‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don’t want to buy American planes

Swiss voters on Sunday narrowly approved a proposal to spend CHF6 billion on new fighter jets. But when it comes to where not to buy the aircraft, the Swiss populace are a little more decisive.

‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don't want to buy American planes
F5 Tiger fighter jets of the Swiss Air Force (The "Patrouille Suisse") fly in formation. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Only four percent of Swiss voters want the government to buy the jets from the United States. 

The results come from a poll taken by Switzerland’s Tamedia news organisation

The vote however is not based purely on opinions of the US president.

Social Democrat councillor Priska Seiler Graf said the major issue was that US manufacturers retain important security codes which could jeopardise the use of the jets in “extreme examples”. 

“There is always a dependency on the country of manufacture. But the US does not disclose its software codes. I have already been reprimanded for my statements in this regard, but I stand by it: In extreme cases, this means that the Americans can change the software codes and we can no longer access our jets.”

Graf, who was against the fighter jet initiative, said she would prefer the Swiss government to buy the jets from a European manufacturer, reports Swiss daily 20 Minutes

Lewin Lempert, from the Group for a Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA) – one of the major organisations who opposed the ultimately successful fighter jet referendum – said the poll shows “we (Switzerland) don’t want Trump jets”. 

FDP Council of States Thierry Burkart said the government, rather than the people, should decide where to purchase the jets. 

“Where to buy is the wrong question. The DDPS must first complete the evaluation,” Burkart said. 

“We need the most suitable aircraft to carry out the assignment. In addition to the price, the aircraft's autonomy is also a criterion. A political assessment can then be made. Anyone who does not want to shop in the USA because of Trump thinks in the short term.”

The US leader is unpopular in Switzerland, as he is in much of Europe. Polls taken from 2016 and 2017 saw a 25 percent fall in Swiss opinions of the United States after Trump's election. 

While only four percent wanted the government to buy the jets from the US, 31 percent said the decision should be up to the government. 

An additional 28 percent said the jets should be purchased from a European company like Airbus or Dassault, while 24 percent said they wanted another alternative. 

11 percent said they didn’t know. 

Fighter jets: A ‘yes’ by the thinnest of margins 

On the ballot Sunday was a referendum on dishing out six billion Swiss francs ($6.6 billion, 5.6 billion euros) for new fighter jets, which squeezed through with a mere 50.1 percent of votes in favour.

The vote was far closer than expected, with under 9,000 votes nationwide deciding the question. 

This should put an end to a more than decade-long debate about replacing Switzerland's ageing fleet of jets, although another vote could be held once the government determines which planes it is looking to buy.

In 2014, the country looked set to purchase 22 Gripen E fighter jets from Swedish group Saab, only to see the people vote against releasing the funds needed to go forward with the multi-billion-dollar deal.


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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.