America's military faces reductions in force and spending that could have a ripple effect. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world's sea services: Some see U.S. global naval engagement diminishing and the world's power structure realigning itself over the coming decade. In what ways would this affect your navy?
The international arena is all about cooperation; the international maritime arena even more so. Seas and oceans have always connected peoples, countries and cultures. I am convinced they will continue to do so. Although confrontation has been unavoidable at times, history shows that ultimately cooperation is the key to wider development. Today, one cannot find more convincing proof than in the pirate-infested waters around Somalia. NATO, EU and Coalition task groups are joined by naval ships and aircraft from non-aligned countries such as China, Russia and India. They all share the common goal of ensuring a safe and free passage of shipping, which is of vital importance to global economic development. Their efforts are coordinated in frequent meetings. I could not have predicted this a decade ago.
When cooperation is the key, roles do not diminish; they merely adjust to what is needed in the light of national interest. Today’s prevalent threats to maritime security and safety are induced by organized crime and obscure syndicates. Illegal fishing, illicit trafficking, misuse of resources and the dumping of waste are grave threats. Mixed with weak or failed states and extremism, they make dangerous cocktails, often in areas frequently visited by natural disasters and plagued by humanitarian crises. All that may seem to occur in far away places, yet the effects—in the form of illegal immigration, drug abuse, and increasing transportation costs, which translate to higher retail prices—are felt in stores and supermarkets at home.
The arena that will continue to shape the long-standing cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) is this: Demonstrating the relevance of maritime power through increasingly effective and efficient responses to all threats.
I cannot see that extensive cooperation decreasing. Quite the contrary. Other players may join the arena, but in a closely connected global society so dependent on free access to resources and unhindered transportation by sea, combined efforts focusing on the common and crucial goal of maritime safety and security will most assuredly continue.
There is, however, another reality, one of budget reductions. Those force all of us to look closely at working together, not at sea, but even before we make it out to sea. Cooperation is designing new equipment, sharing lessons, education and training, and running programs. I concede that geographic distances and differences in culture, doctrine, and equipment may create hurdles. But those hurdles are there to be taken.
I am convinced that the U.S. Navy and the RNLN will continue to work together. Our common history, shared experiences and mutual commitment to maritime safety and security provide a strong basis, regardless of what one may of may not see in any crystal ball.