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N A T O
The Dutch decision to join the Atlantic Alliance was opposed only by the Communist party, and has never been seriously questioned. The original support for NATO should be understood against the backdrop of, on the one hand, gratitude for the American effort to liberate the Netherlands in 1945 and for Marshall Plan aid for rebuilding the ruined Dutch economy, tempered only marginally by anger over American pressure to end the successful military actions against Indonesian insurgents and, on the other hand, of growing anxiety over Soviet imperialism, fuelled particularly by the Communist take-over in Czechoslovakia in 1948. Perhaps the Dutch embraced NATO membership because it allowed them to continue as a naval power by compensating for the loss of the colonies .
Despite later criticisms of the participation in NATO by the then dictatorial regimes of Portugal and Greece, despite opposition to American involvement in Indo-China and Latin America, and even despite misgivings over NATO's nuclear strategy, public support for NATO membership has never wavered. The percentage in favour of leaving the Alliance has never exceeded 20 per cent, and no major party has ever advocated withdrawal from NATO, not even a 'French', partial, one. Especially during the first decades of the Alliance, the Netherlands acted as a particularly staunch ally and a loyal supporter of US leadership in the Alliance.
The Dutch share in NATO's defence expenditures has always been relatively high compared with that of other smaller member states such as Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Denmark, or Norway. The Dutch were among the 15 countries that joined the USA in the Korean War (a UN mission de iure, a US mission de facto). In 1957 the Netherlands wasted no time in becoming the first European ally to accept American nuclear missiles on its territory. While other member states demanded a say in the engagement) of such weaponry ('dual key'), the Dutch would have been happy to leave this responsibility entirely to the US government. Another quarrel with the Americans about Dutch colonialism, this time about the Dutch-Indonesian conflict over Papua New Guinea in 1961-2, did little to weaken the Dutch enthusiasm for the Atlantic Alliance. The long-serving Foreign Secretary, Joseph Luns (1956-71) stead-fastly refused to convey the protests of the Dutch Parliament over American intervention in Vietnam to Washington. As we shall discuss in the following section, the Dutch government always objected to plans for European rather than Atlantic defence arrangements, and served almost as an American proxy in the EC. One author even struggled to find a distinction between the Dutch role of faithful ally and that of a vassal or satellite state: the submission of .the Dutch to American leadership, he suggests, was not imposed, but voluntary .
With the retirement of Luns as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1971, the Dutch role as America's small but staunch ally abruptly came to an end. Over strong objections by the USA, the Dutch government supported acceptance of the People's Republic of China as a member of the UN in 1971. Luns's successors as Foreign Secretary had fewer misgivings about decrying US overt and covert involvement in Latin America, and particularly in Vietnam. One of them, Max van der Stoel, took pride in labelling the Netherlands a 'critical ally'. In 1975 the Dutch even targeted Cuba as one of the countries on which to concentrate its development aid. Within NATO the change in Dutch policy is evidenced by an increased emphasis on arms control negotiations, and in particular on reduction of nuclear weapons. The proposed deployment in 1977-8 of the 'neutron bomb', or the 'enhanced radiation, reduced blast' weapon as it was called officially, met with strong public opposition in the Netherlands. More than 1.2 million citizens signed petitions against the neutron bomb, which probably contributed to the vote in the Dutch Parliament not to accept the proposals by the Carter administration. The episode of the neutron bomb is important, because the issue ('a bomb that kills people, but saves property') served to mobilise a large portion of the population into what became known as 'the peace movement': a loose coalition of Left-wing political parties, trade unions, fringe groups, and individuals, dominated by two organisations linked to the churches in the Netherlands, the Catholic Pax Christi and the ecumenical Interchurch Peace Council (IKV). The fact that President Carter eventually decided to shelve plans for the production and the deployment of the neutron bomb was interpreted by the peace movement as a victory, and reinforced its resolve.
Only one year later, in December 1979, NATO took its so-called dual-track decision: the pursuit of multilateral arms reduction coupled to the modernisation of the Alliance's long-range theatre nuclear weapons. As part of the deployment of 572 new nuclear delivery systems, the Dutch were to accept the stationing of 48 cruise and Pershing II missiles on Dutch territory. The Dutch government made formal reservations to these plans in what became known as 'the Dutch footnote' to the protocol of the NATO meeting. Despite these reservations the government narrowly escaped a vote of no confidence in the following parliamentary debate. Actually, the Dutch footnote was the first step of what was to become one of the classic examples of' 'depoliticisation' in Dutch politics.
Domestic opposition to the cruise missiles was fierce. More and more people rallied around IKV's slogan, 'Rid the world of nuclear weapons; starting with the Netherlands' (surveys showed that more than half the population agreed with the catch phrase). In 1981 about 400000 people participated in a demonstration against the missiles in Amsterdam; the following year 550000 people marched through The Hague in a similar demonstration; and in 1983 3.2 million Dutch citizens petitioned the government to reject NATO's nuclear modernisation. Of the major parties, the Labour Party was adamantly opposed to the missiles (but one third of its voters favoured accepting the weapons on Dutch territory) and made its position a major plank in its platform. The Liberal Party welcomed the NATO plans (but one third of its voters rejected the missiles), and the CDA was divided. For the Christian Democrats the issue was particularly threatening: we have already mentioned the involvement of the churches in the peace movement. The Dutch Reformed Church had already rejected the use of nuclear weapons as un-Christian in 1962. Moreover, the NATO decision came at a particularly awkward moment for the Christian Democrats. The CDA had only just been formed and had not really amalgamated yet. A group ofMPs and party activists, especially from the former ARP, feared (correctly, as it later turned out) that the new party would shift to the right. They opposed the formation of agoverning coalition with the VVD in 1977, and they now used the issue of the cruise missiles to strengthen their position within the party. Following its reservations in the Dutch footnote, the government sought to depoliticise the issue by postponing a decision: each year it announced to its NATO partners that a decision would be taken next year. Eventually, in 1984, this position became untenable within the Alliance. Prime Minister Lubbers then came up with one of the most ingenious depoliticisation ploys in the