Author: An analysis by Sebastian Ramspeck
For the ambassador of the most powerful country in the world, the Confederation is nothing in a sweet pastry: “NATO is a kind of doughnut – and Switzerland is the hole in the middle,” said Scott Miller, the US representative in Bern, on Thursday of the NZZ .
The undiplomatic choice of words is not solely due to the fact that Miller was appointed by President Joe Biden as a career changer in diplomacy. It is an expression of an image problem in Switzerland, but also of growing nervousness within the western alliance led by the USA.
The criticism of Switzerland is getting shrill
There is no end in sight to Russia’s war against Ukraine, either on the battlefield or at any negotiating table. That is why the United States, as the leading Western power, is trying to get other countries on course: with sanctions against the aggressor Russia and with support for the target Ukraine – including weapons.
As a result, NATO, recently decried as “superfluous” and “brain dead”, has unexpectedly become the most important western alliance again – a security donut, so to speak.
And within NATO, it is not only the USA that is bothered by the fact that Switzerland does not grant permission for the re-export of war material that it sold to NATO countries years ago. Objections came, for example, from the Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles or from the German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck.
The German magazine “Spiegel” also criticized that Switzerland was not sufficiently accepting the Western sanctions, making itself Putin’s “willing helper”. The Swiss Ambassador in Berlin, Paul Seger, contradicted this view in a guest post. But the image damage was done.
No sweet prospects
The hole-in-the-doughnut comparison stands for another accusation that has become louder since the start of Russia’s major offensive against Ukraine: the 30 NATO countries, with their 3.3 million soldiers, ensure security throughout Europe – and countries who did not participate are free riders.
Especially since the world is again dominated by two power blocs: on the one hand the USA with its NATO and other allies, on the other hand Russia, China and affiliated states.
Memories are awakened of the Cold War from 1947 to 1991, when Switzerland had to find its place: between the capitalist West and the communist East, between the USA and the Soviet Union. At that time, Switzerland was successful in orienting itself ideologically towards the West without giving up its neutrality.
But the new Cold War is only just beginning to take shape, and in the middle of Europe, in Ukraine, a hot war is raging that has already claimed tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of lives.
Agree to West’s criticism and To withdraw from the East and cultivate one’s own image has become a less than sweet task for Switzerland.
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Sebastian Ramspeck is an international correspondent for SRF. Before that he was a correspondent in Brussels and worked as an economic reporter for the news magazine “10vor10”. Ramspeck studied International Relations at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.