[Editorial] Switzerland: butter, butter money and the countess as a bonus

(B2) Switzerland is developing an arms industry for export, wants to get closer to NATO but prohibits any re-export of arms to Ukraine. In the name of its neutrality. The Europeans will have to draw the consequences. Buying from Swiss industry today is risky for strategic autonomy. It will have to be done. Also suspending the arrangement with the European Defense Agency is an option to be studied.

Cyber, one of the areas where Switzerland would like to get closer to NATO (Photo: Swiss Armed Forces – taking command of Cyber ​​Battalion 42 – B2 Archives)

What does Switzerland want? Bern intends to draw closer to NATO as well as to the European Union. This is a desire clearly expressed in a document published by the Confederation last September. Switzerland, which already participates in NATO's interoperability platform, also hopes to obtain the status of privileged partner, says " new opportunities "(alias EOP), reserved for a few happy few (Australia, Georgia, Ukraine). Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd was at NATO headquarters on Wednesday to try to convince her interlocutors. Without really succeeding.

Swiss neutrality, a problem? A priori not, at least according to NATO. The Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said this expressly on Wednesday: the neutrality "Swiss is not" in no way an obstacle to their collaboration ».

What is blocking? Bern still refuses to see the equipment and materials it has sold to other European countries - for example the vehicles sold to Denmark or the ammunition for the German Cheetah - re-exported to Ukraine for the needs of the Ukrainian forces engaged to defend their territory against Russia. It is the law on war material which prohibits the export of Swiss armaments to countries in civil war or in armed conflict with another State. The Swiss government has tried to relax the law. Nothing worked: the Swiss parliament refused, very recently (March 8).

Commentary: Swiss hypocrisy made Queen

The Europeans must tell their facts to the Swiss: we cannot proclaim ourselves neutral, use this neutrality when it suits, cover it with a handkerchief at other times, and fail in minimum solidarity afterwards.

Getting closer to the Alliance means renouncing neutrality

To become more integrated into the Atlantic Alliance is today to clearly choose one's side. That is to say, assume that you are no longer neutral. NATO is no longer at all the organization of the 2000s with if not cordial relations with Russia, at least animated by a certain spirit of cooperation. Allies and Westerners are today strongly committed to massive military support for Ukraine, considering Russia not only as an adversary, but as an enemy that must be “neutralised”. We can therefore speak of war, by proxy.

Selling for export means taking the risk

On the side of the arms industry, we are swimming in complete hypocrisy. You cannot export ammunition, one of the main points of national production, and prohibit its use. In 2022, Swiss exports alone represented nearly one billion CHF (same in €). A figure up by 212 million compared to 2021. Exports oriented largely towards the countries of the Alliance (Germany, Denmark, Germany, etc.), but also towards two countries which are not really democratic models: Qatar (1st export destination) and Saudi Arabia (4th position). Exporting lethal armaments to Saudi Arabia at war in Yemen is therefore possible, but not the re-export of European armaments to Ukraine?

The best solution for Europeans: stop buying Swiss

Europeans will have to learn lessons for tomorrow. Firstly, it is very risky in terms of European strategic autonomy to equip oneself with Swiss manufacturers. It is safer to do without buying from Swiss companies in the future.

Secondly, it will no doubt be necessary to review the administrative arrangement that Switzerland has with the European Defense Agency. Or at least suspend it. It is not desirable for Switzerland to be able to have it both ways: to participate in the European effort, to benefit from its innovation efforts, but not to ensure minimal solidarity afterwards.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

NB: B2 sought to have the position of the Minister of Defense after the meeting at NATO. Access to the Swiss mission where the press conference was held was denied. " Forbidden to European correspondents said the press service of the embassy.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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