COLOGNE, Germany — The Dutch Defence Ministry has published a new vision document that can be implemented only if the country were to spend almost thrice as much as its current $13 billion annual defense budget.
The document puts a price tag of roughly $30 billion annually on a string of vague proposals meant to turn the country’s military into a multiuse, highly networked fighting force by 2035.
Meanwhile, meeting the NATO pledge of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024 would require an additional $8 billion per year from current spending, the document stated.
Both expectations are “quite unrealistic” for the Netherlands, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the government propping up sections of the national economy, according to Dick Zandee, an analyst with the The Hague-based Clingendael Institute think tank.
“The gap is too big, the steps are too large,” he told Defense News.
There are few concrete steps outlined by the Defence Ministry to begin with, Zandee said. The document is meant to be more of a broad-stroke meditation for the next government to use — or not — in its first defense budget in a year or so.
There are national elections on the calendar next March. And while it’s unclear if the new vision document will still have standing after that, there is a political consensus in the mainstream Dutch parties that defense spending should at least hold steady, Zandee explained.
That is the stated objective of many European NATO countries equally far away from the 2 percent goal, like Germany. At the same time, the impact of a second wave of the coronavirus is still hard to gauge, and expectations may have to be tempered amid the fallout. It is also possible that economies will tank so brutally that the percentage target is again within reach, never mind the absolute output in defense capabilities.
Nonaligned Sweden, meanwhile, believes it can dial up its defense spending by 40 percent, or roughly $3 billion, between 2021 and 2025. The government unveiled a proposal this week that seeks growth in the country’s undersea capabilities, for example.
“During the period 2021-2025, it is proposed that the submarine division be maintained and developed through an increase in the number of submarines in the war organization from the current four to five,” the Stockholm government’s proposal stated. “The growth takes place by maintaining the third Gotland-class submarine.”
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.