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Dutch Army commander warns country must be better prepared for war with Russia

by Elsa Court December 28, 2023 8:07 PM 2 min read
Commander of the Dutch Land Forces Lieutenant-General Martin Wijnen speaks at Veitshoechheim Residence Castle on March 30, 2023. (Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
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The Netherlands must become better prepared for a future war with Russia, for example by encouraging voluntary military service, outgoing Dutch Army Commander Martin Wijnen said in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on Dec. 28.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius similarly told Die Welt am Sonntag in a Dec. 16 interview that Europe "may face dangers at the end of this decade," and needs to be "more involved in guaranteeing security on our continent."

Dutch society "should not think that safety is guaranteed" because their country is over 1,000 kilometers from Russia, Wijnen said. "Russia is getting stronger."

Wijnen argued that while the government has allocated billions for spending on defense equipment, more personnel are needed due to the growing threat of war.

"The Netherlands must seriously fear a war and our society must prepare for this," Wijnen said, pointing to the examples of Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic states as well-prepared countries.

Military service has not been compulsory in the Netherlands since 1997, but the Defense Ministry recently introduced a voluntary "Service Year" for young people.

"It is not conscription, we prefer to call it the right to serve," Wijnen said. The 600 people who have taken part in the new initiative are "extremely enthusiastic" but further expansion is limited by a lack of training staff and space in military barracks.

Wijnen believes that Dutch society has become too used to the idea that there will always be peace. "The Netherlands must learn again that all members of society must be ready when things go wrong."

Wijnen has led the Dutch Army since 2019 and is standing down from his role on Jan. 1, 2024.

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