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The Death of Swiss Neutrality? Foreign Policy in the Service of Imperialism

Switzerland, a country traditionally reputed as a model for democracy and order, is nonetheless politically rife with contradictions. On one side many tend to praise the country’s high living standards, its system of direct democracy and its remarkable range of high quality products popular around the world. On the other hand the practice of bank secrecy has made Switzerland a popular destination for money launderers of all kinds throughout the decades.

Although offshore safe havens such as the British Channel Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and others nowadays enjoy notably higher popularity for large-scale financial criminal activities, Switzerland remains the primary destination in many people’s minds when it comes to dictators, speculators or mafia bosses hiding their dirty money from the not quite long enough arm of the law.

Another key concept many associate with Switzerland is its strict policy of political neutrality. Indeed Switzerland is the second oldest neutral country in the world; it has not fought a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.

 Though Switzerland’s ambivalent position during World War II was justifiably criticised by many, the state’s neutral stance has generally been appreciated all over Europe and the rest of the world. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was certainly no fan of neutrals, said:

”Of all the neutrals, Switzerland has the greatest right to distinction. . . What does it matter whether she has been able to give us the commercial advantages we desire or has given too many to the Germans. . .? She has been a democratic state, standing for freedom in self-defence. . . and largely on our side.”[1]

Swiss neutrality makes the country a good meeting ground for negotiations between conflicting global parties. Even the United States, who do not maintain official diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, rely on Swiss support in order to have a diplomatic channel:

“In the absence of diplomatic or consular relations of the United States of America with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as the Protecting Power of the USA in Iran since 21 May 1980. The Swiss Embassy’s Foreign Interests Section provides consular services to U.S. citizens living in or travelling to Iran.”[2]

As a diplomatic contact point between the U.S. and Iran, it is logical that Switzerland would have no valid reason for refusing to meet with Iranian officials. But even a short encounter between the former Swiss federal president Hans Rudolf Merz and the Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadinejad at the United Nations Durban II anti-racism conference in Geneva 2009 was going too far, according to officials from Israel, America’s closest Middle East ally:

“Netanyahu’s office later said that he and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to recall Ambassador Ilan Elgar from Berne ‘for consultations and in protest at the conference in Geneva.’”[3]

Further testing Switzerland’s neutrality, U.S. and Israeli officials criticised Switzerland for not taking part in the oil embargo against Iran in July 2012.[4]

Relationship with the European Union

Although it does not belong to the European Union, Switzerland collaborates closely with its member states and the majority of Swiss exports are reserved for the EU market. Nevertheless, according to Jean-Claude Juncker[5], Prime Minister of Luxembourg and one of the key architects of EU integration, Switzerland’s independence remains “a geostrategic absurdity” because its position is an anomaly among other European states[6].

Indeed, there is no doubt that Swiss neutrality could not effectively continue if the country was to join the European Union, as EU member states are currently being forced to give up more and more of their fiscal sovereignty.

However, in Switzerland itself, where all major political parties have guaranteed representation in government, many forces are trying to push the country in a direction that would be more in line with the geostrategic roadmap of Brussels’ key players. In particular, Switzerland’s mainstream leftist party would like to see its country join the EU sooner rather than later. The fact that dominating EU-member states have participated in numerous U.S.-led military aggressions (e.g. Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya just this past year) apparently does not seem to faze the pro-EU stance of many Swiss leftists.

In June 2012, the Social Democratic Party’s faction of the Swiss General Assembly confirmed once again that they do not see a future in bilateral cooperation with the EU, specifying that joining the EU would be the “better institutional way.”[7]

Swiss Social Democrats also support Swiss participation in NATO programs such as the Partnership for Peace, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and NATO Parliamentary Assembly.[8]

Ironically, Switzerland’s mainstream “leftists” are the most unscrupulous proponents of militarism and imperialism, operating through the rhetoric of shamelessly demagogic “humanitarian” and “internationalist” phrases. For example, when the so called “Republic of Kosovo” declared unilateral independence in February 2008, “neutral” Switzerland was among the first countries to recognise the U.S./NATO protectorate disguised as a state. This happened mostly thanks to the efforts made by the former Federal Councillor for Foreign Affairs, Micheline Calmy Rey (a Social Democrat), who had already lobbied for recognition of Kosovo for months.

