Neutrality was yesterday, Junge Welt daily, May 24, 2024

Neutrality was yesterday, Junge Welt daily, May 24, 2024
Neutrality was yesterday, Junge Welt daily, May 24, 2024
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Soon under the NATO flag? The Swiss Air Force aerobatic team at Axalp 2023

Now in NATO! Grant Shapps piled on the pressure during his speech in London on Wednesday. There are states in Europe which benefit from “the protective umbrella of the alliance” but which “do not participate in the collective deterrence of the continent”, lamented the conservative British Minister of Defense: free riders who still cling to their neutrality instead of finally committing to rejoin the alliance and invest heavily in their military. Shapps did not mention Ireland, Malta, Austria and Switzerland by name, yet it was clear that he was talking about these four countries. “If the wolf is behind the back door of European security, then there should be no room for neutrality,” the minister said, announcing that he would work to secure their formal membership in NATO.

Greater participation

Apart from public debate, are we preparing for a next round of NATO enlargement, this time from 32 to 36 members, combined with the end of the last vestiges of at least formal neutrality in Europe? Well, things probably haven’t progressed that much yet. However, the long-observed rapprochement between the four Western European states that are not yet officially aligned with the alliance is currently progressing more rapidly than before. This is evidenced by a letter that the governments of Ireland, Malta, Austria and Switzerland sent to NATO headquarters in Brussels in December 2023 and which was recently published in the Austrian daily. The press cited, then also Swiss media. He states that the “Western European Four Partners” (WEP 4) are convinced of the “increasing importance” of their cooperation with NATO and that they now want the “partnership”, also in view of the anniversary summit of NATO in July in Washington. “develop”.

Concretely, the four officially neutral states propose five points. First of all, they want to intensify their exchanges with NATO, for example by participating more often in “high-level meetings”, in particular at the NATO Council. They also demand “privileged access to documents and information”; In particular, they are considering an exchange of intelligence data. Third, they want to be more involved in decisions, particularly in the creation of strategies: “This increases the legitimacy of new standards and facilitates their adoption by partners,” cited The press of WEP Letter 4. Fourth, they offer greater participation in maneuvers “to improve interoperability”; and fifth, they want to be more closely involved in the military alliance’s weapons technology cooperation. The latter aims to participate in the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), a NATO format founded in 2021 which aims to make the most modern high-tech innovations usable for the transatlantic armed forces.

Cooperation between officially neutral states and NATO is old. Switzerland, for example, had been in regular contact with the Western military alliance since the 1950s and had concluded agreements with the Federal Republic – albeit strictly informally – about so-called connection points on the common border, where she wanted to join the military. armed forces” in the event of a Soviet attack. Cooperation was formalized from the mid-1990s under NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” (PfP), which included, among other things, joint maneuvers; In addition to Switzerland, Austria, Ireland and Malta (finally from 2008 after brief back and forth), Finland and Sweden also participated, although they began to consider formal membership in the middle of 2000s, although at first only internally. Switzerland, Austria and Ireland have participated on several occasions or still today in NATO missions, for example in Afghanistan, currently in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Malta opened its airspace to NATO in 2011 for flights in connection with the war in Libya.

Elite Project

In Finland and Sweden, the ruling elites managed to use the war in Ukraine to change the previously clearly negative attitude of the population towards NATO membership and to obtain clear majorities in favor of it. membership. Thanks to the two countries’ intensively expanded cooperation with NATO since the 2000s, their membership in the alliance was ultimately only a formality, apart from tactical maneuvers by Turkey and Hungary. In WEP 4, at least part of the relevant establishment attempted to use the Russian attack on Ukraine to create an atmosphere conducive to further rapprochement with the alliance. In Switzerland, Federal President Ignazio Cassis campaigned in May 2022 for “cooperative neutrality”. In Austria, various politicians, business representatives and military officials also wrote an open letter in May 2022 calling for an “unblinded debate” on neutrality. However, they admitted with satisfaction, this is already “interpreted very flexibly in practice”.

In Ireland, on the other hand, former Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who later returned to office, proposed in May 2022 that the population vote on the participation of the Irish armed forces in a European army; This should then work in close collaboration with NATO – this is also a way of indirectly integrating itself into the military alliance. In Malta, at the same time, the parliament was even debating whether to completely abolish the neutrality enshrined in the country’s constitution since 1987. However, this seemed hardly feasible due to the obvious resistance of the population.

With your letter of December 2023, according to information from HE DOES Reportedly initiated by Malta, WEP 4 gave new impetus to efforts aimed at more intensive cooperation. Even if NATO membership, desired by Grant Shapps, is not yet in sight: ultimately, it is above all a formality; Close military cooperation is possible without it.

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