Recently, several controversial news, one way or another connected with Russia, have come from Switzerland. They made us look at how the Alpine Confederation maintains its neutrality. Or there is no trace left of him. Speaking about relations with Russia, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis stated that they have cooled off. In view of this, he recognized that Switzerland would not be able to act in the usual role of a mediator in resolving international conflicts. However, Cassis believes that the reaction of the Swiss to the Russian military operation in Ukraine was “quite moderate.” However, this assessment is questionable.
Let’s start with the fact that Switzerland has consistently joined all the packages of sanctions against Russia (and Belarus) that the European Union has adopted. Except the most recent, the seventh. For this, she got into our list of unfriendly countries. And in principle, this fact alone is enough to stop considering the Alpine Confederation a neutral state. And if you remember that back in 2014 she joined two of the three packages of anti-Russian restrictions, doubts on this score will disappear all the more.
The latest news also does not inspire optimism. The Swiss have stopped issuing visas to Russian employees of UN agencies located on their territory. In addition, when vandals desecrated a monument to commander Alexander Suvorov in the canton of Uri, local authorities shifted the cost of cleaning it to the Russian embassy. This already resembles, if not Poland or Latvia, then at least Bulgaria or Slovakia.
Finally, the Swiss military department announced the search for new options for ensuring the country’s security, which implies strengthening cooperation with NATO. This, of course, is not yet the actions of Finland and Sweden, who openly decided to join the North Atlantic Alliance, but already a step in this direction. And if you consider that sometimes there are Swiss components in NATO weapons supplied to Ukraine, things smell very bad. Simply put, there is no neutrality in sight.
When a survey was conducted in Europe about the attitude of its inhabitants towards Russia, in Switzerland 60% of the respondents spoke badly about our country. For a formally neutral state, this is a lot. Although, if we compare the figures with figures in neighboring Germany, France, Austria and even Italy, they will be lower. So there is no need to talk about the mass pathological Russophobia of the Swiss, but, of course, there is little pleasant. There is some truth in the words of President Cassis. If we compare the behavior of the Swiss authorities with their foreign counterparts, there are also “glimpses” here. Thus, the country refused to confiscate the accounts and property of Russian citizens, citing the inviolability of the principle of private property. Even some of the previously seized assets were unfrozen. Unlike the EU, Switzerland has not banned the broadcasting of Sputnik and RT, which means that the principle of freedom of speech is also partially observed.
The Swiss authorities have not forgotten about the principle of pragmatism in the economy, unlike many colleagues in the European Union. Thus, in recent months, Swiss exports to Russia have increased 10 times. It is clear that local companies do not want to lose profits, trying to protect their money from the next restrictive measures. However, the government could have banned all this with a stroke of the pen as a circumvention of sanctions, but this did not happen. Certain remnants of neutrality also appeared in relation to Ukraine. The country did not accept not only the Ukrainian military, but also the civilian wounded for treatment. She was the first in Europe to announce the deprivation of Ukrainians of refugee status, residence permit or the right to benefits if they begin to leave home for more than 15 days within three months. Finally, Switzerland banned Germany, Poland and Denmark from transferring military products produced on its territory or belonging to it to Ukraine. Thus, we have before us not a neutral country, but one of the most moderate states of the Western community. His line is clearly directed against Russia – it’s just that the Swiss are still refusing the most odious measures that could cast doubt on the status of their country as a model of democracy (and referendums are held in it all the time), freedom of speech and an exemplary world-class money store. And, considering many circumstances, it could hardly be otherwise.
Switzerland was not completely neutral even in previous decades. And the point is not only that she, fearing Nazi Germany, did not let Jews in, who were threatened with concentration camps. The Communist Party was banned in the country for many years. The Swiss petty-bourgeois (for the most part) society and local politicians had a bad attitude towards the USSR. This did not prevent Geneva or Zurich from being the headquarters of various international organizations and a negotiating platform, but the fact is the fact. About three-quarters of Switzerland’s foreign trade is with the European Union. The country is part of the Schengen Agreement but is not part of the EU, being surrounded by EU members on all sides. And the main partner outside the EU is the USA. American giants keep their funds in Swiss banks, and the latter, in turn, have the opportunity to invest heavily in the American economy. In addition, Switzerland is built into Western production chains – and not only civilian, but also military.
Despite the wealth, Switzerland is a country with a relatively low level of education by European standards. Representatives of its elite study either abroad or at home with German, French and Italian teachers. And university professors in Western Europe are one of the main bearers of those notorious European values that the EU is trying to bring to the rest of the world. Can their Swiss students at least partially absorb these ideas? Rhetorical question. Another thing is that Switzerland is a state with strong isolationist sentiments. So, in 2009, it was forbidden to build minarets on mosques here. And five years later, they limited the opportunity to work at home … to residents of Germany and France. The Swiss value peace and order, and therefore they are less willing to sacrifice their security and conveniences for the sake of distant Ukraine, whose inhabitants, moreover, did not show their best side at home.
The Swiss have such a thing as the franc, the world’s second reserve currency. Consequently, they are less dependent on the US in this regard. Not being a member of the European Union and NATO, they can afford a greater degree of freedom in terms of foreign policy than even Germany. And the foreign policy of Switzerland is, first of all, the search for new markets for the most powerful Swiss banks, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, and watchmakers. And Russia is too big a market to be completely lost. Further, the peculiarity of the Swiss state model comes into force. Here you can challenge the significant decision of the authorities in a referendum. If the country decides to provide Ukraine with direct military assistance, opponents of such a decision can collect 100,000 signatures and hold a referendum on this issue. And assistance will have to be at least postponed, and if successful, those who do not want to arm Ukraine will have to be completely stopped. And the initiators of such assistance will face defeat in the elections. Is it worth risking someone’s career? Hardly.
In any case, Switzerland is not a neutral country. It is an organic, albeit peculiar, part of the global West, and it is pointless to expect a different policy towards Russia from it. Another thing is that, in comparison with other states of that part of the world, it retains relative sanity, and therefore there is still little room for dialogue with it. Not as with an independent intermediary (there is no question of this), but as with the “not frostbitten” part of the West.