1995. And nine years later, the 11th Airmobile Brigade of the Dutch Army was incorporated into the German Rapid Forces Division – another brigade followed.
Now comes the next step, which is a milestone. This goes back to a hardly noticed meeting of the generals of both countries in Dresden at the beginning of December. There, the German Army Inspector Alfons Mais and his Dutch counterpart Martin Wijnen signed an “Army Vision”, a kind of roadmap for how things should continue together.
“Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in violation of international law,” the Bundeswehr said at the time, “has accelerated the rethinking of tackling Europe’s military defense readiness as a joint task.” Therefore, both land forces had “decided on deep integration”.
One strategy, one purchase
Specifically, it is about projects that do not immediately appear spectacular: the number of exchange officers is being increased. Regulations are being further aligned so that the mechanic in one country can also tinker with the device in the other country. In the Ukraine, it turned out that the jointly delivered self-propelled howitzers in 2000 had been modified in-house so that they could not communicate with one another.
Now, as a spokesman for the army told the Tagesspiegel, “identical or at least compatible land systems will be bought more often in the future, so that the interoperability of the two armies can be further improved”. The same applies to doctrines and concepts.
The completely new quality is due to the fact that now on April 1st the 13th Light Brigade of the Dutch Army will also be embedded in the 10th German Armored Division. This is a historic “milestone” for Germany, but even more so for the Netherlands, as the “NRC Handelsblad” wrote this week, because “soon all Dutch brigades will be subordinate to a German division”.
No other two NATO states cooperated so closely, since now “the large battle groups of the German and Dutch land forces are being completely merged”.
The newspaper quoted Commander Jean-Paul Duckers as saying: “Many people still don’t realize how unique what we are doing here is.”
A lot of people don’t even realize how unique what we’re doing here is.
Jean Paul DuckersDutch commander
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense in The Hague confirmed to the Tagesspiegel that the plans were correct. “We have practiced together for many years and carried out operations together,” said the spokesman, pointing out that, for example, the Bundeswehr presence in Lithuania is coordinated with the Dutch forces: “This is now the next logical step.”
He also pointed out that it is not just a one-way street: a German air defense unit has also been integrated into the Dutch structure.
While both armies are largely in agreement, politicians still have to finally give the green light for the far-reaching plans. “If our defense minister formally makes this decision, a technical agreement will be drawn up, which then has to be signed by the ministers of both countries,” the spokesman said.
Separate decisions should continue to be made as to whether their own soldiers should be sent into action. “We do not believe that this will lead to a European army,” the Hague ministry said. However, the division of tasks will continue to intensify, since the Netherlands, for example, has not bought its own tanks for many years now, but instead relies on the Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2 units.
“This is the way to a European defense union,” said then-Defense Minister and current EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen about the corresponding agreement from 2016 – the new one, which is to be signed this spring, describes it even more precisely.
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