Will Switzerland impose sanctions on Russia amid Ukrainian conflict?
After the Kremlin recognised the “independence” of two Russian backed separatist areas in the Donbas region of Ukraine, nations around the world announced a large package of sanctions to counter Russian aggression. Two questions remain: how will Switzerland react, and will the country impose sanctions of its own?
Switzerland condemns Russian actions in Ukraine
In response to Russian actions, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that the country would put the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project on hold indefinitely, with the EU also announcing that it was drafting new sanctions on Russia's parliament. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would unleash a “barrage” of sanctions targeting Russian economic interests, and the American President, Joe Biden, indicated that US sanctions to cut Russia off from western finance would be announced soon.
In a statement, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) said that Russian actions amounted to a “flagrant violation of international law,” and called on the country to reverse its decision to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk. Swiss State Secretary Livia Leu Agosti told reporters that Switzerland does not recognise the independence of the Donbas region, saying it was still Ukrainian territory.
Switzerland hopes to retain neutrality to facilitate diplomacy
However, the secretary indicated that any possible sanctions, such as on banks, international companies or businesses with ties to the Kremlin, would be imposed by Switzerland in conjunction with the EU’s rules, instead of making sanctions of its own. Agosti said, “Unilateral sanctions would not make much sense for a small player like Switzerland,” and confirmed that the government would not “automatically” adopt EU sanctions but would make a decision once they become public.
In the Swiss parliament, some parties have called for Switzerland to make its own plans for restrictions. The Green Party demanded that Switzerland work with the EU on the sanction package, particularly considering Switzerland's role as a hub for finance and entrepreneurship.
Others are more cautious, with National Councillor for The Centre, Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter, making the case that Switzerland must retain its role as a mediator, as it did during talks between the US President and Russian leader in Geneva in 2021. She emphasised the role of neutrality, but said that certain restrictions may be necessary to prevent Switzerland from being used as a way to “circumvent” EU sanctions.