Switzerland favours closer ties with NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine
A majority of Swiss people now favour ‘drawing closer’ to NATO in one of the clearest signs yet of the seismic impact that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had on Europe.
Switzerland has effectively been neutral for more than 500 years, but a new poll shows citizens increasingly believe that is not the best way to protect their country.
Record-high numbers of Swiss now say the government should increase defence spending, maintain a fully-equipped army, and build tighter relations with NATO.
It comes after Sweden and Finland broke with decades-long neutrality agreements of their own to join NATO, saying Putin’s war in the east had prompted them to do so.
A majority of Swiss people now favour forging closer ties with NATO as support for the country’s 500-year-old neutrality falls for the first time in two decades
Overall, support for neutrality in Switzerland remains high – with 89 per cent saying they favour it – but for the first time in two decades that figure has fallen.
Back in January, before Russia invaded Ukraine, 96 per cent of Swiss were in favour of neutrality – meaning support has dropped eight per cent in just six months.
An unprecedented 52 per cent now favour their country ‘moving closer’ to NATO, though only 27 per cent want to actually join.
The new study was carried out by the Swiss military academy and the Centre for Security Studies, which polled 1,000 people between May and June.
The results were compared to a similar survey that was published in January.
Pollsters also found that 80 per cent of Swiss now favour their country having an army, while a record 74 per cent say it should be ‘fully-equipped’
Switzerland has one of Europe’s largest reserve forces and still has national service, but maintains only a tiny standing army supported by ageing tanks, armoured vehicles and planes.
Nineteen per cent of Swiss now want their government to spend more money on improving that force, up from just seven per cent early this year.
Finland and Sweden have already agreed to abandon decades-old neutrality policies and join NATO, bringing their state-of-the-art armies with them
The country has already agreed to buy 36 new Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jets, though that could be challenged by a ballot.
Some 58 per cent of Swiss also believe armed conflicts in Europe will become more frequent in the wake of Russia’s invasion, with one in three saying they are more anxious due to the war in Ukraine.
Switzerland has been officially neutral since the singing of the Treaty of Paris 1815, following the final defeat and abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte.
However, the Swiss Confederacy had been effectively neutral since 1525 when it pledged never to wage a war of aggression again following defeat to the French at the Battle of Marignano ten years earlier.
It means the Swiss can lay claim to having one of the longest-standing neutrality pacts in the world which it maintained throughout both world wars – though it sometimes shot down planes of both sides that crossed into its airspace.
Sweden and Finland are currently in the process of joining NATO, having officially submitted membership application back in May.
Their accession to the alliance is all-but guaranteed, after lone hold-out Turkey withdrew its opposition after a series of concessions.
Russia is suffering heavy losses in Ukraine, with another arms depot taken out by US-supplied HIMARS missiles in Nova Kakhova last night
However, all 30 current allies must ratify the move before they can be accepted – a process that can take a long time as the motion clears parliamentary hurdles.
Latvia today became the latest country to ratify, meaning 13 members have ratified or are in the process of ratifying membership.
That leaves 17 nations – including the US, Italy, Spain and Belgium – needing to officially put pen to paper.
Once the two countries join, they will massively strengthen NATO’s northern flank, bringing with them huge numbers of troops and artillery, advanced submarines, and near-legendary spying capabilities.
Finland has a relatively small army of 20,000 men but maintains a reserve of almost 1million who can be called up to fight.
It also has Europe’s largest collection of artillery – including dozens of the same rocket systems currently wreaking havoc on Russia in Ukraine – and has 64 latest-generation F-35 stealth fighters on order.
Sweden, meanwhile, boasts formidable coastal defences in the form of 150 fast attack ships, and five world-class submarines.
In fact, Stockholm’s subs are so quiet they managed to ‘sink’ one of America’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers during a training exercise in the late 2000s, causing both concern and admiration in the Pentagon.