Switzerland’s iron-neutral status for centuries is about to face its biggest test in decades – and the reason for that is the war in Ukraine. The Swiss defense ministry is edging closer to western military powers in response to the Russian invasion, a new report shows.
Specifically, the paper deals with security options, which include joint military exercises with NATO countries and the “replenishment” of ammunition, as Paelvi Pulli, head of security policy at the Swiss Defense Ministry, confirmed to the Reuters news agency on Thursday. Pulli did not comment on the details of the new political considerations in Switzerland, which are currently the subject of discussions in the government.
“Ultimately there could be changes in the interpretation of neutrality,” Pulli said in an interview last week. As reported by the Swiss media, Defense Minister Viola Amherd said during a visit to Washington this week that Switzerland wanted to work more closely with the US-led military alliance, but did not want to join it.
The neutrality that kept Switzerland out of the two world wars in the 20th century was not an end in itself, but wanted to increase Switzerland’s security, security chief Paelvi Pulli also made it clear. Other options are high-level and regular meetings between Swiss and NATO commanders and politicians, she said.
Such a close rapprochement between Switzerland and NATO would mean a departure from the carefully cultivated Schwyz tradition of not taking sides. Swiss neutrality has many supporters – quite a few claim that it has helped Switzerland to prosper peacefully and maintain a special role as a mediator between other states – as in the West’s confrontation with the Soviet Union, for example.
The idea of full membership in NATO – which the also historically neutral countries Sweden and Finland will now join – has been discussed – but this step will probably not be recommended for Switzerland in the report, according to Pulli.
The report should be completed by the end of September and then submitted to the Swiss cabinet for review. It will then be presented to the Parliament for discussion and will serve as a basis for possible decisions on the future direction of Swiss security policy. The report itself will not be put to the vote.
The Swiss Ministry of Defense will also participate in a more comprehensive study being prepared by the Foreign Ministry. This project will look at the adoption of sanctions, weapons, ammunition exports and the relationship with NATO from a neutral perspective, the Swiss foreign ministry said on Thursday.