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Switzerland dithers on arms deliveries to Ukraine

Parliament is discussing an amendment to the law which prohibits the re-export of military equipment to a country at war.  The blockage is unlikely to be overcome.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis during a press conference after their meeting in Kiev on October 20, 2022. SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP

Not far from the massive Swiss Federal Palace, an austere neoclassical molasse building that houses the two Chambers of the Swiss Parliament and most of the ministries, the European Union (EU) delegation in Bern floats side by side, like almost everywhere else on  the continent, European and Ukrainian flags.  The seat of Swiss power cannot afford this demonstration of manifest support for kyiv, neutrality obliges.  Switzerland has admittedly taken over all of the EU sanctions against Russia, but that is not yet enough to clarify its wait-and-see position, which is becoming increasingly uncomfortable as pressure mounts to firmly choose its side, as  two ex-neutral countries, Sweden and Finland, have done so, now candidates for NATO.

A founding myth of the Confederacy, neutrality has wavered since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago.  As a producer and exporter of arms, Switzerland prohibits the countries that have bought them from transferring them to the Ukrainian army to enable it to defend itself.  Specifically, Bern twice refused the German Bundeswehr to ship 12,400 shells to kyiv for Gepard anti-aircraft tanks.  She also said no to Denmark and Spain.  More than misunderstanding, this causes annoyance among its European neighbors.  How far can neutrality get along without becoming cowardice, or worse, compromise?

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