Switzerland vetos German plan to send Swiss-made ammo to Ukraine
The Swiss government has officially rejected a plan by Germany to re-export ammunition made in the alpine nation to Ukrainian forces. The State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO) told SonntagsZeitung that the decision was made to uphold Swiss neutrality.
Swiss government unable to arm Ukraine on grounds of neutrality
According to SECO, the government's rules on exports prohibit the country from sending weapons to nations that are engaged in civil wars and international conflicts. This includes the German plan to “re-export” Swiss arms from Germany to Ukraine.
Despite being known for its neutrality, Switzerland is home to a large arms industry, making war materials from rifles to air defence systems. In 2020, Switzerland was the 14th largest exporter of weapons in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Two German plans to arm Ukraine rejected by Switzerland
“Both Germany’s enquiries were answered in the negative, with reference to Swiss neutrality and the binding rejection criteria of the law on war material,” SECO said in a statement. Recently, German chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced criticism for his government’s hesitancy in delivering weapons to Kyiv to help defend Ukraine against the Russian state’s invasion.
Despite agreeing to impose sanctions on Russia in line with the EU, the Swiss president, Ignazio Cassis, has ruled out the idea of sending Swiss weapons to Ukraine directly. In recent weeks, the Federal Council confirmed that arms deliveries should avoid Swiss airspace when travelling to Ukraine, in an attempt to uphold neutrality.
Decision to veto Ukraine ammunition shipments met with mixed reaction
SECO's announcement was met with a mixed reaction in parliament, with the president of the Centre Party, Gerhard Pfister, saying he believed that Switzerland had the authority to allow arms shipments through Germany and that it was in the country’s interest to do so. He said that the government is responsible for a “failure to help Ukraine.”
Others, like the director of Swisspeace, Laurent Goetschel, agreed with the government, noting, “You’re not neutral one day and no longer neutral the next.” He said, “Neutrality means that Switzerland doesn’t provide direct or indirect military support to any of the warring parties,” and that in his view, the country’s role should be bringing both sides to the negotiating table, not arming one side.