In May 2012, the Federal Councillor for Foreign Affairs, Didier Burkhalter, attended the NATO conference in Chicago and promised closer collaboration between NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) when Switzerland takes over OSCE presidency in 2014.[9] Furthermore he argued in favour of Swiss participation in NATO’s so called “Cyber Defence” program.[10]

The latest disturbing news on Switzerland’s role in the international community concerns the conflict in Syria, when it was revealed that Syrian anti-government insurgents have Swiss weapons in their arsenal, as the Swiss Sonntags-Zeitung[11] reported:

“The records, photographs, were made on Thursday in the Syrian village of Marea (Aleppo) and show hand grenades of the type shown OHG92 and SM 6-03-1, which were produced by the [Swiss] government-owned arms manufacturer Ruag.”[12]

Allegedly the weapons had been originally sold to the United Arab Emirates, who reportedly delivered them to Syrian insurgents. Other reports indicate the possibility that the arms had been used previously by anti-Gaddafi fighters from Libya, who got them from Qatar, which would mean that one of the most aggressive Gulf regimes received Swiss arms.[13]

In December 2011, a temporary ban on sending arms to Qatar was implemented by Switzerland, but was lifted quickly thereafter.[14] On the other hand, Swiss export of weapons to Syria has been banned since 1998. It is revealing that when it comes to arming pro-Western regimes, Switzerland exercises much less constraint.

As reported recently, about 40 senior representatives of various Syrian opposition groups have been meeting “quietly in Germany under the tutelage of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) to plan for how to set up a post-Assad Syrian government.”[15]

Furthermore the project “has been funded by the State Department, but also has received funding from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” [16] According to the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed its participation and the donation of approximately 50 000 euros for covering “logistic costs”.[17]

The main problem concerning the decision-making process of Swiss foreign policy is that in no other field of Swiss politics can so many decisions be made without asking for the people’s approval in a referendum. This practice runs completely counter to Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, where referendums normally are meant to be a component of the country’s political culture. Therefore it is easy for factions who follow a transatlantic agenda to hijack Switzerland’s foreign policy and undermine the country’s centuries-old sovereignty.

However, defending a nation state’s democratic and social institutions against global imperialist rule would be a progressive act and has nothing to do with outmoded notions of “nationalism”, as Western mainstream leftists would have us believe. It would, rather, be the first step in the struggle for freedom from supranational corporate interests.

It is no surprise, then, that pro-EU pundits like Juncker label Switzerland’s reticence to jump aboard the EU bandwagon (and abandon its neutrality) as “absurd”. Apparently, his definition of the ideal “democratic process” – as dictated by Brussels and applied broadly – is much less questionable:

“We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”[18]

Notes

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/02/opinion/l-churchill-s-switzerland-460141.html.

[2] http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/asia/virn/fosteh.html.

[3] http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel-recalls-swiss-envoy-over-ahmadinejad-presence-at-summit-1.274420.

[4] http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=274099.

[5] Jean-Claude Juncker is President of the Eurogroup (a meeting of the finance ministers of the eurozone)

[6] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2010/12/15/eu-switzerland-idUKLDE6BE0VT20101215.

[7] http://www.nzz.ch/aktuell/schweiz/die-sp-waelzt-das-europadossier-1.17258476.

[8] http://www.sp-ps.ch/…/SIPOL_B_Stellungnahme_SP.pdf.

[9] http://www.currentconcerns.ch/index.php?id=1813.

[10] It goes without saying that U.S./NATO’s cyber activities have more to do with attack than defence. See for example RT on U.S.-Cyberwar against Iran: http://www.rt.com/news/iran-us-israel-cyberwar-virus-weapon-770.

