Swiss Question Need For Army Defense Capability

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Geneva (AP) - Switzerland's army should stop preparing for a foreign attack and concentrate on security operations inside the country, according to a leaked government discussion paper published online Thursday.

The proposal, which also includes cutting funds for new weapons systems and reducing the size of the army, was obtained by Swiss weekly Weltwoche and published on its website.

A defense Ministry spokesman confirmed that the document was produced by defense officials for discussion at a regular government meeting Friday, but declined to comment further.

"This paper was leaked to the media, and we don't comment on leaks," Sebastian Hueber told The Associated Press.

The proposal claims that "the core purpose of the army isn't the ability to conduct a war."

Instead, the paper suggests that the army should do more to provide security inside Switzerland - such as during large events like the 2008 European football championships - assist in humanitarian operations abroad and police Swiss airspace.

If other European countries ask for assistance, the army should consider taking part in patrols to secure the continent's external borders with drones and other aircraft, it said.

Switzerland hasn't taken part in a foreign war since 1815, but has one of Europe's largest armies in part because of long-standing fear of foreign invasion after the neutral nation was surrounded by fascist armies during World War II.

All men in this nation of just under 8 million are required to undergo army training from the age of 19 and must perform regular reserve duty until at least the age of 30. The army has a small number of professional soldiers, but many senior officers are reservists, and until recently every soldier was required to have a rifle at home in case of foreign attack.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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