Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

From Defence Doctrine to National Security Strategy: The Case of the Netherlands

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

From Defence Doctrine to National Security Strategy: The Case of the Netherlands

Article excerpt


In describing Dutch security policy, the military model of levels of strategy is applied to the (civil) national security environment, followed by a discussion of the Netherlands Defence Doctrine (2005) and the Netherlands National Security Strategy (2007), and by a comparison of the Dutch security documents with American and Russian security strategies. The current security priorities of the Dutch Cabinet are climate change, polarisation and radicalisation in society, and energy supply assurance. The Dutch strategy was drafted by the Ministry of the Interior. However, as a political or grand strategy, it should be drawn up by the Ministry of General Affairs of the Prime Minister, to avoid interdepartmental competition.


In recent years the Netherlands has demonstrated an active approach in acquiring fundamental documents for its security policy. This article describes the development of the Dutch framework of security documents and discusses the current two key documents in particular. The article starts with some remarks on the theoretical basics of security policy related to the Dutch situation, followed by a description of the development and content of the Netherlands Defence Doctrine (NDD), which was published in 2005, and of the Netherlands National Security Strategy (NNSS), which was released in 2007. Based on the discussion of these two Dutch security documents, the scope of the article is enlarged by comparing them with each other and also with security strategies of the United States of America (US) and Russia. As a final point, some conclusions are presented on the development, content and value of the NNSS.


The fact that a state cites the safeguarding of its continuation in a national security policy is broadly accepted in principle. The objective of this policy is to ensure sovereignty, territorial integrity, welfare and stability by taking political, economic, social-cultural and military measures. Each state has specific interests. The use of armed forces is especially determined by the perception of the extent to which these interests are threatened. The conversion of interests into objectives takes place at the highest decision-making level, namely the political or grand strategy level.

An alternative way of explaining this political strategy is from the perspective of security. From this point of view, national security policy encompasses all activities regarding internal and external security. In this case, grand strategy is the product of the views of the state concerning the optimal guarantee of its security. Taking into account the anarchical nature of the international environment, the state is confronted with a diverse and extensive set of threats. The aim of grand strategy is to identify these threats and to generate options to repel them. Because of the fact that the means of the state are limited, the political strategy is tasked to prioritise threats and their neutralisation. As a consequence of limited resources, the military instrument, for example, as one of the security mechanisms of the state, should be employed in the most efficient way in order to meet the objectives of the grand strategy. (1)) This conversion of interests into objectives is portrayed by the schematic presentation of the levels of strategy (see Figure 1). This model consists of five levels--which influence one another--the dividing lines of which are not completely determined.

At the top level the conversion of interests is described in terms of the aforementioned political or grand strategy. This is the level of the national government, at which economic, diplomatic, psychological, military and other political processes are generated in a co-ordinated and synchronised way. Military strategy is found at the next level. This is the level at which military authorities, such as a chief of defence staff or commanders-in-chief of the armed forces employ the military means to meet the political-strategic objectives of the state. …

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