[11] http://www.sonntagszeitung.ch/fokus/artikel-detailseite/?newsid=223610.

[12] http://www.syrianews.cc/syria-syrian-terrorists-weapons-switzerland.

[13] http://www.sonntagszeitung.ch/fokus/artikel-detailseite/?newsid=223610.

[14] http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/War_materiel_exports_return_to_the_spotlight_.html?cid=32277794.

[15] http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/20/inside_the_secret_effort_to_plan_for_a_post_assad_syria 

[16] Ibid.

[17] http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/ausland/naher-osten-und-afrika/Schweiz-finanzierte-Syriens-Opposition/story/25230130.

[18] http://www.economist.com/node/1325309.

Published on:

Global Research, August 8, 2012

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Russia’s Elections: Who is Calling the Shots at the Duma?

The Russian elections this month held some unwelcome surprises for the nation’s ruling party, “United Russia”. Administered in tandem by current president Dmitri Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin (soon to be president once again), United Russia found itself receiving significantly lower-than-normal parliamentary results. This, combined with the protests that ensued quickly thereafter, seems to have sparked the corporate media’s hopes for a “colour revolution”.

The situation echoes the Serbian, Georgian and Ukrainian models; in these and several other countries, the governments had to step down after mass protests were organised with the support of US think tanks including the National Endowment for Democracy. These actions, led by the US and several EU countries, were geared toward the installation of leaderships that were more in line with Western agendas than their predecessors, and not necessarily in the interest of the Russian population.

Certainly no effort is being spared to work towards a change of government in Russia.

However, these suggestions of a “colour revolution” do not correspond to Russian realities at all. American and West European media love to project their perceptions of a pro-Western civil society onto the protesters in Russia. Without a doubt, the archetype of the young academic activist who blames the government for being “undemocratic” and who advertises his West-friendly ideas on his internet blog certainly does exist in Russia. And the way the various neoliberal-oriented groups are being financed by the usual suspects is well documented[1]. But even in Western media one can read between the lines and notice that the majority of those expressing their dissatisfaction do not fit this scheme.

First of all it should be mentioned that the composition of the Russian Duma following the election results does in fact represent the will of Russia’s majority as much as it is possible in a system of representative democracy, which mirrors the framework of most Eastern and Western European countries. In the end, the ruling party received 238 of altogether 450 seats, which means a loss of 77 seats and its (up to now) two-thirds majority rule. The strongest opposition party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), gained 35 seats and raised its total number to 92.[2] Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats, led by the nationalist Vladimir, and a party called “A Just Russia”, which is supposed to be government-friendly and focuses on social issues, are also represented in the new parliament. [3]

The Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov, does not demand a return to Soviet conditions, although this symbolism is being used to feed into nostalgic sentiments amongst the elder generations. His main positions were explained as follows on news channel Russia Today: “Zyuganov focuses on social protection, calling for increased pensions, higher wages for the state sector and re-nationalization of the economy.”[4]

It is doubtful that these ideas by the undisputedly strongest Russian opposition party would please the missionaries of “democracy” of the so-called international community.

Consider the following: 1996 saw the second presidential election since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Western favourite at the time was Boris Yeltsin, who was then the sitting president. His skewed interpretation of “democracy”, however, resulted inter alia in the storming of the Russian parliament in 1993, followed by the creation of a constitution legitimising presidential absolute rule.

In addition, Yeltsin was a puppet of the so-called Oligarchs, people who managed to become incredibly rich using lawless methods during the chaotic period of transition. In treating the country as their personal property, they caused the disintegration of the state and extreme impoverishment of the majority of the population.

In the 1996 election Yeltsin’s challenger was the same Gennady Zyuganov now leading the Communist Party, who was the projected favourite on account of to the president’s countless corruption scandals and unprecedented redistribution of wealth from the bottom sectors of society to the top.

