From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Neutral foreign policy
Mains level : Switzerland’s Neutrality Policy
Switzerland broke its 200-year long neutrality policy to sanction Moscow and its leaders.
What is the news?
- Switzerland announced that it would join the European Union (EU) in closing the Swiss airspace to Russian aeroplanes.
- It also wished for imposing financial sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders.
Switzerland’s Policy of Permanent Neutrality
- The tiny Alpine nation the size of Haryana has had a neutrality policy in place since 1815.
- Its official website attests to this, noting that “permanent neutrality is a principle of Swiss foreign policy.”
- Though it serves as the headquarters of several diplomatic missions and as the venue for historic treaties like the Geneva Convention, Switzerland is not a part of the European Union or NATO.
- Historically, the Swiss had been famed warriors with expansionist ambitions until the 1500s when they lost the Battle of Marignano to the French.
- The years that followed saw the Swiss shift its foreign policy to that of being an armed impartial state during wartime, a stance which was sorely tested in the decades that followed.
The World Wars and Switzerland
- Switzerland shares borders with Germany, France and Italy.
- During WW II, Switzerland found itself surrounded by Axis forces, with Hitler describing the land-locked territory as “a pimple on the face of Europe”.
- It used a combination of military deterrence, strategic planning and economic neutrality to hold its own in 1940s Europe.
- Besides this, the Swiss pursued a policy of armed neutrality, putting into place compulsory military service (which continues till date) to maintain military readiness in event of an invasion.
- Switzerland joined the United Nations as recently as 2002, putting an end to years to debate after 54 per cent of its population voting in favour of the move.
- The Swiss federal government had said that it had weighed its neutrality and peace policy considerations into account to reach its decision.
- The Swiss government has initially adopted a traditional and very narrow interpretation of neutrality, which translated to a decision to not issue any sanctions.
- However, the Swiss parliament and citizens strongly pushed back, arguing that Russia’s massive military aggression cannot be tolerated.
- This prompted the government to reconsider its position.