Analysis

Published on November 6th, 2013 | by Wilbert van der Zeijden

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Question, but not answer time

Following the revelation by former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers confirming the public secret of nuclear weapons stored in the Netherlands, today a number of members of the Dutch parliament raised the issue. Unfortunately, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timmermans was out of town. Instead, the government respondent was the Minister of Defence Hennis-Plasschaert.

Three parliamentarians raised questions to the Defence Minister. Unfortunately, as D66 foreign affairs spokesman Sjoerdsma said on twitter, continued the practice of not confirming or denying. He reaffirmed that his party encourages the nukes to go.

It is however, rather disconcerting that the Dutch Minister of Defence is not clear about actual NATO policy.

NATO policy does not prohibit the acknowledgement of the presence of forward deployed US nuclear weapons in a country- if it did, the Germans would have been chastised for their 2009 government coalition agreement which clearly stated: ” we will advocate within NATO and towards our U.S. allies a withdrawal of remaining nuclear weapons from Germany.” (Full text available in German here: http://www.cdu.de/doc/pdfc/091024-koalitionsvertrag-cducsu-fdp.pdf

The questions were a clear reminder that the storage of around 20 US B61 nuclear bombs in the Netherlands is nothing new. In fact, a number of MPs posted responses to the news articles on twitter calling the bombs “old news” yesterday, or sharing information about the forward deployment that is publicly available through the Federation of American Scientists.

The overwhelming response to all questions by Minister Hennis-Plasschaert was that she would not answer. It was a missed opportunity by the Minister, who could have instead used this chance to practice the transparency preached by the government.

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About the Author

Wilbert van der Zeijden is the senior researcher of the Security and DIsarmament team of PAX. Wilbert currently focusses on getting US nuclear weapons out of Europe; WMD out of the Middle East and your savings out of nuclear weapons producing companies. He graduated at the Vrije University in Amsterdam and previously worked for about nine years for the think-tank Transnational Institute, as their Peace and Security Programme coordinator. Wilbert’s research interests include humanitarian disarmament, NATO and European security, toxic legacies of war and developments in international military infrastructure.



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