Courtesy Reuters

The New Swiss Military Capability

At a time when the NATO nations are having serious trouble in pulling their forces together to meet the Soviet threat in Berlin, the possibility that three new, well-equipped, well-manned divisions might act in concert with them in case of an attack on Western Europe opens up an attractive prospect. Three such divisions are already in process of being formed; they are not being formed by one of the 15 nations in the NATO alliance, but by little, neutral Switzerland on its own initiative and at its own expense.

Switzerland is not a signatory to the NATO treaties, nor is it likely that it will become one, at any rate in the foreseeable future. Devotion to a long and fruitful policy of neutrality is too strong among the Swiss for such a drastic break in tradition. The Swiss authorities would certainly deprecate references to Switzerland even as a potential ally. That, nevertheless, is what recent developments imply. An awareness of the changes since World War II in the art of warfare and in the international political situation led the government of Switzerland in 1960 to a decision which will make its forces more of a factor in the general defenses of Western Europe than they ever have been in the past.

The virtues of neutrality were discovered by the Swiss almost 500 years ago when their previously invincible troops were seriously defeated by a French army equipped with what was then the newest military technique, accurate artillery. Realizing that more harm than good would come from further participation in the continuous wars of that epoch, the old Swiss Confederation renounced all political or military alliances and proclaimed that henceforth it would remain aloof from the power struggle.

The decision was a good one for Switzerland. She continued to supply mercenaries to any army that could afford them, but she was spared the wholesale destruction which marked most of the succeeding conflicts, including the bloody Thirty Years War. At one point she received subsidies for

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