Aug 17, 2022
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Russia deprives Switzerland of profitable political business

The symbol of the international policy of neutrality – Switzerland – has lost this status, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. And although Switzerland itself some time ago recognized the fact of a departure from neutrality, Bern tried to maintain this hypocritical mask. What does this change mean both for Switzerland itself and for its relations with Russia?

One of the features of the Russian-Western conflict due to the special operation in Ukraine was the wholesale refusal of states from their neutral status.

At first, Belarus refused him, supporting the Russian special operation. The actions of Minsk (having distanced itself from Moscow’s policy in Ukraine for many years) can be partly attributed to the extremely hostile behavior of Kyiv over the past few years. However, the actions of Sweden and Finland, which hastened to join NATO, are difficult to explain rationally – except perhaps by pressure from the United States, which needs diplomatic peremoga.

Now the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that another country, Switzerland, has lost its neutral status. And again, I lost it to my own detriment.

In fact, neutrality in international conflicts is not cowardice or charity, but quite a profitable business. Neutral countries perform the most important tasks for the warring parties in conflicts and make good money on this.

Firstly, open diplomatic negotiations take place on their territory, as a result of which the host country finds itself at the center of international politics for some time, with corresponding benefits. Often there is a real competitive struggle for the intermediary role. Secondly, non-public, technical negotiations are taking place on the territory of neutral countries, hidden from the public eye – which strengthens interaction and trust between the host country and the parties to the conflict.

Finally, various kinds of financial and trade flows go through neutral countries to states that are under sanctions because of their conflict with other countries. Including the flows between sanctioned states and those who imposed these sanctions. And it can be a very lucrative business.

It is not surprising that Alexander Lukashenko made great efforts in 2014 to ensure that Belarus became a neutral platform for negotiations on resolving the Ukrainian civil war. And he achieved his goal by beating Kazakhstan. It is not surprising that the same Finland maintained a neutral status during the Cold War, doing profitable business with the USSR.

However, the biggest guru in business neutrality is Switzerland, which has been making money on it for many decades. It was in Switzerland that Nazi gold was kept. It was in Switzerland that various kinds of spy exchanges took place – including during the Cold War. It is in Swiss embassies that there are usually “interest sections” of countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations (now the Swiss, in particular, represent the interests of Russia in Georgia, and the United States in Iran). Finally, it is on the territory of Switzerland that there are offices of hundreds of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations that prefer to work: a) in the center of Europe; b) in a country for which law and equality are primary in comparison with values ​​and ideology.

However, since February 2022, Switzerland – having found itself, like many Western countries, under enormous pressure from the West to impose sanctions against Moscow – has officially changed its approach.

“The unprecedented Russian military attack on a sovereign European country was a decisive factor in the decision of the Federal Council to change its previous position on sanctions. The defense of peace and security and respect for international law are values ​​that Switzerland, as a democratic country, shares and upholds with its European neighbors,” the Swiss Federal Council (government) said in a statement. As a result, the country joined the anti-Russian sanctions, partially synchronizing them with the EU ones.

Yes, not all Swiss politicians agreed with this position. A number of political forces have said that anti-Russian sanctions violate the country’s constitution and its principle of “eternal neutrality.”

However, the government did not agree with them. “The aim of neutrality is to protect the security and independence of Switzerland. The policy of neutrality offers a certain leeway, as it allows one to interpret neutrality in a way that is best suited to achieve this goal,” the country’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said in a report.

In essence, this means that Switzerland can even supply weapons to Ukraine in the same way that it supplies weapons to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen. Yes, now the Swiss refrain from such steps, however, in their own words, “the law on neutrality is not applicable to the conflict in Yemen, since this is not a war between two states, but an internal conflict” – and Ukraine and Russia, we recall, are not formally located at war with each other. Neither Kyiv nor Moscow declared war.

And in this situation, the Swiss do not see anything shameful in trying to earn political points on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, including through mediation in negotiations or diplomatic relations between countries. Moreover, they present it almost as a service that they can render to Moscow.

“Good offices in general and mediation in particular are important components of Switzerland’s foreign policy. Switzerland will continue to be available for such tasks. But they are not the raison d’être of Swiss foreign policy and should never be turned into a fig leaf,” the country’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said in a report.

Moreover, Switzerland makes it clear that its representation is a done deal. “Ukraine has expressed a desire for Switzerland to represent its interests in Russia. The relevant negotiations have been completed. For this agreement to come into force, Russia must express its consent, ”the local diplomats say.

Moscow, however, said it did not need such services. “Switzerland, unfortunately, has lost the status of a neutral state and cannot act either as an intermediary or as a representative of interests,” said Ivan Nechaev, deputy director of the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry. And he added that the Swiss were negotiating with Kyiv, knowing full well the position of the Russian side about their mediation prospects.

So Switzerland is paying the price for not being neutral in the Russian-Western conflict. How the Finns and Swedes are already paying for the refusal of neutrality, whom Turkey, with its preconditions for joining NATO, has already placed in an extremely difficult and indecent position. And all that was needed was to continue to put pragmatism above declarative values.

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