NATO, neutrality, army: this is how Switzerland thinks about security

NATO, neutrality, army: this is how Switzerland thinks about security



In view of the war in Ukraine, more Swiss people can imagine a rapprochement with NATO. Despite war and crises, the future is more optimistic than it used to be. The most important points of the ETH security study.

War in Ukraine drives Swiss closer to NATO: The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine increases the willingness of the Swiss to cooperate. This is the conclusion of this year’s “Security 2023” study from January, conducted by the Military Academy (Milak) and the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich. For example, a majority of 55 percent of those questioned supports a rapprochement with NATO. That is ten percentage points more than in January 2021. A narrow majority thinks that neutrality allows this.

This is typical as soon as a crisis occurs in the immediate vicinity of Switzerland, says co-author Tibor Szvircsev Tresch von der Milak: “It has to do with the fact that you have lost some faith in your own ability to defend yourself, which of course is also linked to neutrality has.” However, only a third of those surveyed want Switzerland to join NATO.

Neutrality is viewed more critically, but remains broadly supported: At 91 percent, neutrality was six percentage points less than in the previous year’s study. A slim majority continued to support differential neutrality, according to which Switzerland takes a clear position in political conflicts but remains neutral in military ones. The need for a clear position reference, even during wars, has meanwhile increased from 18 percent in January 2021 to currently 27 percent of the study participants. The assessment of neutrality as a protective factor fell significantly from 69 to 55 percent compared to the previous year.

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Army gaining support

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The army was necessary for 78 percent of respondents. That is three percentage points more than in January 2022. The military’s full equipment also found a clear majority. The opinion that Switzerland spends too little money on defense was more widespread than in January of the previous year. However, compared to June 2022, support for a higher army budget has fallen.

Future prospects are somewhat clouded: In January, 81 percent of those entitled to vote predicted a positive future for Switzerland. That was five percentage points less than in January 2022 before the outbreak of war. World confidence fell seven percentage points year-on-year. Only 24 percent were optimistic about the global future.

Swiss feel better than in previous years: What is interesting, however, is that the Swiss feel better today than they did in the past. From today’s perspective, the security reports for the years 2014 to 2016 showed some surprising things. While 94 percent of respondents feel generally safe, in 2016 it was 86 percent overall. Looking to the future is also less scary than it used to be: in 2016, 75 percent were optimistic, compared to 81 percent in the last survey. This may come as a surprise, given that a war is taking place around 2,000 kilometers from Switzerland and that a pandemic with far-reaching consequences recently shook Switzerland and Europe. For comparison: In the years 2014 to 2017, Europe suffered from the euro and refugee crises, among other things.

Crises that have been overcome make the population more optimistic

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Despite a war in Europe and a recent pandemic, the Swiss are more optimistic about the future than in previous years. Study co-author Tibor Szvircsev Tresch explains this with a certain crisis resilience of the population. “We went through a crisis and didn’t break apart as a society.” This in turn gives society the confidence that the next crisis can also be overcome, according to Tresch.

Political scientist Lukas Golder, co-head of gfs.bern, also explains the ongoing optimism in times of war with a collective feeling of resilience. According to this, Switzerland comes out of crises faster and better than other countries. In the early 2000s, after the unemployment crisis of the 1990s, there was still widespread fear of an economic crisis in Switzerland. “The bursting of the first Internet bubble was enough and the mood in the country changed,” says Golder. Switzerland was then directly affected by the financial crisis from 2008. Despite the gloomy scenarios, this was hardly noticeable in everyday life. “In general, the crises since 2000 have mostly affected Switzerland less severely than neighboring countries or than was feared. You got used to that,” says Golder.

Even if you look even further back into the past, a comparison with today is surprising: the attitude towards life is still better today than it was after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the 2002 security report, 86 percent of those questioned stated that they were “very sure” or “ more likely to feel “safe”.

Confidence in the US is increasing

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The authors of the study surveyed trust in selected countries for the last time in January 2019. Compared to then, the respondents had significantly more trust in the USA. Confidence in neighboring countries remained high. On the other hand, the loss of confidence in the authoritarian states of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea was striking.

Tagesschau, March 16, 2023, 12:45 p.m.;



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