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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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International

Switzerland’s neutrality prevents its weapons from going to Ukraine

Feb 28, 2023

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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Switzerland is a small European nation known for things like the Alps, neutrality and weapons development. Because of the latter two, the Swiss government finds itself at the center of a nearly global effort to ship weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.

Switzerland’s historic adherence to neutrality dates back to the 1500s, after the Old Swiss Confederacy fell to France. Staying neutral helped Switzerland negotiate the ends to several wars.

But the Swiss still have an army, and its soldiers carry a lot more than knives. Through what it calls “armed neutrality,” Switzerland protects its sovereignty through a combination of its military, international treaties and domestic laws.

The Swiss defense contractors are known for ammunition manufacturing, both small arms and artillery shells. Swiss-made parts are also used in foreign-made weapons systems, like the Aspide air defense system from Italy. The Swiss originally designed the Piranha infantry fighting vehicle as well. Now, the Swiss have production agreements in place with certain countries and companies to make the IFVs.

All these things; the ammunition, the air defense systems, the IFVs are all sorely needed right now by Ukraine. Though due to neutrality, the Swiss ban the export and re-export of their weapons to conflict zones.

For months, Germany and other NATO nations have been pleading with Switzerland to change its law. The NATO members have stockpiles of Swiss-made weapons and ammunition they want to send to Ukraine but can’t because of contractual agreements. It’s similar to how Germany banned the export of its Leopard tanks before eventually changing course.

Some of the Swiss-made weapons stockpiles held by NATO allies include ammunition for the Gepard aerial flak systems, which Ukraine is using to counter the onslaught of Iranian-made kamikaze drones fired from Russia.

Switzerland did go along with Western sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine, which is giving hope to a small but vocal group in the Swiss Parliament who want to lift the country’s ban on weapons exports to conflict zones.

Switzerland’s government is deeply divided on the issue, and debate could take weeks. Even if the Swiss legislature voted to change neutrality laws, Ukraine would be unlikely to see any benefit from the change until early next year.

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SWITZERLAND. KNOWN FOR THE ALPS, NEUTRALITY, AND WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT.

SWITZERLAND’S HISTORIC ADHERENCE TO NEUTRALITY DATES BACK TO THE 1500’S. STAYING NEUTRAL HELPED THE SWISS NEGOTIATE THE ENDS TO SEVERAL WARS.

BUT THE SWISS STILL HAVE AN ARMY, AND ITS SOLDIERS CARRY A LOT MORE THAN KNIVES.

THE SWISS ARE ALSO KNOWN FOR AMMUNITION MANUFACTURING, BOTH SMALL ARMS AND ARTILLERY SHELLS. SWISS-MADE PARTS ARE ALSO USED IN FOREIGN-MADE WEAPONS SYSTEMS, LIKE THE ASPIDE AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM FROM ITALY. THE SWISS ORIGINALLY DESIGNED THE PIRANHA INFANTRY FIGHTING VEHICLE AND HAVE PRODUCTION AGREEMENTS IN PLACE WITH CERTAIN COUNTRIES AND COMPANIES TO MAKE THEM.

ALL OF THESE THINGS, THE AMMO, THE AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS, THE IFV’S, ARE ALL SORELY NEEDED RIGHT NOW BY UKRAINE. BUT, BECAUSE OF NEUTRALITY, THE SWISS BAN THE EXPORT AND RE-EXPORT OF THEIR WEAPONS TO CONFLICT ZONES.

FOR MONTHS, GERMANY AND OTHER NATO NATIONS HAVE BEEN PLEADING WITH SWITZERLAND TO CHANGE ITS LAW. THE NATO MEMBERS HAVE STOCKPILES OF SWISS-MADE WEAPONS AND AMMUNITION THEY WANT TO SEND TO UKRAINE BUT CAN’T BECAUSE OF CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS. IT’S SIMILAR TO HOW GERMANY BANNED THE EXPORT OF ITS TANKS BEFORE CHANGING COURSE.

SOME OF THE SWISS-MADE WEAPONS STOCKPILES HELD BY NATO ALLIES INCLUDE AMMUNITION FOR AERIAL FLAK SYSTEMS, WHICH UKRAINE IS USING TO COUNTER THE ONSLAUGHT OF IRANIAN-MADE KAMIKAZE DRONES FIRED FROM RUSSIA.

SWITZERLAND DID GO ALONG WITH WESTERN SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA AFTER IT INVADED UKRAINE, WHICH IS GIVING HOPE TO A SMALL BUT VOCAL GROUP IN THE SWISS PARLIAMENT WHO WANT TO LIFT THE COUNTRY’S BAN ON WEAPONS EXPORTS TO CONFLICT ZONES.

THE SWISS PARLIAMENT IS DEEPLY DIVIDED ON THE ISSUE, AND DEBATE COULD TAKE WEEKS. EVEN IF THE SWISS DO VOTE TO CHANGE THEIR NEUTRALITY LAWS, UKRAINE WOULD BE UNLIKELY TO SEE ANY BENEFIT FROM THE CHANGE UNTIL EARLY NEXT YEAR.

FOR MORE OF THE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACTS ABOUT WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT AND THE UKRAINE WAR, CHECK OUT STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS DOT COM.