Germany seeks Swiss support for Ukrainian air defense equipment

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius attempted to persuade Swiss officials to supply air defense assets to Ukraine, yet his endeavors appeared unsuccessful, the Swiss publication Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) reported on May 8.

Berlin's endeavors were highlighted as part of its latest initiative aimed at bolstering Ukraine's air defense, as reported by the NZZ. The German Foreign Ministry said in April that Germany had approached NATO and EU member countries, as well as third countries, with such a request.

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Recent disclosures reveal that Germany extended its outreach to Switzerland as part of this initiative. Per Kaj-Gunnar Sievert, spokesperson for the Federal Armaments Office, Minister Pistorius engaged in discussions with Swiss counterpart Viola Amherd regarding Ukraine's support. However, Sievert stated that his office refrains from disclosing specific details.

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The exchange apparently produced no outcomes. Switzerland, maintaining its neutrality, abstains from furnishing military materials to conflict-afflicted parties, including Ukraine, according to the publication.

Berlin has made multiple attempts to persuade Bern to authorize the transfer of ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft tank to Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Swiss government couldn't permit the re-exportation of this Swiss-produced ammunition.

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A compromise was struck regarding Leopard 2 battle tanks: Switzerland agreed to sell them to Germany last year under the condition that they wouldn't be transferred to Ukraine. These tanks aim to address gaps in tank provisions among NATO and EU states aiding Kyiv.

However, in terms of air defense, Switzerland's offerings are limited, as noted by the NZZ. The delivery of American Patriot systems isn't anticipated until at least 2026, whereas Ukraine urgently requires them. The Swiss Army itself is in need of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, medium-range anti-aircraft defense units, and F/A-18 fighter jets, according to the NZZ. A conference for Ukraine is scheduled to take place on the Bürgenstock in June, with participation expected from high-ranking politicians worldwide.

"Protecting airspace is becoming increasingly challenging," said the publication.

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Rejecting the Rapier systems is not feasible. Switzerland is currently decommissioning 60 of these systems. Although experts suggest their potential utility in Ukraine, the manufacturer, Armasuisse, states, 'It is an outdated system that has lost its effectiveness against today's threats.' Switzerland procured these guided missile systems in the 1980s, as reported by the NZZ.

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