Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Switzerland’s Neutral Foreign Policy


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.

Recent deviations

  • 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.



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