Current Concerns: On 17 February, the Federal Council approved the “Training program 2016 on international military cooperation”. Does this mean that Switzerland also is involved in other NATO programmes via the so-called peacekeeping missions (for example, Swisscoy in Kosovo)?
Adrian Amstutz: Yes, the existing connection to NATO via Partnership for Peace (PfP) includes the participation in peace-keeping and peace-building missions of the NATO and also participation in joint military exercises. The level of cooperation can be determined by each country participating in PfP. There is no talking about an “inclusion in further NATO programmes” – as you call it – during NATO exercises, however, effectively you are right. As Switzerland takes frequently part in such exercises, Switzerland is quasi part of the large-scale NATO manoeuvres. Already last year the Swiss Air Force exercised in the far North. In the framework of the “Arctic challenge exercise 2015” Switzerland participated at Pentecost 2015 in a large-scale manoeuvre of Western forces over Scandinavia. From the viewpoint of Swiss neutral politics, as the SVP (Swiss Peoples Party) sees it, this was not acceptable. Firstly, the VBS cancelled the invitation of the Russians from the Air-14-Show in Payerne in that year and thereafter even took part in a NATO exercise, which unofficially was a demonstration of power against Russia. From SVP’s point of view, our army has no business in such exercises.
One of the multinational exercises in which the Swiss army is to participate this year is JAWTEX (see box). Is the reaffirmation of the Federal Council, that Switzerland is perceived from outside as neutral still credible?
In 2014, Switzerland – together with other nations – has taken part in the large scale exercise of the German “Bundeswehr” [Jawtex is meant]. This year the next exercise is planned, according to the VBS (Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports), the Swiss Armed Forces will take part in this exercise. In what way and with what mission is not relevant to the SVP. It is crucial, that there is neither a military nor a training related reason to participate in such exercise. From the perspective of the SVP the Swiss army only should go abroad, when its own material is to be tested, because this is not possible for geographical or for reasons of noise or environmental protection in Switzerland. According to the Federal Constitution “the army serves the prevention of war and contributes to the peace keeping; it defends the country and its people”(Art. 58 Para. 2 BV). The mentioned practice has certainly not the target of peace-keeping, as the exercise in 2014 showed.
Have you got plans to do anything about it?
I will raise a request to the Federal Council in the summer session and I will ask for explanatory declarations.
National Councillor Mr Amstutz, thank you very much for the interview. •
(Interview Marianne Wüthrich)
mw. One element out of the substantial “training program 2016 for cooperation in military exercise” of the Swiss Council is JAWTEX (joint air warfare tactical exercise), in which Swiss troops participated already two years ago. In an interview National Councillor Adrian Amstutz speaks plain text: “Based on our neutrality policy” the
participation of Switzerland in such NATO large-scale manoeuvres “cannot be justified”. Because JAWTEX 2014 – and it is to be assumed, also JAWTEX 2016 – is a war-manoeuvre that takes place in Eastern and Northern Germany and is directed towards the East: “The exercise is conducted all over the north and north east of the Federal Republic of Germany. […] An Airbus A-310 tanker aircraft flies out of Cologne. A Geilenkirchen-based Nato platform is operating out of Oerland in Norway. “ Information is available on the homepage of the German “Bundeswehr”. (www.luftwaffe.de)
Also for our great neighbour to the North, JAWTEX is a huge endeavour: “It is the main exercise of the Bundeswehr in 2014: JAWTEX 2014 […] an exercise of a size rarely held in Germany […]: Almost 4,500 soldiers are taking part in the exercise with more than 800 from Partner nations. In addition to Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, Hungary and the United States are involved. The German Air Operations Centre in Kalkar is responsible for preparation, conduct and evaluation of the exercise. It provides Besides the Exercise Director it provides a major share of the planning staff.” (www.luftwaffe.de)
And neutral Switzerland is to participate again on these NATO war games under the command of a German “Exercise Director”? In the summer session of the Swiss Parliament (Jawtex will take place in June 2016) National Councillor Adrian Amstutz will request an explanation by the Federal Council – and then we will not accept to be fobbed off with nebulous commonplaces.
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