German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, left, speaks with her Dutch counterpart, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, in Brussels. (JOHN THYS /AFP)
BONN — Germany and the Netherlands have entered a new level of military cooperation with the integration of a Dutch air mobile brigade into the new German Division Fast Forces.
On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Bruno Kasdorf, German inspector of the Army, and the commander of Dutch land forces, Lt. Gen. Mart de Kruif, signed the official cooperation agreement. They met with the German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her Dutch counterpart, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, in Schaarsbergen, the Netherlands, where the Dutch 11 Air Mobile Brigade is based.
A German-Netherlands Corps was established 1995 under which different units of participating armies are assigned to the headquarters for some period of time. Under this new arrangement, for the first time a combat unit of the Netherlands has been fully integrated into the German land forces.
The 11 Air Mobile Brigade is under the leadership of an original German headquarters in Stadtallendorf as the command remains with the division. Thirteen posts in the staff, including one deputy division commander, will be occupied by Dutch officers.
The formation consists of 9,500 German and 2,100 Dutch military members. They remain at their current bases in both countries, but will cooperate on training and missions. The ultimate goal is joint planing and execution of missions, said the Dutch defense minister.
“In 2016, the combined staff of the division must be operational,” Hennis-Plasschaert said. “From 2018, the entire division must be ready to carry out operations.”
While the agreement was officially signed on Thursday, the Dutch brigade had actually been part of the new formation since Jan. 1, when establishment of the new German Division Fast Forces started.
“We should keep in mind that in order to be — and to remain — predictable and reliable partners, we must from time to time, and on a regular basis, hold a political debate on this subject. Between the governments, between the government and the parliament, but also between the national parliaments of our two countries.” said the Dutch defense minister.
While there will be close German-Dutch cooperation in peacetime, one country is not obligated to join the other if it goes on a military mission.
“In the international balance of power, uncertainty is really the only constant factor. Future military missions will not become less demanding or less diverse,” Hennis-Plasschaert said. “This is the reason we still need a powerful and responsive military. And this is what we help to create through our far-reaching military cooperation.”
The new formation is also part of the restructuring of the German divisions for special operations and airmobile operations. It includes the German Airborne Brigade 1, the German Special Forces Command and the Army NH90 transport and Tiger attack helicopter squadrons. ■