Faced with the war in Ukraine, Switzerland assumes its neutrality by destroying anti-aircraft batteries

These 60 defense systems will be scrapped when they could have been useful in kyiv. This is the confirmation of the Swiss Confederation’s refusal to get involved in the conflict.

A Swiss flag, June 21, 2022. (Illustrative image). (AFP)

The Zürich newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung which revealed the matter this weekend: Switzerland has decided to get rid of its surface-to-air batteries Rapier, of British manufacture. 60 systems acquired by the Swiss Confederation in the 1980s, regularly updated since then, before being declared unfit for service three months ago even though this type of equipment is typically part of Ukraine’s needs. This is the last indication of the Swiss refusal to come out of its neutrality. In recent weeks, Bern has similarly refused Germany to supply Ukraine with nearly 12,000 munitions for the Guepard anti-aircraft tanks. Because this ammunition was manufactured in Switzerland and the export clauses prohibit transferring it to a country at war.
Same end of inadmissibility for Denmark and Spain who wanted to send Piranha armored vehicles to kyiv, also manufactured in Switzerland. And it’s not going to stop there. Soon, our neighbors must also scrap hundreds of American-made tanks and guns, the M113 and M109. Deemed expired. But there is no question of sending them to Ukraine either, rather sending them to scrap.

The denunciation of the “war frenzy”

This is consistent with Switzerland’s famous policy of neutrality, a policy reaffirmed on March 8 in New York, on the sidelines of the UN, by the President of the Swiss Confederation. The socialist Alain Berset insists: “Swiss weapons must not be used in wars”. A paradoxical affirmation: a priori, the destination of a weapon is all the same to be used in a conflict. Alain Berset develops another argument: he denounces “a murderous frenzy in certain circles”. And he adds: “I respect the position of other countries, but the Swiss position must also be respected”. This neutrality, which dates from the 17th century, was formalized in 1815 and reaffirmed in 1993 by a report from the Federal Council. It does not prevent Switzerland from adopting European economic sanctions against Russia. But in practice, this is mainly up to the banks. And in the end, only 7 billion euros were frozen by the Swiss. Which is not much given the fortunes of the oligarchs.

A beginning of questioning of neutrality

That said, unanimity no longer prevails in the country on this subject. Officially 90% of Swiss support neutrality. But more and more voices are being raised to denounce the indecency of this neutrality which stops where economic interests begin. Switzerland sells a lot of arms, the equivalent of 1% of its gross domestic product. Several elected environmentalists, liberals, Christian democrats, socialists, recommend revising this position. Only the UDC, the populist right-wing movement wants to maintain neutrality at all costs. And proposes to enshrine it in the Constitution. But according to polls, 53% of Swiss people reject this idea of permanent neutrality. A sign of the times, this drawing by the famous Swiss press cartoonist Chapatte, which appeared in the newspaper Le Temps. We see in the background, a Russian tank, on the right, which bombards a Ukrainian city, on the left. And in the foreground, in the middle, a Swiss businessman, paunchy and in a suit and tie, who preaches morality, his finger raised, proclaiming: “Let us remember that in this conflict, there is an aggressor, an attacked, and a neutral “.