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President: Switzerland must strengthen defence capability

President: Switzerland must strengthen defence capability

Swiss President Viola Amherd with Norway’s King Harald V in Oslo on Thursday

Keystone / Terje Bendiksby / Pool

Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd says her trip to Estonia and Norway has reinforced her conviction that Switzerland must strengthen its defence capabilities.

Amherd, who also holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, travelled to Estonia at the beginning of the week and then on to Norway. Both NATO members had expressed great concern about the situation in Ukraine, Amherd told the Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA on the last day of her trip.

Estonia is even more affected due to its proximity to Russia, but also for historical reasons. The country is therefore also expanding its defence capabilities, she said.

In January, the three Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania also announced that they would establish a joint defence line on the border with Russia and Belarus.

Amherd believes that Switzerland must learn its lessons from this and strengthen its own capabilities. At the beginning of the week, she had already stated that it was now necessary to evaluate whether Switzerland could continue in the same way decades after the end of the Cold War. “The army was destroyed for 30 years and it is clear that this cannot be corrected within five years and without an increase in resources,” she said.

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Intensify cooperation

The new State Secretary for Security Policy, Markus Mäder, who accompanied Amherd, also believes that defence capacities need to be strengthened. Switzerland must also increase its resilience to hybrid threats, he told Keystone-SDA.

At the same time, cooperation with European partners should be intensified. The exchange of information and experience with NATO, but also bilaterally with several European countries, is important here, he said.

The head of the Swiss Armed Forces, Thomas Süssli, will travel to Estonia in June. This is because Switzerland and Estonia both have a militia system and a similar mobilisation model. Süssli will also find out about defence against cyberattacks. Estonia has experience in this area, Amherd emphasised after her talks with her Estonian counterpart.

According to Mäder, Switzerland also wants to evaluate the extent to which it could participate in joint exercises. Since 2020, Switzerland has been participating in the activities of the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn. Among other things, the centre organises the annual Lock Shields defence exercise, a simulation of a massive cyberattack.

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This year, around 20 Swiss nationals will take part in the exercise and form a team together with the US and Austria, Reto Senn, Defence Attaché for Sweden, Finland, Norway and Estonia, told Keystone-SDA during the Swiss delegation’s visit to the centre.

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