Home Diplomatic Pouch Switzerland: Taking Off the Glove of Neutrality

Switzerland: Taking Off the Glove of Neutrality

Dr. Roxolana Zigón

Text of the Interview to the Tv “Zvezda” (Russia)

By Dr. Roxolana Zigón

TV «Zvezda»: Once again, Switzerland is trying to become a negotiator on Ukraine. Why is exactly this country, the one that is called to stay neutral?

R.Z.: For two centuries Switzerland has been following for the policy of neutrality. Since 1815, permanent neutrality has been one of the basic principles of its foreign policy that demanded to avoid involvement in armed conflicts between states or entering into any military alliances. It is a generating source of peace and stability in Europe and beyond. It ensured and still ensures the country’s independence and the inviolability of its territory. Moreover, the Federal Constitution provides that the Federal Council and the Federal Assembly must take measures to safeguard Switzerland’s neutrality. 

After Napoleon’s defeat, Switzerland retreated its steps to a federal form of government. In the aftermath of the war, France returned the cantons annexed in 1798 (Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva). Thus, their number reached 22. The Paris Peace Treaty of 1815 secured Switzerland the status of a neutral state. Almost one hundred years later there has been adopted a law of neutrality which was codified in The Hague Conventions of 18th of October 1907 and became a part of international customary law, defined the rights and obligations of a neutral state.

However, today we are witnessing a breakdown of the international relations system, a grave imbalance of diplomatic mechanisms for resolving military conflicts. It is bound to evoke a negative impact on the cast in stone neutrality status of Switzerland which is being progressively dismantled due to the decision to adopt European Union sanctions against Russia in 2022 in spite of the traditional position of Switzerland to refuse taking sides in European conflicts. According to critics, that was a departure from neutrality that jeopardized the country’s role as an international mediator.

Having been one of the most progressive and liberal state in the Western Europe, a stronghold of the Protestant pride and morality, nowadays Switzerland is facing a profound political and existential dilemma such as: to preserve a neutral status or to take off the white glove and reveal the hilt of the sword in the name of an ephemeral union of differently directed and polarized forces?

The inertial manifestation of the diplomatic will and initiative of Switzerland, the last confederation in the world, regarding the Ukrainian conflict in the context of the existing contradictions can not only escalate the situation inside Switzerland, but also deprive it in the future by eliminating an opportunity to return to a state of neutral peace that meets the interests of all global forces.

Undermining neutrality poses a threat to Switzerland’s internal and external security.

Being a grandmaster of global diplomacy, a state where historically wars end and peace negotiations begin, Switzerland, in spite of a serious socio-political split on the issue of rejecting its neutral status, joining the great EU sanctions Bull on sanctions against Russia, rapprochement with NATO, still continues to be nominated as a key diplomatic force in Europe and worldwide.

However, I would rather be careful in recommending to intermingle two different physics laws of energy conservation in one political test tube: the principle of inertia, which states the conservation of linear momentum, and the principle of energy, which speaks of energy conservation. Currently, the principle of inertia is in effect, which can lead to a state of destruction of the status quo in the political lab of Switzerland.

TV «Zvezda»: Bern has announced its intentions to organize a global peace summit at the luxury Burgenstock resort near the central city of Luzern on June 15-16th 2024 that will represent 100 countries, including representatives of the Global South, but with a special attention to China. Why?

R.Z.: Bern has consistently articulated its diplomatic intentions for organizing a peace conference on Ukraine in Switzerland for the past few months, without expressing a clear confidence that any breakthrough decisions or results could be achieved. The President of the Swiss Confederation, Viola Amherd, underlined after a January 15th meeting with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, that “he asked Switzerland to organize a high-level peace conference and Bern responded positively to this request.”

In turn, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said during a press conference in Davos on the 14th of January that the Russian side should participate in the process of resolving the situation in Ukraine. “One way or another, we must find a way to include Russia in the process. There will be no peace without Russia having its say,” he said. Subsequently, a burning stream of arguments about the importance of China’s participation in the conflict resolution, which has its own Peace Plan to end the Russian-Ukrainian war, became a swirling torrent of the Swiss concerns in regard to the outcome of the emerging global peace conference in Burgenstock.

