As every year, the Berlin Security Conference 2023 (BSC) is accompanied by a partner country. The Netherlands is closely involved in the organizational process and will contribute centrally to the program. But even beyond that, military cooperation between the Netherlands and the Federal Republic is close. It is a prime example of a successful common European security and defense policy.
The origins of the close military entanglement are the establishment of the 1st German-Dutch Corps in 1995, so the partnership has been a tradition for almost 30 years. During this period, however, other cooperative ventures have followed. Particularly noteworthy is the integration of the Dutch 11th Luchtmobielen Brigade (11th Air Mobility Brigade) into the German Fast Forces Division in 2014. Until that time, it had never been possible to integrate large units from two countries.
The core of the German-Dutch cooperation, however, remains the joint corps. 1,100 soldiers serve under Lieutenant General Nico Tak and Major General Andreas Hannemann. In an emergency, Tak and Hannemann are subordinate to up to 100,000 military personnel. The soldiers serve in multinational operations. In addition, they fulfill missions across all branches of the armed forces. This means that the soldiers of the Corps work in conjunction with, for example, the Air Force, the Navy or other organizational units of the Bundeswehr. For example, the I German-Dutch Corps provided the Joint Task Force Headquarters in 2021. Because it is capable of leading several brigades while coordinating elements of the Navy, Air Force and Special Forces, it was ideally suited for this task. In addition to the corps headquarters in Münster, two binational units, a telecommunications battalion, and a staff and support battalion are directly subordinate to the headquarters. Also worth noting is the Corps’ mobile command post. It can perform its function independently without any other infrastructure. If necessary, the first soldiers are ready to leave after 48 hours at the latest.
However, cooperation is not limited to the undertakings listed above. Germany and the Netherlands are cooperating comprehensively and in all dimensions. At the maritime level, both nations are striving for the gradual integration of the German Navy’s maritime battalion into the Dutch one. A corresponding memorandum of understanding has already been signed.
Since March 2016, the Dutch 43rd Mechanized Brigade has been subordinated to the German Army’s 1st Armored Division. Around 3,000 Dutch soldiers are thus integrated into the 1st Armored Division. In addition, the 13th Light Brigade integrated into the 10th Armored Division on March 30, 2023. Thus, all three Dutch brigades are subordinate to German divisions.
The Air Force is not exempt from the trusting cooperation with the Netherlands. Project Apollo merged the German and Dutch ground-based air defense units. The German 61st Air Defense Missile Group was placed under the Defensie Grondgebonden Luchtverdedigings Commando.
For decades, the Bundeswehr and the Nederlandse krijgsmacht have demonstrated how the closest international military cooperation can succeed. In view of the security situation in Europe and the increased explosive nature of alliance and national defense, international cooperation is of central importance. The goal of BSC 2023 is to debate possible solutions for this tense security situation in Europe. The Netherlands, as a highly networked European player, can provide decisive impetus in this regard.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Minister of Defense Hanke Bruins Slot and General Onno Eichelsheim, Commander of the Dutch Armed Forces will speak at the BSC.