Part IV: Joris Vos: The US relationship and Dutch Security Policy

This is part four of a five-part event summary of the main points and statements  of high-ranking Dutch political directors at The Hague Institute for Global Justice’s, entitled “An Inside View: The Effectiveness of Dutch Foreign Policy”.

The question under discussion was ‘in which way could Dutch foreign policy be made more effective’? Structurally how, based on which principles, and how with who?’

The members of the panel all had a decade long career at a large variety of organisations. but all having served the Dutch Foreign Ministry for a number of those years. For more on their individual profiles, please refer to the speaker biographies on the event program.

Joris Vos, President for European Union and NATO affairs at Being from 2003-2008

Joris Vos, President for European Union and NATO affairs at Being from 2003-2008

Joris Vos: The US relationship and Dutch Security Policy

Clinton coined the phrase of: America, the indispensable nation.

Nasr: “The dispensable nation”, in the context of the Middle East.

To what extent the US is, or is not, the indispensable nation, is relevant in a much more global context as well. And is a question which is highly relevant for Dutch foreign policy.

The term special relationship: usual signifying US-UK relations, but Dutch FP practitioners feel there is a kind of special relationship between Netherlands and US as well.

Strong relations US-Netherlands

  • Ambassadors and diplomats of both sides always speak of the ‘historical friendship’
  • Manhattan, the Dutch settlers along the Hudson river, Dutch bankers funding American revolution, the famous first salute from St. Eutacious
  • Share values: democracy, respect HR,
  • Commericial-economic links
  • Defence cooperation, within NATO framework, Dutch seen as staunchest and most reliable allies

But, there have been some developments which cooled down the ‘special relationship’

  • NATO decision in 1979 to deploy nuclear-armed cruise missiles in Netherlands led to deep divisions in the Netherlands
  • 1983’s huge protests against these deployments
  • Bush Junior FP: Iraq, Guantanamo prison, etc
  • Obama was welcomed, but now, after 5 years, initial enthusiasm waned. SNA scandal, liberal use of armed drones in the Middle East are very unpopular in the Netherlands.

US follows a clear policy of Realpolitik

American bilateral relations are very much based in realpolitik. The fact that strong ties exist between the US and other countries, based on historic friendship and shared values, on gratitude for support in earlier days and circumstances, is not unimportant. It provides a positive climate and a great starting position. However, when the chips are down, American attitudes are determined by direct American interests.

Some Dutch governments might have underestimated this.


The US has been complaining about the European states’ continuous decreases in defence budget, translating into a decreases in NATO contribution as well. US understands difficulties to maintain the ‘Cold War level of preparedness’, in the face of economic downturns, but

The cuts in Dutch defence spending have been dramatic over the last couple of years.

Our weight and relevance in NATO, as well as in bilateral relations with our largest ally, are very much determined by what we are able, and willing, to put on the table – much more than by proclamations of loyalty and friendship.

From a Dutch FP and defence point of view, the United States remains an indispensable nation – politically, economically, security-wise.



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