The outlawry of the peace option

by Dr phil René Roca*

In their article “Neutrality must not undermine international law” in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 14 December 2022, two members of the Pro Militia association call on Switzerland to review the stipulations of its perpetual neutrality. They state “after a careful analysis” that the Federal Council acted wrongly when it refused to accede to Germany’s request and waive the non-re-export declaration for procured war material. The article culminates in an attempt to bend the current law, i. e., the Swiss Federal Act on War Material (WMA), in such a way that “extraordinary circumstances” would apply to the Ukraine war (as if such circumstances do not apply to every war). Such “circumstances” would then allow to deliver the ammunition to Ukraine.
    Apart from such legal quibbles, this statement fits seamlessly into a narrative that attempts to undermine Swiss neutrality by hook or by crook. Only one circumstance still seems to preoccupy many associations of whatever hue and political exponents of parties: How can Switzerland finally supply weapons to Ukraine? How can legal hurdles be overcome in this regard, treaties broken and a one-sided understanding of international law fulfilled?

No one thinks about peace

The main thing is to continue supporting the war. Nobody thinks about peace any more. As the state of political contemporary, one rubs one’s eyes: in connection with arms deliveries to Ukraine, centre-right party leaders demand emergency law, an armament of their own army and further rapprochement with NATO. Only yesterday, they were jointly responsible for the Swiss army being saved to death and degraded. Left-wing exponents (SP and Greens) including GSwA (Group for a Switzerland without an army), renounce pacifism („Where have all the flowers gone ...“) and outlaw any peace option. Only yesterday they wanted to abolish the army and have tightened the WMA. There seem to be only a few left who can think straight and who, in our history-forgotten times, know what an important role Switzerland has repeatedly played in conflicts and wars. For then it should be clear that Switzerland’s neutrality does not mean simply standing on the side-lines and passively watching, but actively bringing the peace option into play. Such quiet diplomacy does not make the headlines, but it does ensure the credibility of neutrality and the necessary trust. Several times already, Swiss officials and the Federal Council would have had the opportunity to bring this peace option into play, they have all failed miserably. They prefer to sit dutifully at donor conferences, even organise them and distribute funds. Money for reconstruction in the middle of a war notabene. So, they want to supply weapons for the destruction and are already talking about money for reconstruction, it doesn’t get more absurd than that. The destruction of Ukraine is not being prevented, but actively promoted with a proxy war. The trenches are getting deeper and deeper, the war is getting more and more intense and the suffering of the civilian population is getting worse and worse. Meanwhile, the USA is working hard to make decisive moves on the “chessboard”. In this context, it would be worthwhile to re-read Brzezinski’s “The Grand Chessboard”.

Return to integral neutrality

The Swiss historian Wolfgang von Wartburg wrote in connection with Swiss neutrality that there must be a place in the world that exclusively serves peace. The importance of neutrality urgently needs to be appreciated again, because it has a tremendously important dimension in times of peace as well as in times of war. Why is this no longer recognised? In the current discussion, Swiss neutrality is eroding more and more, which means that the ICRC and the Good Offices cannot fully unfold their impact. On the contrary, the work of the ICRC is becoming increasingly difficult and the Good Offices are being ridiculed (Switzerland as a “postman” ...), much to the chagrin of the civilian population in numerous conflicts. In order to stop this erosion and to fill neutrality with content again, Switzerland must return to integral neutrality. That is why it is important to sign the neutrality initiative1 and thus ensure an important debate that gives Switzerland – and also the Federal Council and Parliament – a compass and logbook again for this important state maxim. Otherwise, the Federal Council and the Swiss people will continue to be on a “ship of fools”, as Reinhard Mey sings in his profound ballad, heading for the reef. 

*René Roca holds a doctorate in history and is head of the Research Institute for Direct Democracy (


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