Ukraine war: supply weapons and cooperate with NATO? Switzerland is struggling with its neutrality

There are two countries in Europe that are visibly struggling to position themselves in the Ukraine conflict.

Ukraine war: supply weapons and cooperate with NATO? Switzerland is struggling with its neutrality

There are two countries in Europe that are visibly struggling to position themselves in the Ukraine conflict. In Austria, a debate about the much-vaunted neutrality had already flared up in April (the star reported). The country is still following the course – most recently by speaking out against the European visa ban for Russian citizens. Switzerland has also been at odds with its neutrality since the beginning of the war. The government only hesitantly joined the international sanctions against Russia in February - and in doing so immediately drew criticism from the entrepreneur and former member of the Swiss Federal Council, Christoph Blocher. The advocate of perpetual neutrality was displeased with the government's decision. Because Switzerland had made itself a war party.

In an initiative text, he now calls for integral neutrality. In other words, Switzerland should remain “always armed and neutral”. The follow-up treaties after the Congress of Vienna (1815) also provide for this. Blocher also urges that military alliances of any kind be ruled out. The only exception: a military attack on the Alpine republic. Switzerland should therefore no longer join sanctions. Their only task in times of war should be mediation between conflicting parties. In this regard, however, another country has stood out in recent months.

In any case, Blocher's initiative text is unlikely to go down well with Swiss citizens. A recent survey by the Military Academy (MILAK) at ETH Zurich and the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich shows that since Russia invaded Ukraine, some have taken a critical view of its much-vaunted neutrality. Although 89 percent of those surveyed still support the principle of neutrality, approval in January was still 97 percent. Almost 60 percent still believe that neutrality protects the country from international conflicts - also a good ten percent less than at the beginning of the year. Instead, approval ratings for cooperation with NATO peak. The desire to join the military alliance has also increased in comparison, although a large majority still opposes it.

A spirit of reform is going around in the country. This is shown not only by the survey, but also by a course led by Federal President Ignazio Cassis. He commissioned the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (EDA) to conduct a study on the realignment of neutrality. Corresponding media reports from Switzerland were confirmed by the authorities when asked by stern. A spokeswoman did not want to give details of the paper, which according to media reports is already circulating.

The report was handed over to the Federal Council in mid-August, writes the NZZ. This "will deal with the report in the next two to three weeks and then present it to the public," is the written reply from the EDA. "An exact date is not yet known. At this point in time, the FDFA cannot provide any further information," said the spokeswoman. Even on the official website it is not more concrete. Just this much: The report should be adopted in the summer – so the Federal Council still has 23 days.

According to initial information that has already leaked to the Swiss press, the FDFA and the Federal President are planning "cooperative neutrality". Cassis already used the term in his opening speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, signaling his country's willingness to cooperate. At the time, Cassis described Switzerland as a "neutral country committed to a rule-based and stable security architecture that can only develop multilaterally". In the FDFA draft, there are five scenarios of what "Switzerland's neutrality in the 21st century" could look like:

The speech of the Federal President is not the only argument in favor of option number three – that is, cooperative neutrality. In its draft, the FDFA points out that this would make it easier for Switzerland to position itself in foreign policy. At the same time, previous decisions, such as support for the sanctions, can be secured.

However, critics see the whole fuss about Swiss neutrality as a bogus debate. For the head of the research center for diplomatic documents in Switzerland, Sacha Zala, it is about the orientation of foreign policy, which nobody actually wants to discuss. The neutrality creates identity and also neutralizes possible internal conflicts. However, the researcher also has to admit that a neutral foreign policy has become increasingly difficult in the period after the Iron Curtain due to increasing networking.

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