Switzerland Refuses to Transfer Tanks to Ukraine

Switzerland again refused to transfer arms to Ukraine on Wednesday, this time rejecting the export of almost 100 Leopard 1 tanks belonging to state arms company RUAG.

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has so far not allowed countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry to re-export it to Ukraine.

Switzerland’s Federal Council said the export of 96 Leopard 1 A5 tanks was “not possible under the law as it stands.”

“Such a sale would contravene the War Materiel Act and would result in a shift from Switzerland’s policy of neutrality,” it said.

The War Materiel Act bars all re-export if the recipient country is in an international armed conflict.

The Federal Council said it had “given priority to Switzerland’s commitments as a neutral country and to the reliability of its application of the rule of law.”

The landlocked country of 8.8 million people has a long-standing position of well-armed military neutrality.

But this tradition has been hotly debated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

On June 1, the country’s lower house of parliament voted against a proposal that would have specifically authorized the transfer of Swiss-made arms to Ukraine.

It has rejected explicit requests from countries including Germany, Spain, and Denmark.

RUAG bought the used and non-operational Leopard 1 A5 tanks from an agency of the Italian Ministry of Defense in 2016.

The company initially intended to refurbish the tanks, which are still in Italy, for potential buyers or sell spare parts.

But Russia’s invasion saw urgent demand for tanks in Ukraine.

With funding from the Netherlands, RUAG was set to send the tanks to their German manufacturer for restoration so they could support Ukraine’s army.

Wednesday’s refusal was widely expected, even though the Swiss parliament is considering ways to relax the country’s principle of neutrality.

Parliament is proposing to reform legislation and allow arms to be re-exported to a country at war, under certain conditions.

The country would have to be exercising its right to self-defense, the UN Security Council or a two-thirds majority of the UN General Assembly would have to sanction a violation of international law, and the purchasing country would have to pledge not to re-export the arms. The changes may be limited to five years.

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