Leopards for Germany?: The Swiss President is skeptical about the tank tax

Germany wants to buy Leopard 2 tanks from Switzerland.

Leopards for Germany?: The Swiss President is skeptical about the tank tax

Germany wants to buy Leopard 2 tanks from Switzerland. It is unclear whether this will work. The Federal President of the country reacts cautiously to the desires with reference to the neutrality requirement. He rules out arms deliveries to Ukraine.

In the face of the Ukraine war, Switzerland has reaffirmed its constitutionally enshrined neutrality and has continued to be adamant about any arms deliveries to Ukraine. "In view of our legal framework in Switzerland, arms exports are not possible," stressed President Alain Berset on the fringes of a UN session in New York. "We must and want to maintain this legal framework for the government and the Federal Council."

Berset defended his country's traditional "very cautious and moderate" position and in this context also expressed skepticism about the demand from Germany regarding a buyback of decommissioned Leopard tanks. Changes to the framework conditions are currently being discussed by Parliament. But it is "not the time for changes and we cannot make exceptions," said the Swiss President on the fringes of a meeting of the UN Women's Rights Council.

At the end of February, the federal government asked Switzerland for approval for the German armaments group Rheinmetall to buy back decommissioned Leopard tanks. Since Switzerland is not allowed to deliver weapons to countries at war due to its principle of neutrality, Berlin assured that it would not send the tanks to Ukraine. The tanks are intended to fill the gaps that have arisen in Germany or with NATO and EU partners as a result of deliveries to Ukraine.

The Swiss Army has 134 Leopard 2 tanks in service and 96 Leopard 2 tanks in storage. The tanks are regularly tested, but have not been modernized. The stored tanks were not "decommissioned," said the Ministry of Defense. But this would have to be done before a sale. Parliament would have to decide on the decommissioning.

The neutrality debate in Switzerland has become more topical since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the Alpine country - which is not a member of the EU - supports the sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union, it has so far been adamant about its military neutrality. However, various initiatives to relax the regulations are being discussed in Parliament, but a decision is not expected for a few months. The Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd had raised the possibility of a transfer to Germany and the Czech Republic.