‘You shouldn’t set a percentage to chain to’

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While the Netherlands just barely meets the NATO standard of two percent of gross domestic product, NATO is already considering a higher standard. The defense ministers of the NATO countries are meeting today in Brussels to discuss these new standards.

According to Dick Zandee, defense specialist at the Clingendael Institute, raising the standard is a logical response to the war in Ukraine. He thinks three percent or more. ‘The problem is that a number of countries don’t even reach that 2 percent. They will not be happy with a higher standard, but this will also put extra pressure on the Netherlands.’ The Netherlands will narrowly meet the NATO standard of 2 percent in 2024. The contribution is expected to be less after that.

Last week, Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of NATO’s military committee, also argued in BNR’s Big Five last week for an increase, and that call is supported by CDA MP Derk Boswijk. He believes that NATO’s two percent standard should be a floor, not a ceiling. ‘In 2014 the tendency was that the next war would be a cyber war’, says Boswijk. “But we now clearly see in Ukraine that it is an old-fashioned war, with trenches, rockets and artillery fire.”

‘That bottom would be an impetus to do more,’ says Zandee. It is then up to the countries themselves to determine what that extra effort would actually mean.’

Additional threat

He calls it logical that the NATO standard is revised, because the threat of a cyber war is still there. ‘It has just been added,’ says Boswijk, who believes that the number of threats has increased on a net basis. ‘So it makes sense that the budget will be adjusted upwards.’

Defense ministers from NATO countries are meeting in Brussels today to discuss a new NATO standard. While the Netherlands just barely meets the standard of two percent of gross domestic product in 2024, NATO is already devising a higher standard. (ANP SEM VAN DER WAL)

According to Boswijk, the Netherlands has also structurally failed to meet NATO standards. For example, too little money has been spent for thirty years, ‘a cumulative 70 billion to be precise’, he says. “For now, we are working to catch up on that backlog. So more investments will have to be made.’


Where Boswijk is enthusiastic about a possible increase in the NATO budget, his SP colleague Jasper van Dijk is anything but. On the contrary, he thinks it is a bad plan and states that the required amount must be released, without a certain percentage having to be met.

He is therefore well aware that financial resources are needed to provide Ukraine with additional ammunition, for example. “And it’s fine to have that debate, but you shouldn’t set a percentage to chain yourself to that,” he says. ‘You just have to determine in a healthy political debate how high the defense budget should be.’

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