Throughout the violent, war-torn 20th century, Switzerland managed to avoid destruction while most of the rest of Europe burned because the Swiss maintained an official position of neutrality, but those days may be coming to an end.
After both Finland and Sweden finally applied to become part of the NATO alliance more than seven decades after it was formed, the Swiss are beginning to feel much more vulnerable, apparently, especially in light of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the escalating war there.
According to a report by Responsible Statecraft:
A group of Swiss lawmakers has moved forward a proposal to allow countries to give Swiss-made weapons to Ukraine, in a move that would soften Switzerland’s centuries-old policy of neutrality toward foreign conflicts.
The decision would represent a significant break from the policy of Swiss neutrality, though its supporters insist that the measure would not violate their law of neutrality since Bern would not be sending weapons directly.
“The majority of the committee believes Switzerland must offer its contribution to European security, which requires more substantial aid to Ukraine,” the Swiss parliamentary security committee said in a statement.
The report noted that Swiss neutrality has been maintained at least since 1815, when Bern assisted other European powers in the defeat of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte for the second and last time. Since that era, Switzerland has been able to avoid direct confrontation and participation in foreign wars, even avoiding being drawn into World War II by avoiding taking sides. It is said that both Allied and Axis officers relaxed, wined, and dined in the country during the conflict.
“But the war in Ukraine has tested this policy. In May of last year, Swiss authorities agreed under pressure from the West to freeze the assets of several hundred sanctioned Russians, including President Vladimir Putin. Bern also closed its airspace to Russian planes,” Responsible Statecraft noted.
“Despite these shifts, allowing Swiss weapons to see the battlefield has so far been a red line. Last year, Switzerland denied several requests from Germany and Denmark to re-export Swiss-made arms to Ukraine. The country is currently considering a similar request from Spain, but leaders in Bern have signaled that Madrid’s petition is unlikely to be approved,” the report said.
If the proposal passes, it would create an exception that would allow Swiss-made weapons to be exported to an active war zone so long as those weapons are summarily used to fight “a violation of the international ban on the use of force,” which would surely apply in this case since Russia invaded Ukraine without provocation.
Meanwhile, and in spite of nuclear saber-rattling by Russian officials, some within the Pentagon want Brandon to sign off on sending Ukraine F-16 fighters in a new escalation of the war there following Moscow’s invasion nearly a year ago, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.
Brandon has not signed off on this yet, but the fact that the Pentagon is openly advocating for it means that Brandon is coming under increasing internal pressure to ramp up U.S. aid to Kyiv in the face of an almost certain Russian response should the planes be delivered.
The discussion on whether to send F-16s has been ongoing for weeks, if not months, the report noted, with the White House taking its time to decide on the best course of action. But to that end, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been lobbying hard for the fourth-generation fighter jets with a top speed of 1,200 miles per hour.
Deputy national security adviser Jonathan J. Finer said that while there hasn’t been a decision made, the possibility that Ukraine could get the aircraft hasn’t been officially taken off the table. Also, he said that top Pentagon military leaders are keen on the idea.
“We have not ruled in or out any specific systems,” Finer said, according to The Telegraph.
A senior U.S. defense official noted as well: “I don’t think we are opposed.”