The end of ambiguity, the beginning of transparency?

June 10, 2013

By Susi Snyder, Nuclear Disarmament Programme Leader for IKV Pax Christi 

In a National Geographic documentary on the cold war, former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers broke the cone of silence surrounding the U.S. nuclear weapons stored at the Volkel air base in the Netherlands.

For decades, the Netherlands (along with most other NATO allies) have kept a policy of ambiguity around the presence of these weapons on their territories. The Germans, in their government coalition agreement of 2009, first broke the silence on this. Now the former Dutch head of state is following suit.

The news has made quite a stir on twitter this morning already. With two Dutch members of parliament- Sjoerd W. Sjoerdsma (D66) and Raymond Knops(CDA) tweeting reactions and support for the removal of these weapons.

The timing couldn’t be better, with American debates taking place this week about the budget for modernisation of these weapons – hopefully American lawmakers will hear the (old) news:  The Dutch don’t want your bombs!

This has been the stated position of parliament for several years. A parliamentary resolution in 2010 called on then Dutch government to inform the United States that its nuclear weapons were no longer required for Dutch security.  The message was reaffirmed in a parliamentary motion at the end of 2012, when Dutch MPs called on the government to act to have the weapons removed from Europe, and to recommend the US not continue its planned modernisation programme.

In response to a parliamentary request for new Dutch policy on nuclear weapons, the current Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans is expected to release an outline of his policy in the coming few weeks (before 21 June).  IKV Pax Christi issued a publication at the beginning of the year encouraging greater transparency, among other things, in Dutch policy. This revelation by Ruud Lubbers lifts the official secrecy veil and offers Mr. Timmermans the opportunity to acknowledge the presence of the nuclear weapons and outline how the Netherlands will uphold its commitments to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons in its national security policy.

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