Sweden and Finland have finally given up their neutrality and are now applying to join NATO. This is not really news to anyone in the know, but there are also increasing signs that Switzerland may wish to do the same. This article will looking at both the Scandinavian and Swiss perspectives, but also examine the methods behind the madness.
All three countries are seen as ‘clean’ reputable European states that are the epitome of what is right in a world that is going seriously wrong. Centuries of neutrality and relative peace have not only saved them from the ravages of many wars, bit also given them success that others have not enjoyed. It is their reputation as much as their relevance that makes them so welcome in an organization such as NATO. The Atlantic Alliance has under Washington’s leadership not only embroiled itself in numerous fracas over previous decades, but in an age of increased public consciousness, suffered real credibility issues in light of its operations. With two or possibly three bright new faces to parade, Stoltenberg et al will use the reputation of the new members to full effect. The accession of Sweden and Finland have already been covered here and here, but with the possibility of Switzerland following suit, we need to consider both the land as well as its role in both defense and global affairs.
A nation that goes back over seven hundred years, it has become a byword for peace and neutrality across the globe. Famous for cheese, chocolates, watches and financial anonymity, it is composed of three main linguistic areas, these speaking German, French or Italian. The fourth Rumansch language is endemic to the country, yet its use is for most cultural rather than everyday usage in the country. A population of around eight million (which still has compulsory military service) is far more united than many other nations in Europe and elsewhere, fiercely proud of its culture and history. With that history and culture come a number of issues, these needing to be investigated before looking at the future.
As much as the country is an established part of Europe and the word, Switzerland is to a large degree the establishment itself. Many international organizations are based in Zürich and Geneva as well as Davos hosting meetings of the World Economic Forum. The common perception of Switzerland is of a land of mountains and skiing, yet those shady characters visiting for business purposes are not in-country for cowbells and chocolates. In spite of it being as small as it is, it exercises far more power and reach than most imagine. If for no other reason, its connections to influential individuals around the world make it the ideal candidate for becoming a member of the alliance that they have invested so much money and time in nurturing.
Another cornerstone of Swiss culture is that of neutrality. The country managed to avoid the ravages of both world wars, only suffering the effects of conflict which surrounded the landlocked nation. Since 1945, it has sat aside of global affairs, proudly declaring its sovereignty whilst not involving itself in the affairs of others. On occasion, Swiss troops have ventured overseas in support of the UN, but other than representing global bodies, it has stayed firmly in home turf. The idea of it becoming a NATO member state and therefore de facto under Washington’s control may present an insurmountable hurdle to those in the capital of Berne. Of all the nations in the world which claim to be democratic, there can be few if any who hold referenda as often as the Swiss. A matter such as this is far more serious than most any matter to face the country in recent decades, and it would be unthinkable that politicians took as step such as this without first consulting the public. There will undoubtedly be many in Berne, in stark contrast to their counterparts in Vienna who wish to become part of a bigger club, yet they may find their dreams of NATO membership torpedoed by their own electorate.
No article regarding Switzerland would be complete without talking of its wealth. Having a very high standard of living indeed, its high wages are met by high living expenses, but the wealth that has for years supported it has come from its financial sector and the anonymity it once afforded those with money or income to hide. Today things are much more transparent, yet should the nation apply to join the alliance, it would be demanded rather than expected that the country spend two percent or more of its GDP on equipping its armed forces to fight America’s wars. It is not plain sailing however. Not only has the country angered Russia and the Russians by seizing assets, it has done so as part of the western community, effectively acting on behalf of both the EU and NATO whilst being a member of neither. Furthermore, recent weeks have seen the value of the Swiss Franc fall dramatically, the current climate raining on Switzerland’s illustrious historical parade.
In the current situation, with Europe still overcoming the effects of Covid as well as suffering the effects of a western war against Russia, there has never been a worse time for nations to become embroiled in a conflict which is none of their business. Moscow’s response to sanctions and actions on the part of the West is only now beginning to be felt, but as the year wears on, the effect of the Bear biting back will affect more people and to a greater degree. Whilst not a participant in the Second World War, Switzerland did feel the pinch of being surrounded by the greatest conflict in history, food and materials being in particularly short supply. By taking sides and becoming an ‘unfriendly state’ under the storm clouds of another great war, the politicians in Berne could jeopardize more than just the historical security that their nation has enjoyed for centuries.
As the world is becoming wise to western and Ukrainian malfeasance rather than hostility on the part of Russia, NATO needs rather than wants not only the weight of more nations behind it, but ones with credibility and money. At the same time as NATO needs new members, many in Berne want to bring their nation closer to the western establishment which it regularly hosts, but how credibly many of the Swiss take their government’s decision will undoubtedly come into question. but with Sweden and Finland already jumping aboard, it would come as little surprise if little Switzerland would do the same. Whether those in the capital would go further and attempt to join the EU further into the future is also not out of the question.
In short, an operation to subdue Russia was supposed to run like a Swiss watch, yet three months later, not only has the Ukraine melted like cheese in a fondue, those who stuck their hands in there get burnt more badly every day.
A country that got rich after the last big European war through Third Reich gold may very well make historic decisions over coming months in light of another war involving nazis run by more nazis.
Switzerland may soon jump on a boat which is on the wrong course, a nation seen to be right knowingly doing wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and as the future will show us, it doesn’t matter how many are doing wrong in the world, it will never make a right…