Swiss neutrality put to the test by the war at the gates of Europe: in Switzerland, a debate is currently raging, two and a half months after the attack on Ukraine by Russia. Should 36 F-35 fighter jets be ordered or not before the takeover offer expires on March 31, 2023? The question is important in this traditionally neutral country, explains BFM TV on Saturday May 14. For weeks, defenders and opponents of the project have clashed with petitions and speeches in the media and on social networks.

Thus, the petition “Stop F-35” reached, on Saturday May 14 at midday, 88,761 signatures: a figure which is close to 100,000, the threshold from which the project will be decided at the ballot box. The plane would be “too expensive, unsuitable”, “only for wars of aggression,” reads the petition’s website. In return, Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd urged the petition’s initiators to end the campaign because of the war. in Ukraine, a context which, according to the politician, requires the country to equip itself to protect its population and its airspace.

A debate on neutrality to lead?

The request was seen as “shocking from a democratic rights perspective” by the Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSsA) and the Swiss Socialist Party, which issued a statement denouncing the minister’s remarks. The latter then responded, in an interview given to the Swiss media Blick on Thursday, May 12, that “the vote on the combat plane has already taken place and (…) that (…) the population has (had) said ‘yes'”. The politician added that Switzerland must lead a debate on its neutrality.