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In response to Russia, neutral Switzerland moves closer to NATO

Switzerland’s famed neutrality is going to be put to the test for the first time in decades, with the defence ministry shifting closer to Western military powers in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to Paelvi Pulli, chief of security strategy at the Swiss defence ministry, the defence ministry is preparing a study on security alternatives such as joint military exercises with NATO nations and ‘backfilling’ weapons.

The specifics of the policy choices under consideration in the administration have not before been revealed.

‘Ultimately, there may be modifications in how neutrality is viewed,’ Pulli said last week in an interview. During a visit to Washington this week, Defence Minister Viola Amherd stated that Switzerland should cooperate more closely with the US-led military alliance but not join it, according to Swiss media.

Neutrality, which kept Switzerland out of both world wars during the twentieth century, was not an end in itself, according to Pulli, but was designed to strengthen Swiss security.

She also mentioned high-level and regular talks between Swiss and NATO officers and policymakers.

Moving so close to the alliance would be a departure from Switzerland’s carefully nurtured tradition of not taking sides, which advocates believe has let the country prosper peacefully and preserve a distinctive role as an intermediate, including during the West’s standoff with the Soviet Union.

The notion of full NATO membership has been explored, but unlike Sweden and Finland, both of which have a history of neutrality, Pulli believes the report is unlikely to propose Switzerland take that step.

The study is expected to be finished by the end of September, after which it will be presented to the Swiss cabinet for review.

It will be debated in parliament and serve as a foundation for potential choices on the future direction of Swiss security policy. There will be no vote on the report itself.

The defence ministry will also participate to the foreign ministry’s larger study. According to the foreign ministry, the initiative would look at sanctions, weapons, munitions exports, and the relationship with NATO from a neutral standpoint.


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