Joint Air & Space Power Conference 2017
Address by General T. A. Middendorp
By General Thomas A. Middendorp, NLD Army
Address on the Occasion of the International Press Conference in Eygelshoven on 15 December 2016
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, welcome here in Eygelshoven, in southern Limburg. Or – as I should now say: Welcome to the Army Prepositioned Stocks Eygelshoven.
Because as of today, 1,600 US armored vehicles will be stored, and serviced, at this site. To be able to defend NATO territory, whenever necessary. It is why I would like to thank Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the Commanding General of the US Army Europe, and all his colleagues from all the US services, for their continuous commitment and support.
Europe, after all, is no longer just an exporter of security. Today, we also face instability close to home. Look at the military activities of Russia. The European Union’s biggest neighbour. In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and thereby violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia also destabilized the eastern part of Ukraine, and is regularly conducting large-scale military exercises, involving tens of thousands of troops, right on the borders of our NATO territory. Without giving any notification or warning in advance.
Obviously, these sudden exercises not only violate international agreements, they also increase the risks of misunderstandings and accidents. As you can imagine, these exercises, for instance, are very threatening for our eastern Allies. Like Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. When visiting the Baltic states, I experienced this for myself. Standing there, near the Russian border, you could feel the tense atmosphere. So I understand why these countries – and their people – feel concerned. And why they fear that Russia could also interfere in their countries.
Let’s not forget they saw what happened in Ukraine, and they have a long history with Russia. But the Russian military activities are not just a concern for our eastern Allies. They are a concern for all of us.
Our NATO Alliance, after all, is built on a firm foundation of solidarity and mutual assistance. Article 5 is crystal clear about that. ‘An attack on one, is an attack on all.’ It means we always need to safeguard our common security. To stand side by side.
This is also why NATO is establishing an enhanced forward presence in the eastern region of the Alliance, why my men and women, together with other allied military personnel, are training with our eastern partners, why we continue to provide our fighter jets to patrol the airspace above the Baltic countries, why we contribute to the VJTF, NATO’s rapid reaction force, and why we now support the United States, our close Ally, with this forward storage site.
Because we want to make sure, we are taking proportional and measured steps to defend our Alliance when needed. Because we want to make sure we are sending a clear signal to Russia that we will not accept any violation of NATO’s territorial integrity. Because we want to make sure that we are showing that we will not desert each other when the going gets tough.
And let me be absolutely clear: The last thing we want is to signal irreversible hostility towards Russia. Towards its people.
We do not want to risk escalation, or present a danger to another nation’s security. What we do want is to send a message of serious commitment and one of reassurance to all NATO members.
- To maintain our freedom and security.
- To prevent catastrophe.
- And keep Europe secure in a less secure world.
General Thomas A. ‘Tom’ Middendorp is a Royal Netherlands Army General. He is the Chief of Defence of the Armed forces of the Netherlands since 28 June 2012. He previously served as the Commander of Task Force Uruzgan part of the International Security Assistance Force from 2 February 2009 until 3 August 2009.