The Constants of Dutch Foreign Policy

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Only one year later, in December 1979, NATO took its so-called dual-track decision: the pursuit of multilateral arms reduction coupled to the modernisation of the Alliance's long-range theatre nuclear weapons. As part of the deployment of 572 new nuclear delivery systems, the Dutch were to accept the stationing of 48 cruise and Pershing II missiles on Dutch territory. The Dutch government made formal reservations to these plans in what became known as 'the Dutch footnote' to the protocol of the NATO meeting. Despite these reservations the government narrowly escaped a vote of no confidence in the following parliamentary debate. Actually, the Dutch footnote was the first step of what was to become one of the classic examples of' 'depoliticisation' in Dutch politics.

Domestic opposition to the cruise missiles was fierce. More and more people rallied around IKV's slogan, 'Rid the world of nuclear weapons; starting with the Netherlands' (surveys showed that more than half the population agreed with the catch phrase). In 1981 about 400000 people participated in a demonstration against the missiles in Amsterdam; the following year 550000 people marched through The Hague in a similar demonstration; and in 1983 3.2 million Dutch citizens petitioned the government to reject NATO's nuclear modernisation. Of the major parties, the Labour Party was adamantly opposed to the missiles (but one third of its voters favoured accepting the weapons on Dutch territory) and made its position a major plank in its platform. The Liberal Party welcomed the NATO plans (but one third of its voters rejected the missiles), and the CDA was divided. For the Christian Democrats the issue was particularly threatening: we have already mentioned the involvement of the churches in the peace movement. The Dutch Reformed Church had already rejected the use of nuclear weapons as un-Christian in 1962. Moreover, the NATO decision came at a particularly awkward moment for the Christian Democrats. The CDA had only just been formed and had not really amalgamated yet. A group ofMPs and party activists, especially from the former ARP, feared (correctly, as it later turned out) that the new party would shift to the right. They opposed the formation of a governing coalition with the VVD in 1977, and they now used the issue of the cruise missiles to strengthen their position within the party. Following its reservations in the Dutch footnote, the govern­ment sought to depoliticise the issue by postponing a decision: each year it announced to its NATO partners that a decision would be taken next year. Eventually, in 1984, this position became untenable within the Alliance. Prime Minister Lubbers then came up with one of the most ingenious depoliticisation ploys in the history of consociationalism: a final decision to accept the American missiles was to be postponed one more year. If, by 1 November 1985, the Soviets had not increased the number of their SS-20 missiles, the Dutch would refuse to accept the missiles, whereas an increase in the number of Soviet missiles would lead to automatic acceptance of the cruise and Pershing II missiles. In practice this clever manoeuvre shifted responsibility for Dutch foreign policy to the Kremlin! After a year the Soviets appeared to have added to the number of their missiles, and without any significant protest it was decided to accept the American weapons. Shortly thereafter Gorbachev and Reagan reached an arms reduction agreement, making the Netherlands the only NATO country that had accepted the Pershing II and cruise missiles, but where they never arrived.

The Dutch opposition to the neutron bomb, and the subsequent reluctance to accept their share of the cruise missiles, have led to the diagnosis of 'Hollanditis', a supposedly contagious Dutch disease. Laqueur and others have speculated about a re-emergence of the tradition of neutralist abstentionism, now that both gratitude for American aid and fear of Soviet expansionism have waned. Such a diagnosis can be valid only if it is accepted that the penchant for neutralism disappeared when the Netherlands joined the Atlantic Alliance. Neutralism can then be said to have been pushed to the background by the exceptional circumstances of the first post-war decades. Now that things are returning to normal, the Dutch return to neutralism. If, on the other hand, we agree with the view that NATO only provided the security umbrella under which the Dutch could continue to foster their aloofness from power politics, the Dutch misgivings about nuclear weapons cannot be interpreted in this way. In this respect it is interesting to note that, whilst the percentage of the population agreeing that NATO contributes to detente in Europe dropped from 65 in 1968 to 39 in 1978, the proportion of the population in favour of continued membership of NATO did not decrease significantly.

Реферат опубликован: 17/03/2009