So Long Switzerland, It Was Great Knowing You

Diplomacy Watch: Switzerland weighs break with policy of neutrality - Responsible Statecraft

A group of Swiss lawmakers has moved forward a proposal to allow countries to give Swiss-made weapons to Ukraine, in a move that would soften Switzerland’s centuries-old policy of neutrality toward foreign conflicts. …

The decision would represent a significant break from the policy of Swiss neutrality, though its supporters insist that the measure would not violate their law of neutrality since Bern would not be sending weapons directly.

Only a lawyer could pretend to believe that foolishness about (to paraphrase) “It was not us who provided the weapons which created havoc; all we did was said yes to someone else”.


?Why would it even come up. Ownership has its rewards, one of which is that you can do what you wish with YOUR “property”. This whole idea a manufacturer can put stipulations on where or how your products is used/priced is BS. It would actually give credence to laws such as suing gun manufacturers for misuse of their products.


Contracts also have their rewards. If some buyer (say, Poland) voluntarily signs a contract stipulating that they will not re-export an item without the permission of the original seller (thus owner of the embedded Intellectual Property), then surely that ownership right of the original seller should be respected?

The nonsense is duplicitous Swiss lawyers/politicians saying that we can provide weapons to only one side of an active conflict but we are still “neutral”. If Switzerland was selling weapons to both sides in a conflict, that would be neutrality. Pacifist – no. Exploitive – yes. But arguably “neutral”.


A threshold question is whether selling weapons in the first place was a neutral act? Assume they sold ammo to Germany in 2013. Would they have sold it to Russia then?


It would seem that the definition of neutrality would require a willingness to sell to anyone. If Germany wanted to buy ammo in 2013 and Russia did not, then there would be no problem with a neutral country selling only to Germany. But Germany was not at war with anyone in 2013.

If we now come to 2023 and Switzerland is happy to see Swiss weapons provided only to one side of an active conflict, then Switzerland would no longer be neutral – Switzerland would be a co-belligerent, and thus a valid potential recipient of unwelcome thermonuclear warheads.

The world was simpler when countries would openly declare war, instead of sending out lawyers to dance upon the heads of pins.



That fine principle has been chipped away at from many sides for a long time. Foreign military sales from the U.S. have long come with re-export provisions or restrictions, which may or may not have been enforced. ITAR imposes severe and complex restrictions including those on “retransfer”.

On the domestic front, consider the attacks against the First Sale Doctrine by copyright holders trying to bar rental or heavy discounting of their products by an initial purchaser. One of the cases that limited the rights of owners to resell software was Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc. in which the Ninth Circuit (who else) threw out a century’s precedent and gutted the first sale doctrine as embodied in “shrinkwrap licenses”.


“Armed neutrality” in Switzerland has long been, to paraphrase U.S. assistant secretary of HHS Richard/Rachel Levine, “a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards … that have been developed”.

In other words, it’s been interpreted so that the Army can buy whatever weapons they want from any supplier and Swiss arms merchants can sell to whoever has the money to buy.


Nope! IF the original seller, or any seller retains “rights” to decide how that product is dealt with after it’s sold, then it wasn’t a sale - it is some other animal. ?What if you wished to purchase a particular book, and the local bookstore was running a sale so you got it for a big discount, do you really believe the publisher (who sold the book to a distributor already) should have the right to nix the sale and have the book taken from you because it was sold for less than MSRP.

And notice that nations frequently disregard these “restrictions”. ?Did we not *lease (not sell) our silent submarine screw technology to a Japanese firm - who promptly sold it to the Russians I believe it. was. You’l have to remind me of how and when we “sanctioned” the Japs.


Vernor v. Autodesk

That brought back some memories (warning: don’t click on the links in that old blog post; most of them are no longer valid).


Who knows what the name of that other animal may be? Still, the fact remains that a seller can choose to impose conditions on a sale, and if the buyer choses to accept those conditions and complete the purchase, then the buyer has contractual obligations to the seller. A typical case might be that a buyer buys some land accepting the seller’s conditions on what can & can not be built on the land.

My only beef in this case is what it means to be “neutral”. A neutral arms seller will sell to everybody or nobody, their choice. But if they chose to sell to one side of a conflict but not the other, then that seller is now a co-belligerent.


This is pretty funny actually. Think about it from Putin’s perspective if you can:

There is a human ecology known as “The West” which has demonstrated it is a threat. There are structural elements to this ecology – metabolic pathways if you will – that either serve his interest or are inimical to his interests.

In the present conflict, there appears to be something akin to swarm dynamics bypassing what we ordinarily think of as command and control during war. Essentially social media swarms of status seekers occupying various positions of authority in “The West” vie with each other for social status by doing damage to Putin. There’s no one to negotiate with – just a bunch of “mean girls” using social pressure (e.g.: social credit) to achieve alignment with the utility function of social status.

Among these structural elements are “conversations” and “ideals” such as the Austrian School of Economics: Various economic relations and activities that, in the final analysis, are simply the flow of nutrients in a mass organism’s metabolic structure.

What Putin needs is a macrosocial model of The West so he can achieve higher RoI on his attacks. It would be foolish to assume he doesn’t have a superior model of internal causative structure to the “model” the “mean girls” foist on The West via the Ivy League so as to maintain their self-deception hence social status.

Remember Kolmogorov.


How do you factor sanctions into that?

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What have sanctions got to do with it?

If Switzerland decides that it is going to sanction one side in a conflict but not the other side, then Switzerland is no longer neutral.

If Switzerland decides to comply with sanctions imposed by a foreign country, then Switzerland has chosen a side and is no longer neutral.

There is no problem with the Swiss people deciding that they want to become belligerents in a potential global thermonuclear war. People are free to make choices and live with the consequences. They are simply no longer “neutral”.


Thanks! Guess I didn’t think far enough to realize that a neutral country makes its own decisions regarding sanctions. Kind of inherent in neutrality. Time to do some more reading

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Well, one thing we do know is it in not a “sale”. Because if it were a sale, the owner would have complete control. There are even sales that say IF you decide to sell the item, the original owner gets right of first refusal. All that means is that the original owner gets a chance to buy it back - NOT that the new owner can’t decide what to do with it.

So perhaps what you put forth is in essence a lease, or a franchise, or a temporary “loan” for a price. But it is NOT a sale.


I don’t want to be disagreeable – but the fact is that a lot (I mean, a lot) of land is sold with covenants which restrict the right of the buyer to do whatever she wants with the land she bought in the sale. No – she can’t put 10 single-wide mobile homes on that lot she bought in an upscale subdivision.

Maybe you are right that that the transaction should not be called a sale – but the buyer thinks of herself as an “owner” and can use the property she “bought” as collateral, because it belongs to her. County records show that she is the owner, and she is responsible for paying taxes on the property.

Where is a lawyer when we need one? :grinning: