We must rid the world of nuclear weapons, beginning with the Netherlands

15 October 2018

We must rid the world of nuclear weapons, beginning with the Netherlands

Foreign Minister Stef Blok must abandon his short-sighted policies, says Sadet Karabulut

Despite the fact that growing tensions in the world give every cause for nuclear disarmament, Foreign Minister Stef Blok has embraced NATO's nuclear arms doctrine as part of the Netherlands' security policy. Nuclear weapons are accepted as deterrent, and we will disarm only if and when others do so. Until then we will adopt the American nuclear plans, under which President Trump will invest a trillion dollars over the next few years in the modernisation of his country's nuclear arsenal. In the first major debate with Blok on the issue, he stated that he had no desire to distance himself from this position.


Instead of acting like a vassal of NATO and the Americans, the minister should carry out what Parliament has asked him to do. In 2013 a clear majority of MPs voted to support the motion from my SP colleague Jasper van Dijk to the effect that the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), the successor warplane to the F-16, must be given no nuclear tasks. This was a reflection of the desire, broadly shared in Parliament, to see tactical US nuclear weapons removed from Dutch soil, in turn an aspect of the broadly held conviction that the world must be rid of nuclear weapons, beginning with the Netherlands. Nevertheless, the government declared that the JSF would indeed be given such a task over the next few years.

Although the minister pays lip service to nuclear disarmament and talks about the need for transparency and verification by other – hostile – nuclear-armed states, he himself refuses to be transparent over when the US nuclear weapons stationed in the Netherlands, at Volkel airbase, will be modernised. It's worth noting that during the most recent period in which the F16 was in service to the Netherlands, the nuclear bomb which it currently carries was modernised. The aforementioned American modernisation plans provide a good opportunity to ensure transparency and distance ourselves from this task. What contracts have been signed with the United States? How do Dutch pilots exercise when it comes to using nuclear weapons? What does this nuclear weapon task mean for our security and what does all of this cost? According to a survey by the Red Cross, 87% of the Dutch population wants to see the back of nuclear weapons, yet Blok has nothing to say on this. He refuses to account publicly for the presence of nuclear weapons which do not belong in a humane world. How is this democratic?

The memory of mass protests in the Netherlands against nuclear weapons is kept alive by school books, so that even young people know that enormous such protests were held some thirty-five years ago in Amsterdam and The Hague. Blok acknowledged this when he wrote recently that there is in our country a large base of support for nuclear disarmament, a base of support for Global Zero which exists the world over. It was not for nothing that in the context of the UN, a successful campaign by the International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), led to the proposal of a treaty banning them.

Cold War

Blok's response to this treaty is disappointing. The Netherlands is not signing it, has no plans to do so and will not take any initiatives which could lead to disarmament. Atomic armaments will remain until they are negotiated away, because Russia also has a large-scale modernisation programme for its nuclear arsenal. By implication this supports the theory of the new Cold War. With the growing nuclear threat, new authoritarian leaders and the total danger which nuclear weapons threaten for humanity, this is a short-sighted policy. The world must be rid of nuclear weapons, beginning with the Netherlands.

Sadet Karabulut is a Member of Parliament for the SP. This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, on the website joop.nl on 10th October.

You are here