The Evaluation of Switzerland’s Neutrality Policy in the Framework of the Russia-Ukraine War

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Until the Russia-Ukraine War, which started on February 24, 2022, there were four states in Continental Europe that stood out with their neutral status. These; are Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, and Finland. Among the aforementioned states, Sweden and Finland applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and ended their status. This situation is very important in terms of showing what kind of results the war in question created in the security architecture of Europe.

On the other hand, Switzerland and Austria are currently taking care to maintain their neutrality status. At this point, it should be noted that the origin of neutrality in Europe dates back to Switzerland. Because Switzerland has adopted this status since the Congress of Vienna in 1815. It is known that later on, Austria, Finland, and Sweden accepted the neutrality status based on the Swiss example. Therefore, it is seen that the origin of the neutrality status is based in Switzerland.

The status in question has opened the door for cities such as Lausanne, Montreux, and Bern in Switzerland to host important conferences throughout history. In other words, the status in question enabled Switzerland to mediate in the resolution of important international disputes. In this context, Switzerland’s neutrality status has come to the forefront as a factor that adds prestige to the country for centuries.

In addition to all this, it can be said that Switzerland has historically been the country that has tried to preserve its neutrality status the most in Continental Europe. For example, the joining of Austria, Finland, and Sweden to the European Union (EU) on 1 January 1995[1] opened the door to changes in the neutrality status of the countries in question long before the war in Ukraine. However, unlike these three states, Switzerland has not attempted to become a member of the EU.

On the other hand, the aforementioned war did not lead to significant changes in the security paradigm of Switzerland. So; Switzerland, like Sweden and Finland, has not made any attempts to become a member of NATO. However, the participation of the Bern government in the Western sanctions against Moscow brought about discussions on the neutrality status of the country.

On the other hand, the Bern government imposed a ban on Swiss-origin weapons that Berlin wanted to supply to Kyiv in November 2022. Swiss Minister of the Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research Guy Parmelin pointed out that such a move would be a legal violation of Swiss neutrality, which prohibits the transfer of war materials to conflict zones.[2] In this sense, it can be said that although Switzerland acts jointly with the West against Russia within the framework of economic sanctions, it does not take action together in the military context. Despite this, it is seen that the Kremlin was not satisfied with the policy followed by Switzerland throughout the war.

As it is known, on February 26, 2023, the Spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, claimed that with the start of the war in Ukraine, Switzerland abandoned its neutrality status. Zakharova especially criticized Switzerland for freezing Russian assets and participating in EU sanctions.[3] In this regard, although Russia does not supply weapons to Ukraine, it strongly opposes Bern’s stance in the war. Therefore, the focus of Russia’s criticism of Switzerland is “economic” reasons.

Swiss President Alain Berset, on the other hand, in his statement on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) talks on 7 March 2023, expressed his opposition to arms exports to Ukraine. Berset cited the country’s neutrality status as a justification for this.[4]

From this point of view, countries such as Switzerland and Austria continue to maintain their neutrality status at the maximum level, unlike Sweden and Finland. Bern yönetimi, özellikle de savaş boyunca Ukrayna’ya silah tedarikinden kaçınmıştır. Bu bağlamda İsviçre’nin kırmızı çizgisinin Kiev’e silah tedarikinde bulunmamak olduğu söylenebilir. Dahası Bern, herhangi bir askeri ittifaka katılmaya yönelik teşebbüslerden de imtina etmektedir. Bu nedenle de İsviçre’nin tarafsızlık statüsünde radikal bir değişimin gerçekleşmesi pek gözükmemektedir.

As a result, Switzerland has historically come to the fore as the country where the foundations of neutrality status in Europe were laid. In this respect, it can be said that the Bern government will take care to maintain its neutrality status while the war in Ukraine continues. Because there have not been radical changes in the security paradigm of Switzerland, as in the case of Finland and Sweden. In this context, it can be argued that Switzerland will not supply any weapons to Ukraine in the future.

[1] “The European Union and Countries in The EU”, Schengen Visa,, (Date of Accession: 22.03.2023).

[2] “War in Ukraine: Switzerland’s İnflexible Neutrality Frustrates European Partners”, Le Monde,, (Date of Accession: 22.03.2023).

[3] “Russia Claims Switzerland Abandoned Policy of Neutrality Since Start of Ukraine War”, AA,, (Date of Accession: 22.03.2023).

[4] “Swiss President Opposes Arms Exports to Ukraine, Citing Neutrality”, Euractiv,, (Date of Accession: 22.03.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.