Toespraak van Commandant der Strijdkrachten Generaal Onno Eichelsheim bij NEDS 2023


Toespraak van Commandant der Strijdkrachten (CDS) van de Nederlandse krijgsmacht generaal Onno Eichelsheim bij het symposium NEDS 2023. Dit vond plaats  in AHOY Rotterdam, op 30 November 2023. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Verantwoordelijke Ministerie van Defensie
Thema Defensie
Documentsoort Toespraak
Publicatiedatum 04-12-2023
Documentdatum 30-11-2023
Onderwerp Krijgsmacht

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues and partners,

What will the world look like in 5 years’ time?

At the moment, that sounds like a strange question. Because we are at a turning point in history.  The wars in Ukraine and Israel are competing for space on the front pages of newspapers. In a short amount of time, we have gone from wars of choice to wars of necessity. Our field of work is changing faster than we can refresh the news on our phones. 

So it seems a strange question: what will the world look like in 5 years’ time? The honest answer is: no one is entirely sure. But there are things that I am sure of.

Ukraine and other allies will continue to need our support. And we will have to permanently continue to strengthen our own armed forces. Because the threats that surround us will not diminish.

We must take all possible scenarios into account. And whatever scenario becomes reality, the defence industry is indispensable.  It must, like the armed forces, be able to strengthen and scale up.

So I stand here with a not-very-modest wish list that includes the desire to at least double production capacity within 4 years. To impress on us all the need for speed. Because if we cannot increase the speed, if we cannot accelerate, it will be at the expense of our security.

Opponents are already rattling the gates of Europe. You do not need to be Chief of Defence to understand what we will have to deal with if those gates don’t hold.

What might happen if we are not able to deploy all the weapons we need; in a kinetic battle or in a disruptive battle in the cyber domain. Without a strong technological and industrial base, our striking power will be diminished.  Scaling up the production capacity and the innovative power of the business community represented here is literally a matter of life and death. 

Because this would enable an armed forces with sufficient ammunition and with the right weapons. Both the intangible weapons of diplomacy and cooperation, and the tangible weapons suited to the situation. The available quantity of both types of weapons is already under pressure.

And I am not only talking about the traditional land, sea and air domains. I am also referring to the space, seabed and cyber domains. We cannot choose to focus on just 1 of these domains, but must operate across domains in multidomain operations.

Military personnel must not only be able to navigate by using a compass, but also be able to operate by using complex systems. That is what we are aiming for: information-driven and multidomain operations, with adaptive and scalable armed forces. Fast and flexible, ready for manned and unmanned warfare.

This is not a future goal, but something we are working on now.  Together with you. Because by ‘we', I mean: Defence, industry, knowledge partners and society. Everyone has a role to play. Everyone who wants to protect his or her freedom. Peace is our collective responsibility.

Ukraine is a good example of this. Protection and defence is not just the responsibility of the Ukrainian government; Ukrainian citizens themselves have also taken on an important role. For example by restoring communications or power networks. Or by using data collection to combat disinformation. In Ukraine, ensuring security is clearly a collective task. We must further strengthen this awareness in European society, too.

That is why I believe that the Dutch government should set a good example. Especially at a time when everyone knows that having a strong Defence organisation is of great importance.  And there is broad support in society for a higher defence budget.

However, you know as well as I do that this is about more than merely allocating extra money to the armed forces. The government must facilitate the defence industry with the right policies and non-obstructive legislation, in order to attract, for example, private investment firms. Or with long-term security guarantees, such as the guarantee fund proposed by Minister Ollongren. In that way, we can lay the foundations for scaling up the defence industry, together with our European partners, all without significantly increasing the risks. 

And that is exactly what is needed now. A scaling up of the defence industry. On a structural basis, together with EU and NATO partners. Because if we don’t, we will lose the battle at the moment the front lines are no longer at the gate, but a stone’s throw away. With our opponents right in our front yards. And by then, it will be too late.

In addition to scaling up and consolidating existing industry, we are also looking at innovation. At the availability of the right weapons and new weapons, and how as allies we can use them together, in a smart way. I see innovation as a strategic imperative for effective deterrence and defence. 

Today, we will see countless examples at this trade show: knowledge institutes, government representatives, entrepreneurs and manufacturers from all over the world are offering us all kinds of opportunities.

But of course, it’s not just about today. By acting together, we can at the same time both improve standardisation and interchangeability of ammunition and materiel and prevent the fragmentation of our respective arsenals. By pooling our knowledge and strengths, we can sustainably scale up our production when it’s really needed, and use the right tools to deter and defend. As a commitment to maintaining peace, and to ensuring a military-strategic autonomous Europe, together. With strong shoulders for our allies, and mindful of our surroundings. I believe there is a great deal of willingness and energy to take on this challenge together, which is something that I like to see.

Because a strong defence industry is a commitment to working together to safeguard peace, in a sustainable way. We continue to be mindful of sustainable security: both in the sense of long-term security, and in the desire to carry out operations with a reduced environmental impact. Because we can all see that climate change is a source of instability. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem. We not only want to be able to pass on peace, security and freedom to future generations, but also a livable planet. Working in this way serves multiple purposes: climate adaptation, independence in the international value chain and the military-strategic autonomy of Europe.

Dear colleagues and partners,

Today I will take inspiration from looking around the trade show and talking to you.  I will walk around with a willingness to listen and a curious eye. But also with that not-very-modest wish list in my pocket: the desire to at least double production capacity within 4 years. What do you need in order to scale up quickly? Be honest with me and tell me what problems you are facing, or what doors are closed to you. 

My hope is that in 5 years’ time we will be able to look back with a measure of satisfaction, and even pride, at what we have achieved — Defence, industry, knowledge partners and society, together. That we will have taken collective responsibility for peace and security, and in doing so, together have protected what we value.

Thank you.