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Security and defence policy

Since mid-2014, the international security policy of the Netherlands has been high on the political agenda.

Broader perspective of security interests

Against the background of the growing tensions with Russia regarding Ukraine, the shooting down of Malaysian flight MH17, the civil war in Syria, and the rise of “Islamic State” (IS) in the Iraq region, the Dutch government has decided to make extra funds available for defence. This would seem to represent a break in the trend, given that defence expenditure has declined steadily and considerably since the 1990s. The defence cuts that were imposed in the aftermath of the Cold War as part of the ‘peace dividend’, implied downsizing, professionalising and modernising the armed forces. It was in this context, for example, that the Dutch army’s tanks were disposed of. Decision-making on the future of the Dutch armed forces and the additional expenditure required must take place in the broader perspective of the country’s security interests.

It is against this background that the Council’s “Security” project is investigating issues including the following:

  • What changes and trends in the international context are of long-term relevance to the security of the Netherlands?
  • What are the country’s current and future international tasks as regards security and defence?
  • What changes (in policy) are necessary against this background for a coherent, future-proof security policy for the Netherlands?
  • How can the Dutch armed forces contribute to preserving and promoting the country’s security, also in the light of the motion submitted by MP Cees Van der Staaij on 18 September 2014?[1]

[1] Amongst other things, this motion requests the government “to indicate the necessary level of ambition of our armed forces for the coming years, what international security strategy is involved, how the effectiveness of Defence should be increased, and how this relates to the national deployment of our armed forces...”


The project has culminated in the publication of the WRR report Security in an Interconnected World: A Strategic Vision for Defence Policy (Veiligheid in een wereld van verbindingen, 2017).

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Security in an Interconnected World. A Strategic Vision for Defence Policy (2020)

In this report the WRR states that domestic and foreign security policies need to be more closely connected and reinforce each other in order for the Netherlands to make a strategic contribution to North Atlantic and European partnerships.