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MILITARY

Move to block Swiss F-35 purchase gains support

A Swiss alliance seeking to block the purchase of F-35 fighter jets said Friday it had received nearly enough support to put the controversial military contract to a referendum.

Move to block Swiss F-35 purchase gains support
Switzerland ordered 36 F-35 fighter jets from the US, but opposition is mounting. Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The left-wing Stop F-35 alliance said it had almost secured the 100,000 signatures required under Switzerland’s direct democracy system to force an
issue to a vote.

The consortium has said it does not want the jets because they are costly, and because of a number of technical issues reported with the planes.

They hope to have gathered more than enough signatures to present their initiative to block the jet purchase within coming months.

It meanwhile remains unclear when the vote would be put on the agenda in Switzerland, where popular votes on a vast array of issues are held every few months.

“Due to the exploding costs of the F-35, the foreign policy consequences and the many flaws of this combat aircraft, this debate is necessary and
urgent”, Marionna Schlatter, from the Green party and a member of Stop-35, said in a statement.

The Swiss government in June last year agreed to buy 36 F-35As from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The purchase followed the narrow referendum approval in September 2020 for the military to spend six billion francs (5.8 billion euros, $6.3 billion) to
acquire a new fleet.

The government said the plane was the best, but two Swiss parliamentary committees launched an investigation into why the model was chosen after a
series of technical problems reported with the plane in the United States.

They also questioned the high cost of the planes. 

But the government said last week it wanted to speed up the purchase process, with the US offer expiring at the end of March 2023, raising
questions around whether a vote could take place before then.

The government’s rush to complete the process is “highly questionable from a democratic perspective,” the Stop F-35 alliance charged, stressing though
that it remained possible to hold a vote in time.

READ MORE: Could Switzerland defend itself against invasion?

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MILITARY

Switzerland vetoes Danish military donation to Ukraine

Switzerland has blocked a planned delivery by Denmark of 20 Swiss-produced armoured vehicles to Ukraine.

Switzerland vetoes Danish military donation to Ukraine

The donation of the vehicles to Ukraine by Denmark was blocked by Switzerland due to the latter country’s policy of military neutrality, Swiss broadcaster SRF reported on Wednesday according to news wire Reuters.

Switzerland maintains the right to prevent hardware it produced from being supplied to Ukraine under the neutrality policy, which extends to military assistance to Ukraine in defending itself against the Russian invasion.

As such, Switzerland can prevent military hardware it sells to other countries from being exported to a third country.

The vehicles in question are of the type Piranha III, produced by Swiss company Mowag.

Denmark is reported to have requested permission from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) to send the vehicles to Ukraine. The request was reportedly turned down.

The Danish Ministry of Defence has declined to comment on the matter.

“In respect of the confidentiality of operative questions, the Ministry of Defence can not elaborate on issues relating to donations of weapons,” the ministry told Danish news wire Ritzau in a written comment on Monday.

Copenhagen’s plans to send the armoured vehicles to Ukraine were earlier reported by media in the Nordic country.

Denmark has sent body armour, weapons and other military equipment valuing up to two billion kroner (around 270 million euros) to Ukraine, according to statements made in parliament this week.

Switzerland in April blocked a German donation of anti-aircraft ammunition to Ukraine, while Poland has also previously been denied permission to assist Ukraine by donating Swiss hardware, according to Reuters.

Although Switzerland keeps a traditionally neutral foreign policy with regard to military conflicts, it has participated in several economic sanctions led by the EU against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

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