Werner Pirker, Berlin-based junge Welt’s expert on Russia, describes the process that saw Yeltsin win in the end, despite the odds:

“The massive election fraud charged by the Russian communists during the presidential elections 1996, when Yeltsin managed to beat his communist challenger yet again using every administrative recourse and financial support from the oligarchs to the tune of several million, was no problem at all for the West.”[5]

Interestingly, NATO did not reward Yeltsin’s servility and instead expanded along Russia’s borders by pulling former Soviet republics into the NATO alliance.

Yeltsin stepped down at the end of 1999 and named Vladimir Putin as his successor. Choosing not to be a puppet of the oligarchy, Putin turned against his former supporter, Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire who made his fortune thanks to privatisations of state property, and who used to be deeply involved in politics during the Yeltsin era. Berezovsky was later convicted of financial crimes after having already received “political asylum” in Britain.[6]

A noticeable stabilisation of the Russian state was achieved during the years of Putin’s presidency, and these improvements caused the communists to lose many voters to the government party. Part of this process also included an informal agreement with the oligarchs in order to let them keep their largely illegitimately gained fortunes on the strict condition that they stop intervening in politics. This explains the harsh way the Russian state is handling the case against former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who did not respect this deal and tried to organise resistance against Putin’s government. Khodorkovsky will likely spend many years in prison on account of this; in the West, however, he is practically being presented as a glorified dissident by the mainstream media.[7]

Next to many successes, several problems remain. Russia’s prosperity is heavily dependent upon the prices of raw materials, which the country exports. A considerable stagnation cannot be denied, and many people complain about high living expenses.[8] This may well be a large reason for the relative loss of confidence in the government from various sectors of the population.

Next to politicians who are striving for better social conditions and those who are engaged in Western-funded organisations, Russia’s far right movements are also participating in the protests. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the reputed clown of the political spectrum, is one case in point. With his nationalist Liberal Democrats, he enjoys drawing attention to himself by creating sensationalist scandals. On the other hand he regularly votes on the government’s side in the Duma and therefore can be seen as relatively harmless and controllable. In essence Zhirinovsky has no real influence on the ultra-chauvinist movements, who stir up hatred against populations from Central Asia and North Caucasus, and other minorities.

The Guardian stated recently: “Russian nationalism may be the biggest threat to Putin’s power.”[9]

Taking all this into account, the prospect of a unified protest movement – consisting of people going into the streets for improved social conditions, adherents of neoliberalism, and extreme chauvinists – does not appear to be a realistic option.

It is to be hoped that Vladimir Putin, soon returning for another round as president, will be responsive to the people’s wishes for better quality of life. And in the West, those who truly want the Russian people to live in peace and prosperity need turn away from the propaganda spread by self-proclaimed “democracy” exporters and understand what is happening on the ground.

Notes 

[1] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28182.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_legislative_election,_2011.

[3] http://www.ftd.de/politik/international/:russland-russische-opposition-ist-nur-ein-scheingegner/60142044.html.

[4] http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/politics-and-society/gennady-zyuganov.

[5] http://www.jungewelt.de/2011/12-09/037.php.

[6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/30/russia.tomparfitt.

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/04/opinion/04nocera.html.

[8] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a4b5c8d0-0945-11df-ba88-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1gXmdvfog.

[9] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/09/russian-nationalism-challenge-putin-power.

Published on:

Global Research, December 22, 2011

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Erpressung durch “Demokraten”: Die Wahlen in Serbien

Das Ergebnis der ersten Wahlrunde in Serbien vom 20. Januar lässt die führenden Politiker maßgebender EU-Staaten Sturm laufen: Der “Ultranationalist” Tomislav Nikolic von der “Serbischen Radikalen Partei”, SRS hat bis zu 40 Prozent der Stimmen erhalten und somit den prowestlichen serbischen Noch-Präsidenten, Boris Tadic, mit fast fünf Prozentpunkten überflügelt. Es folgen der Wunschkandidat des Ministerpräsidenten Kostunica, Velimir Ilic, mit 7 und der Kandidat der Sozialisten mit 6 Prozent. Der einzige Teilnehmer, der ein “unabhängiges” Kosovo offen befürwortet, der junge ultraliberale Cedomir Jovanovic, schaffte es gerade mal auf 5 Prozent, womit klar sein dürfte, dass die vom Westen forcierte Abspaltung der südserbischen Provinz bei einer überwiegenden Mehrheit nach wie vor für Empörung sorgt.

