Why is Switzerland A Neutral Country?

swiss flag map

Switzerland is neutral because as a country and culture they do not wish to take part in other people’s conflicts. The reasons go back to the history of the country and how it was formed.

Switzerland’s neutrality is an integral part of its foreign policy but it goes far deeper than that. It is something that is part of the Swiss themselves. A thing of great pride and identity that forms a deep part of Swiss culture.

When Did Switzerland Become Neutral

The very beginnings of Swiss neutrality date back to September 14, 1515, when the Swiss suffered a heavy loss during the infamous Battle of Marignano. However, a formal neutrality policy was not formed until later in 1815.

The Battle of Marignano taught the Swiss a hard lesson. They were better off staying out of conflicts, despite their expansionist and mercenary past. After losing this battle, they signed a peace treaty with the French in 1516 called Treaty of Fribourg. This was ultimately the beginning of Swiss neutrality.

However, Switzerland was invaded several times after that, with the final straw being the Napoleonic wars. It all began in 1798 with Switzerland’s invasion, and they finally become a satellite of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire some years later. This occupation by the French led to some significant changes in Switzerland’s canton system, but that story is for another day.

Switzerland’s neutrality policy was finally cemented in the Treaty of Paris in 1815, where Switzerland was seen as a way to keep the French and the Austrians apart.

The final confirmation of Swiss neutrality was on the 13th of February in 1920 when they joined the League of Nations.

Swiss tanks
Swiss Army Vehicles – courtesy of Wikimedia

Swiss Neutrality in WWI and WWII

It may be surprising to learn but Switzerland has been neutral ever since 1815.

During WWI Switzerland maintained their neutrality despite mobilizing its troops under General Ulrich Wille to protect the country. They continued to protect the borders throughout the war which lead to all kinds of problems with inflation and food supply.

Switzerland’s neutrality was also of vital importance during WWII as the country wished to stay out of the conflict and maintain their independence. Again, during this time General Henri Guisan was in charge of over half a million Swiss troops. Owing to the Germans being on two sides Switzerland had significant issues controlling its borders as well as the airspace.

Modern-Day Swiss Neutrality

It is one thing to say you are neutral, but another to put it into action. So, how has Switzerland’s neutrality influenced its actions over the decades since the Treaty of Paris.

Switzerland has not taken part in any wars since becoming neutral and joining a rather short list of neutral nations including Sweden and Finland. Although with their recent application request for NATO membership, this may soon become a one-nation show.

Switzerland has remained neutral and avoided all military conflicts through such times as World War II, even with sometimes questionable associations with Nazi Germany. Switzerland is also not a member of NATO and has not taken part in any peacekeeping activities like other major European powers and members of the European Union.

Although interestingly, Switzerland joined the UN on the 10th of September 2002. Which is something people often wonder about!

Swiss Army

Swiss army marching
Swiss army marching

Being a neutral nation does not mean you cannot have an army. And in fact, it often means you need serious military power in order to avoid being pulled into other countries’ conflicts.

All Swiss men between the age or 18 and 30 are required to take part in military service. And given almost all Swiss men take their weapons home and train at least once a year with them, the country is certainly quite ready to defend itself.

How Long Has Switzerland Been Neutral?

Switzerland has been a neutral country for over three hundred years since 1815 at the Congress of Vienna.

Is Switzerland in NATO?

Although Switzerland has been collaborating with NATO for over 20 years they will never join NATO. This is because Switzerland wishes to maintain its neutrality and joining NATO is not in line with that goal.

Is Switzerland Neutral In the Ukraine Conflict?

Although Switzerland has imposed sanctions on Russia as a result of the Ukraine invasion it still remains neutral and will not supply arms to Ukraine. So, Switzerland is indeed still a neutral country in 2022.

Russia has not accepted Switzerland as a go-between in any negotiation of peace with Ukraine which puts into question its ongoing neutrality, however, officially it is still intact.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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