Dutch Defense considering €2.5-billion submarine purchase

Dutch submarine the Zeeleeuw (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Björn Hamels Hfodf). (Dutch submarine the Zeeleeuw (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Björn Hamels Hfodf))

The Dutch Ministry of Defense is considering buying four new submarines for at least 2.5 billion euros. But experts are concerned that the actual costs will easily reach around 4 billion euros, the Volkskrant reports. 

So far there hasn't been much public or political debate on the purchase of the submarines. The Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, will discuss it on March 16th. Defense-expert Margriet Drent of Clingendael worries that the parliamentarians will find it difficult to make an "independent decision" and exert influence on whether or not the purchase goes through, "given the dominant role of the Navy in the information provision". According to the newspaper, a lobby of Navy, companies and research institutes has been working for years to make everyone ready and willing for this acquisition.

The decision will only be formally made in 2018, but the national budget already booked more than 2.5 billion euros in additional spending on submarines for the period 2023 to 2028, according to the newspaper.

Defense wants to use the submarines particularly to protect trade routes along the sea and to take part in intelligence operations. NATO regularly calls on the Netherlands for boats. According to Defense, the Netherlands is important to NATO especially due to the exceptional capacity of its submarines. The diesel-electric submarines can come closer to the coast than the French and British boats, which makes them better at spying.

Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert of Defense will send the Tweede Kamer a letter explaining exactly how many submarines are involved and an indication of what they will cost next month. According to the newspaper, the governing coalition VVD and PvdA are already in favor of the acquisition. Despite the fact that spending on submarines may be a questionable decision. An advice the Advisory Council for International Affairs published last year stated that investments in the military must primarily be done in "acute deficiencies" and "basic combat capacity". Investments in submarines should only be considered when there is a "significant increase" to the budget.