Switzerland Vetos Danish Military Aid To Ukraine, Country Grapples With Neutrality

Switzerland Vetos Danish Military Aid To Ukraine, Country Grapples With Neutrality


Switzerland has blocked a move by Denmark to deliver around 20 Piranha three-crew cars to Ukraine. Meant as military aid to help in their war against a Russian invasion, Switzerland has vetoed the transfer of arms due to its own policies. These Piranha armoured personnel carriers were produced in Switzerland, which follows a strict policy that foreign countries must get direct and full permission before re-exporting Swiss-made arms to other nations.
Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs has previously shot down requests from other European nations seeking to send arms to Ukraine. A German request to re-export Swiss tank ammunition was rejected in April, and a Polish request to deliver weapons to Ukraine was also denied earlier in March.
While it is not really close to upsetting entirely the two-century policy of neutrality in Switzerland, the Russo-Ukrainian War has increasingly stirred up debate in the landlocked nation in Western Europe. In a radical departure from prior practice, the country has been involved in European sanctions against Russia since late February.
Switzerland was granted “eternal neutrality” at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. It was a pragmatic, geopolitical move that was supported because the country was seen as a harmless buffer between Europe’s big powers. They had France on one side, Austria and Prussia on the other, and this move preserved Switzerland’s safety while its neighbours slaughtered each other. However, during World War II, Swiss neutrality was more self-preserving and economical than heroic. In addition to mobilizing all its able-bodied men to defend its borders, Switzerland also banked immense amounts of wealth and gold looted by the Nazis and, in a shameful move designed to keep Germany at bay, turned away thousands of Jewish refugees, a policy it finally apologized for in the 1990s.
For decades, neutrality has enjoyed almost universal support among the Swiss, with opinion polls showing approval ratings of over 90%. Nonetheless, when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, thousands of Swiss citizens took to the streets, condemning the aggression and demanding support for Ukraine. Thousands also offered their homes to Ukrainian refugees, for whom the Swiss government has offered visa-free collective protection. For many young Swiss people, especially, there has been discontent that their country could stay neutral despite the events that have unfolded. While the Swiss government, which after hesitation, moved to adopt all the EU’s sanctions against Russia, this hasn’t always been the way. Just 40 years ago, Switzerland did not join sanctions against apartheid South Africa. An enduring shame that many Swiss regret. For context while most of Europe sanctioned South Africa in 1962, it would take the U.S and the U.K until 1986 before they finally joined sanctions.
Other recent polls found that, while two-thirds of Swiss still oppose NATO membership, more than half (52%) support a European defense union. This plan, known as Pesco (permanent structured military co-operation) by Brussels, would involve countries committing to a common security and defence policy. Armies would work together, and armaments would be jointly procured. The end goal: a common European army. While before the war, this would have been impossible to imagine for Switzerland, the war in Ukraine has clearly changed some opinions.
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