Deshalb soll auch erst nach den Stichwahlen am dritten Februar ernst gemacht werden, laut dem britischen Außenminister David Miliband am besten gleich einen Tag später. Ob die Bevölkerung Serbiens auf dieses Spiel hereinfällt und doch noch mehrheitlich für Tadic votieren wird, der eine Kosovo-Unabhängigkeit zwar ablehnt, voraussichtlich aber leicht zu zähmen sein wird, sei dahingestellt.

Fraglich ist, wem die Wähler der kleineren Parteien ihr Vertrauen schenken werden. Der Populist Ilic war zwar am prowestlichen Putsch im Oktober 2000 beteiligt, versucht allerdings gleichzeitig auf Distanz zum Westen zu gehen und hat bis jetzt keine Wahlempfehlung abgegeben. Der sozialistische Spitzenkandidat, Milutin Mrkonjic, ließ zwar verlauten, er sehe “keinen Unterschied zwischen Nikolic und Tadic”, es darf jedoch angenommen werden, dass seine Unterstützer eher zu Nikolic tendieren, immerhin hat sich dieser als überzeugender Kompromisskandidat für alle nach wie vor Nato-kritisch eingestellten Bevölkerungsschichten hervorgetan. Und einem solchen dürften die Anhänger von Milosevics ehemaliger Partei doch eher zugetan sein, als dem Erbverwalter Zoran Djindjics.

Der SRS-Parteipräsident Vojislav Seselj, dessen Prozess gerade in Den Haag geführt wird, hat zwar in den 90er Jahren einen aggressiven Nationalismus gepredigt, hiervon war im aktuellen Wahlkampf allerdings nichts mehr zu spüren. Er ist vielmehr auf die sozialen Belange der Menschen in Serbien und auf die Zurückweisung des EU-und Nato-Diktats ausgerichtet. Dies erklärt auch, warum viele Angehörige der zahlreichen in Serbien lebenden Minderheiten (z. B. Roma und Ungarn) den Radikalen ihr Vertrauen schenken, als bekanntestes Beispiel darf die aus einem muslimischen Rom-Elternhaus stammende Song-Contest-Gewinnerin Marija Serifovic gelten, die öffentlich zur Wahl Nikolics aufgerufen hat. Hinzu kommt, dass Nikolic eine stärkere Anlehnung an Russland fordert, was aufgrund der russischen Opposition gegen die Zerstückelung serbischen Territoriums sicherlich keine unpopuläre Forderung ist. Das hat allerdings auch die Tadic-Regierung registriert und dem russischen Energiegiganten Gazprom soeben eine Mehrheit der staatlichen serbischen Raffinerie NIS überlassen. Trotzdem oder gerade deshalb warnen EU-Medien und Politiker vor einem Rückfall Serbiens in die “finstere Vergangenheit”. Und leisten sich gleichzeitig einen Ratspräsidenten namens Janez Jansa, der in seiner slowenischen Heimat unter Linken als eine Mischung aus Sarkozy und Haider gilt und ziemlich sicher für Kriegsverbrechen aus dem Jahr 1991 verantwortlich ist: Er befehligte damals die sogenannten slowenischen “Territorialverteidiger”, die unter anderem junge, unbewaffnete Wehrdienstleistende der Jugoslawischen Volksarmee erschossen, obwohl sie ein weißes Tuch in die Luft gehalten hatten. Kritik oder gar Ermittlungen in Den Haag blieben aus.

Wird sich Serbien weiterhin von solchen “Demokraten” erpressen lassen?

Veröffentlicht bei:

Unsere Zeit, 1. Februar 2008

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