Both Switzerland and Ukraine’s allies consider China’s participation as a key to the success of the entire conference, since Beijing has the strongest influence on Moscow. Moreover, China is aiming at consolidating its position as one of the world’s leading diplomatic players by stretching its muscles ahead of the next round of rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, including a tense situation around Taiwan, which China intends to win with a decisive majority of voices in its own favor.

According to the Swiss political leadership, the representatives of the Global South are important because they will be able to persuade Russia, which does not intend to participate in this event, to join the peace process. This explains the reason why Switzerland is in close contact with China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

TV «Zvezda»: The head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, as well as the head of the Swiss Foreign Ministry, stated that it was impossible to resolve the Ukrainian issue without Russia. Why then is this summit needed at all?

R.Z.: At a recent meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and China, Sergei Lavrov and Wang Yi in Beijing on April 9th 2024, the Chinese minister said that China supported a Swiss intention to convene a peace conference on Ukraine with an equal participation of all parties and discussion of all peace plans. However, the statement of the Chinese side has a purely declarative nature in the context of the international parade of declarations.

What is truly can be overviewed as a solid ground is that Beijing claims neutrality in the conflict but has emerged as a key economic lifeline for the isolated Russian economy and a staunch diplomatic partner for Moscow as both push back against what they see as containment from the West. Here we can observe how the image of neutrality principle finds its reflection in the mirror of the modern global affairs. What is neutral for Switzerland is not always neutral and sterile for China, and almost never acceptable to Russia.

Today it is practically impossible to separate the great thing from the tiny details in diplomacy, since the smallest detail can become a system-forming and insightfully more advanced at a flash. The upcoming global summit on a peaceful settlement in Ukraine in Bürgenstock is an attempt to maintain diplomatic energy under extremely unfavorable conditions, rowing against the wind, for all parties of the conflict and forces that are divided into ideologically incompatible camps in the struggle for the global leadership in the 21st century.

TV «Zvezda»: Russia has stated that even having received an official invitation, Moscow would not participate in this circus because Bern is not a player that is trustworthy. What should we do?

First of all, it is necessary to give a brief historical refence on the meaning of the word «circus». It comes from the name of the goddess and enchantress Circe of Homer, who poisoned Odysseus’s crew and turned them into swine. After all, «circenses» meant games in the ancient Roman circus, and Circe’s transformations were quite circus acts.

Today, participation or non-participation in the political circus equally does not give satisfaction, as soon as show must go on and will go on, notwithstanding good intentions of the Samaritans, the illusions of the Philistines and the messianic expectations of the Aryans.

If Bern is the wrong player and Switzerland loses credibility as a negotiator, then turning Odysseus’s crew into swine can be an expensive and unpromising circus act, the diplomatic benefits of which are unclear.

 However, if to rely on the diplomatic clairvoyance of the day, then it may flawlessly indicate that the peace summit will take place, G7 and the representatives of the Global South will perform a ritual diplomatic act on freezing the military conflict in Ukraine and searching for the ways of establishing dialogue between Russia and Ukraine. China will solemnly, under the heavenly dome of Switzerland, announce the impossibility of resolving the conflict without involving Russia, and will advance the adoption of a resolution on the 12 points of the Chinese Peace Plan.

The conference will be followed by a meeting between the leaders of China and Russia to discuss the results of the peace conference in Switzerland. Everything will be going on in full swing without any visible signs of drastic changes. However, Confucius said, “signs and symbols rule the world, not words nor laws.” In this regard, we can assume that a breakthrough will be achieved only when the power of Chinese symbolism finds a balance of interests with the ratio of the West and the metaphysics of Russia.

About the author:

Dr. Roksolana Zigón, diplomat, expert on the global diplomacy and IR, geopolitics and strategic analysis, educator, writer, author of the concepts «Enlightened activism», «quantum geopolitics», «polymathic individual» of the New Enlightenment

Geneva School of Diplomacy and IR, Switzerland, Ljubljana University, Slovenia, Senior Adviser, Tillotoma foundation (New Delhi, India), founder and president of the HARPHAIM «New Enlightenment» International foundation (2023); Diplomatic School «Polymath» (2023).

diplomatrz@yandex.ru    https://t.me/etlegatusdicit

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