Foreign Min. open to giving Ukraine military support as Russian troop build-up continues
The Dutch Cabinet is open to defensive military support for Ukraine, said Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra in a parliamentary debate on the topic. According to him, Ukraine asked the Netherlands for arms assistance on Thursday. A parliamentary majority supports sending weapons to the country.
Ukraine's request will be assessed according to European arms expert criteria, as usual, Hoekstra said. He stressed that the Cabinet will "explicitly consider the current context." Over 100,000 Russian soldiers have gathered on the border with Ukraine.
Russia also announced military exercises at sea involving over 140 ships, 60 aircraft, and about 10,000 soldiers. The practices will be held in January and February in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, and Pacific Oceans, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated. The navies of Russia, China, and Iran have also begun combat exercises in the northern Indian Ocean - the third such joint exercise since 2019.
Previously, the Netherlands was against military aid to Ukraine. But the situation has changed, the Minister said. "The context changes almost daily." He has "great concerns" about the Russian troop build-up. The United States thinks that the Russians will invade the neighboring country.
Also if Ukraine makes a request for weapons to NATO, the Netherlands will be "open" to it. The government is also looking "benevolently and openly" at a European training mission. Hoekstra is also open to support in the cyber field. A cyberattack hit Ukraine over the weekend.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Hoekstra want to visit Ukraine on 1 and 2 February. They want to "explicitly express our support for Ukraine," Hoekstra said. The government is committed to a diplomatic solution. But a Russian invasion - however limited - is "completely unacceptable" and will lead to "a strong backlash."
Hoekstra did not want to discuss what such a sanction package should look like. That is not good for "cohesion" in the EU discussion on the repercussions. The government does not seem to rule out anything. Parliament is in favor of harsh sanctions for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Only the PVV does not want "destructive sanctions" against Russia.
A majority in parliament is also open to defensive military support. "As VVD, we believe that we should be open to such a request," said Ruben Brekelmans. D66 parliamentarian Sjoerd Sjoerdsma also stated that he agreed with this. Agnes Mulder (CDA) keeps the "option open" but believes that the Cabinet should not use it immediately. The PvdA is "by definition" not against it, said Kati Piri. The SP and PVV are against it.
The United States and the United Kingdom are already supplying arms to the government in Kyiv. The Netherlands is helping Ukraine in a different way. Wounded Ukrainian soldiers are helped with rehabilitation in the Netherlands. In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels have been fighting the Ukrainian army for years.
Reporting by ANP.