Photo courtesy of US Department of Defense, Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Minister of Defense, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert visited the Pentagon in Washington DC today. She met her American counterpart, James Mattis, and they discussed military missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lithuania and Mali. They also spoke about the costs and responsibilities of alliances and the current situation in North Korea and Venezuela.

Minister Hennis visited the Pentagon at the invitation of Secretary Mattis. “The situation in the world is, at the very least, insecure. To protect our interests and values, close or far away, we need each other,” said Hennis. “No country can deal with the current issues alone, not even the US.”

Current missions

Mattis expressed his appreciation for the Dutch efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lithuania and Mali and stressed the importance of continuing. Dutch political decisions about these missions are expected by the end of the summer, Hennis informed Mattis. “We cannot afford to lean back.”

The United States is expected to present a revised strategy for Afghanistan soon, which will determine the continuation of the Resolute Support Mission. Both ministers agreed that a united military action of the coalition against ISIS is and remains necessary. After Mosul, the focus is now shifting to the remaining ISIS areas in Iraq and the liberation of Raqqa.

North Korea

The Minister’s visit coincides with the tense situation in North Korea. The quick and complete implementation of sanctions, which the United Nations Security Council has previously decided on, is now important. “Military escalation has catastrophic consequences, so de-escalation is now crucial,” Hennis said. Both ministers agree that North Korea must return to the negotiating table and give up its nuclear weapons and missile program.


The political situation and the increasingly worsening humanitarian situation in Venezuela is a cause of great concern too. “It is a neighbor of our Kingdom. The region and, in particular the Venezuelan population, will benefit from restoration of stability. We should remain calm and follow the path of negotiation and diplomatic pressure,” Hennis stressed.

Costs and responsibilities

Another important issue for the United States is a proportionate sharing of costs and responsibilities. Hennis informed her Secretary Mattis that “the European NATO countries have repeatedly committed themselves to higher spending on defense, so this applies to the Netherlands too.” Both ministers agree that it is about more than just money. “The output of European countries needs to be improved as well, for example by combining European forces. This will benefit not only the EU, but also NATO. It is about the same people and the same materials.” Hennis informed the Secretary about various EU initiatives, including the joint development and acquisition of military capacities.

An effective military effort is important in other areas too. Hennis recently explained her idea for a ‘military Schengen area’. This is also in the interest of the United States. Soldiers and equipment must be able to move quickly in Europe without obstacles and administrative procedures. “If we expect our forces to react quickly when they need to, then we should let them be able to do so.”