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Avion de combat: le F-35 n’en finit pas de diviser la Suisse

The Swiss contract for 36 F-35s must be signed before March 31, 2023, the expiry date of the offer period. Opponents of this market and those who support it clash with pressure and arguments.

The contract for 36 F-35s continues to divide Switzerland. This week, Viola Amherd, Minister of Defense, traveled to the United States to discuss the subject. Nothing has filtered through the discussions with Washington. But in his country, the debate remains lively on the subject.

The “Stop F-35” petition launched to cancel this purchase is approaching 90,000 signatures. However, at 100,000, a vote will be mandatory to approve or reject the project. Faced with this risk, the minister last March called on the opponents to withdraw their initiative with, as a new argument, the war in Ukraine.

“We see how important it is to be able to defend ourselves, protect the population and guarantee that our airspace is not used by the parties in conflict”, declared on RTS Viola Amherd.

The war in Ukraine

The response was immediate and firm. In response to this suggestion, the Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSsA) and the Swiss Socialist Party issued a statement accusing him of exerting pressure at the limit of legality.

“This request is shocking from the point of view of democratic rights and demonstrates that the arms lobby fears that new scandals will come to light”, say the signatories of this press release.

As for the risk of an invasion by Russia, the GSsA considers that this scenario makes “no sense”.

“Before the first Russian soldier set foot on Swiss soil, a nuclear war would have already broken out, as various NATO countries would have been attacked before,” the group said in a statement.

Tension is mounting between the two camps as March 31, 2023 approaches, when the bid deadline expires. After this time, Switzerland will find itself in a complicated situation. Bern will lose its production slots which will be allocated to other contracts such as those with Finland, Germany or Canada.

A process will have to be launched for a new order which, regardless of the manufacturer, cannot be delivered on time. The Swiss army must replace from 2030 part of a fleet made up of 25 F-5 Tigers and 30 F/A-18 Hornets. The survival of the Swiss Patrouille, which will no longer have planes authorized to fly, would even be at stake.

“If we exceed the deadline, Switzerland will have to ask for a new offer and it will cost more”, warned on RTS Werner Salzmann, chairman of the security policy commission of the Council of States which has just approved the credits for commitment of 8 billion requested by the Federal Council.

Swiss neutrality in question

Viola Amherd doesn’t give up. Thursday, in an interview with Blick, she recalls that the Swiss have already spoken in favor of the contract.

“The vote on the combat plane has already taken place and I take the liberty of recalling that the population said ‘yes'”, declared the minister. She adds: “Everywhere I go people come up to me and say, ‘It’s time to buy that plane, now we can’t wait!'”

The Minister of Defense even opens a more sensitive file, that of neutrality. “We must lead a broad political debate on the policy of neutrality”, proposes the Minister of Defense.

On this issue she has the support of the centrist party from which she comes. Its president, Gerhard Pfister, believes has asked the Federal Council to authorize Germany to export Swiss war material to Ukraine.

“Why does Switzerland supply arms to Saudi Arabia, but not to Ukraine? When does neutrality become indecent?” Gerhard Pfister told a meeting of his political party. .

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