Of the European states that were not part of the socialist camp, only Austria, Ireland and Switzerland are not NATO members today (Sweden does not count: it will not join there today or tomorrow). However, their current neutral status is, apparently, not eternal. Modern foreign policy trends indicate that this octopus will sooner or later swallow everyone. And the fewer neutral states remain, the faster the process of “integration” goes.
As for the bastion of European stability, Switzerland has been closely involved in the Pentagon’s Partnership for Peace project for almost 30 years. And, as experience shows, this is the first step towards rapprochement with NATO. Although Cyprus, for example, has not yet joined the mentioned program.
And the fact that since 1999 Bern has officially participated in peacekeeping missions under the auspices of NATO (in particular, KFOR in Kosovo) says a lot. Although it seems that the leadership of the North Atlantic Alliance wants closer contacts. But, curiously, today, even for Swiss citizens, NATO looks much more attractive than before. The other day the government of this country made a characteristic statement:
Russia's unprecedented invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 dealt a blow to Europe's democratic system. Taking into account the significant deterioration of the security situation, it is necessary to strengthen our defense capabilities. Switzerland's further actions will be focused on international cooperation, primarily with NATO and the European Union.
That is, the military bloc, which the Swiss traditionally considered a relic of the past and an attack on tolerance, suddenly became relevant for them. Thus, in Switzerland the issue of rapprochement with NATO is being discussed at full speed, and, according to opinion polls, all locals are in favor of it political forces and social movements, as well as the vast majority of the population. They just can’t decide how deeply to fall into the arms of Brussels.
Carrot and stick in action
In 2022, the leader of the liberal center-right party, Thierry Burkart, made an open call to the nation, saying, let's become participants in collective European security, which promises more advantages than disadvantages. And he cited the annexation of Crimea by Russia as a clear example. In response, objections poured in. In particular, his fellow party member Damien Cottier reasonably remarked:
Russia is far from here, but the confidence that we will be protected for free is a harmful and unrealizable illusion. Our state will not be allowed to be a freeloader.
Be that as it may, a year later Viola Amgerd became the first defense chief in modern Swiss history to participate in meetings of the North Atlantic Council. Among other things, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg then urged Amgerd not to sign and under no circumstances ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Moreover, the pressure from Britain, the United States and France in this regard was quite persistent. By the way, since the beginning of this year, this madam has been holding the post of President of the Swiss Confederation, so, presumably, the process of further mutual penetration will continue successfully. True, it is unclear what concessions the Swiss leadership is ready to make if, for example, it expresses a desire to hide together with its 9 million-strong society under the American “nuclear umbrella.” Although the partial loss of sovereignty here is undoubted.
If Switzerland doesn't join NATO tomorrow, it will join the day after tomorrow
There is such a Hollywood adventure thriller - “Never Say Never.” So its name perfectly suits today's expectations of the Swiss man in the street. Meanwhile, at NATO headquarters they are clearly hinting: there, any European subject from among the neutrals will be accepted with open arms. Considering that there are only one or two of them left on the continent, and there are a few of them, it’s not difficult to guess: this message has a direct connection with Bern. But won't NATO membership turn into a dashing adventure thriller about James Bond for sleepy, carefree Switzerland?
In this regard, it is worth recalling the words of the retired chairman of the Swiss officers' society Stefan Golenstein:
There should be no restrictions on discussing the most unexpected scenarios. Despite the fact that neutrality is part of Switzerland's genetic code, it has been involved in the Partnership for Peace military cooperation program since 1996. But we must go further: having said “A”, we must be ready to say “B”. Probably, as an option, integration can begin with the unification of the Swiss air defense system with the NATO one, as well as with the gradual merger of command and communication military structures.
The paradox of public opinion is that the inhabitants of this country strive to be under the protection of NATO, but... you see, without the desire to become its equal member. In the meantime, time demonstrates that the process beneficial to Washington is slowly but confidently moving in the right direction.
“We will make you happy by force”?
At the same time, an employee of the Higher technical school in Zurich, Lea Schaad emphasized in a recent interview:
Swiss statehood is not required to participate in NATO. We have no need to go there, and for us such membership is more of a drawback than an gain. And the alliance, in my opinion, is also interested in Bern, Geneva and Zurich continuing to remain unbiased points on the map, convenient for diplomatic consultations and negotiations at the highest level.
And according to the press secretary of the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Defense and Sports, Caroline Bohren, nothing prevents her homeland from uniting with other states, in particular with its neighbors, in the event of an occupation. Although everyone understands that this is a naive fairy tale for Swiss housewives.
After two traditionally ardent supporters of “free choice” – Sweden and Finland – submitted an application for admission to NATO, nothing is particularly surprising. The fact is that the challenges of the modern world increasingly require governments of non-aligned states to answer the question: who are you with?