The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted increased defense preparations across Western Europe. Many nations have increased spending and procurement to bring their forces up to date. Additionally, NATO nations have increased joint training operations to improve interoperability. Perhaps most notably, the Dutch Army announced that all three of its combat brigades would be integrated into the German Army.
As a founding member of NATO, the Royal Netherlands Army’s doctrine focuses heavily on cooperation with allied armies. To make up for its small size, at least compared to other European armies, the Dutch Army has partnered with the German Army. Both countries operate the Leopard 2 main battle tank and over 70% of the population of the Netherlands speaks German. Failing that, over 90% speak English, so the language barrier between the two armies is minimal.
In 2014, the first Dutch combat brigade was integrated into the German Army. The 11th Air Assault Brigade (Netherlands), a rapid light infantry brigade, was brought under the command of the Rapid Forces Division, an airborne division of the German Army. In 2017, the Romanian 81st Mechanized Brigade was also aligned with the Rapid Forces Division.
In 2016, the joint Dutch-German 414 Tank Battalion, which is comprised of one Dutch company and three German companies all fielding Leopard 2 tanks, was integrated into the Dutch Army’s 43 Mechanised Brigade. In turn, the brigade was integrated into the German Army’s 1st Panzer Division.
In September 2022, Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren told the Dutch parliament that the option of integrating the Dutch Army’s final combat brigade, the 13th Light Brigade, into the German Army was being “investigated.” On February 1, 2023, Bloomberg reported that Germany and the Netherlands are working on integrating the 13th Light Brigade and its wheeled, armored vehicles into the German 10th Panzer Division.
Major Mark van de Beek, a spokesperson for the Royal Netherlands Army, told Bloomberg via telephone that the merger of the last Dutch combat brigade could happen as soon as early April, though the Dutch government has yet to make a final decision. With the Dutch Army of roughly 8,000 soldiers fully integrated into the German Army, it would create a force of about 50,000 personnel. Moreover, the two armies are considering joint purchases of future military equipment and standardization of regulations.