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Dutch participation in missile shield? No thanks!

8 November 2011

Dutch participation in missile shield? No thanks!

Despite deep cuts in defence spending the Netherlands’ navy is participating in the development of a NATO missile shield. In addition to the enormous costs, Harry van Bommel and Jasper van Dijk foresee problems affecting foreign policy.

Harry van Bommel and Jasper van Dijk are Members of Parliament for the SP and, respectively, spokesmen on foreign policy and defence.

Harry van BommelJasper van DijkThe Dutch navy will, with an improved radar system, form part of a missile shield designed to protect us from missiles fired from the Middle East and Asia. On the surface this missile shield would appear to be purely defensive, but its military significance goes much further than that. A country or alliance which has available an effective shield has also the freedom to launch aggressive actions. This is rendered pertinent by the illegal wars of aggression carried out by the allies, such as the war against Iraq in 2003. A similar scenario threatens now In the case of Iran.

By linking radar and defence systems, a political linkage has been tacitly forged between defensive and offensive actions. It is therefore important to know who decides when the system will be brought into action. Missiles have an approach time measured in seconds and so rapid reaction is needed. This implies centralisation of the command structure, which places the supreme command in the hands of the American military. They will have little time to consult their political masters, let alone those of their allies. Participation in the missile shield makes the Netherlands and other European countries, therefore, in large measure a subsidiary of United States foreign policy.

In a technical sense too, there are objections to participation. The reliability of the anti-missile systems is open to question. Tests conducted by the American armed forces on the interception of intercontinental ballistic missiles have to a large extent proved a failure. Tests which have been successful took place under conditions that had nothing in common with a real war situation. A crucial point is the ease with which the interception missiles’ tracking radar can be disturbed by an attacking missile accompanied by decoys, such as balloons which give off the same radar echo as the real warhead. Every enemy missile will be capable of carrying dozens of dummy warheads along with its true weaponry. In this way the interception system will be overwhelmed and thus rendered useless.

It is incomprehensible that the Netherlands should, in times of great financial uncertainty, be participating in such a hazardous project as the missile shield. In order to prolong the mission in Libya by three months, the Defence Ministry had to go in search of a sum of less than €9 million. The armed forces as a whole are being confronted with cuts of around €1 billion. Yet Defence Minister Hans Hillen is able to make money available for this project, the cost of which could run as high as €250 million. He will not have our support, and not only because of the enormous costs.

This article first appeared, in Dutch, on the website Joop.nl on 6th November, 2011.

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