Foreign Min. ready to provide military support to Ukraine as Russian troop build-up continues

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The Dutch cabinet is open to defensive military support for Ukraine, Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said during a parliamentary debate on the matter. According to him, Ukraine on Thursday asked the Netherlands for assistance in armament. A parliamentary majority supports sending arms to the country.

Ukraine’s request will be assessed according to the criteria of European arms experts, as usual, Hoekstra said. He stressed that the Cabinet will “explicitly consider the current context”. More than 100,000 Russian soldiers gathered at the border with Ukraine.

Russia has also announced military exercises at sea involving more than 140 ships, 60 aircraft and around 10,000 troops. The training will take place in January and February in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic and Pacific oceans, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The navies of Russia, China and Iran have also started 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 reinforcement of Russian troops. The United States thinks that the Russians will invade the neighboring country.

Moreover, if Ukraine makes a request for weapons from NATO, the Netherlands will be “open to it”. The government is also considering “with kindness and openness” a European training mission. Hoekstra is also open to support in the cyber domain. A cyberattack hit Ukraine this weekend.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Hoekstra want to visit Ukraine on February 1 and 2. They want to “explicitly express our support for Ukraine,” Hoekstra said. The government is committed to finding a diplomatic solution. But a Russian invasion – however limited – is “completely unacceptable” and will lead to “a strong backlash”.

Hoekstra wouldn’t discuss what such a set of sanctions should look like. This is not good for “cohesion” in the EU discussion on repercussions. The government does not seem to exclude anything. Parliament supports tough 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 think we should be open to such a request,” said Ruben Brekelmans. D66 parliamentarian Sjoerd Sjoerdsma also said he agreed with this. Agnes Mulder (CDA) maintains the “open option” but believes that the Cabinet should not use it immediately. The PvdA is “by definition” not against, said Kati Piri. The SP and the PVV are against it.

The United States and the United Kingdom already supply arms to the government in Kiev. The Netherlands helps Ukraine in a different way. Wounded Ukrainian soldiers are helped to rehabilitate in the Netherlands. In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels have been fighting the Ukrainian army for years.

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