NATO's neutral partner.

Author:Knott, Paul
Position:Politics
 
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Ambassador Jean-Jacques de Dardel has two jobs: as Swiss Ambassador to Belgium, he must work out who to deal with in a country that currently has no government; in his other role, he must make Switzerland's voice heard among the 28 member states and 22 partner countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). We talked to him about his role as Swiss envoy to NATO, and his country's relationship with what is widely considered to be the world's most prominent military alliance.

For four decades, NATO preserved the security of Western Europe, opposing the Communist Warsaw Pact alliance of Eastern Europe. After the Cold War system of adversarial bloc politics ended in 1990, NATO's role became broader and less defined: one of maintaining international security. The transition involved NATO incorporating former-Warsaw Pact nations and opening itself to new partnerships with non-member states. To achieve this, NATO created the Partnership for Peace (PfP)--which handles the operational aspects of security cooperation--and later, the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC): a political forum for consultation and coordination on major international security issues. Both institutions allow partners to choose how they contribute, without being bound by NATO's collective security commitments to intervene militarily when a fellow member state is attacked.

This arrangement suits Switzerland well and enables it to engage in international security matters more closely--without breaching its totemic neutrality policy. In return, NATO can draw upon Switzerland's assets in support of its work.

Mutual benefits

Ambassador de Dardel explained that this partnership gives NATO access to Switzerland's internationally renowned humanitarian and crisis response expertise--an asset because Switzerland is widely seen as having significant resources to offer, and it is unencumbered by the political agenda that comes with being part of an alliance. As well as various specialised courses for military personnel, Switzerland's contributions to PfP include training in international humanitarian law, projects to build ethics and transparency in the defence sector, and funding for clearing the lethal remnants of war, such as unspent ammunition and landmines. Ambassador de Dardel noted that these activities are sometimes ignored as "sideshows" to more newsworthy actions, such as military intervention; however, they are in fact the crucial...

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