The Security Policy Committee of Switzerland’s National Council has decided that, with respect to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, restrictions on the re-export of Swiss-made weapons should be able to be lifted. The Security Policy Committee Tuesday recommended such a change with a slight majority of 14 votes to 11. If confirmed in plenary session, the non-re-export clause would be overridden, and dropped in the case of Ukraine. As Western allies are stepping up arms supplies to Ukraine, Switzerland is debating relaxing its strict regulations on the re-export of Swiss weapons to allow their delivery to warring states under certain circumstances.
The Federal Council would however be able to uphold the ban on re-export if lifting it was contrary to an overriding foreign policy interest of Switzerland. This change is to be declared urgent and will remain in effect until December 31, 2025. The minority considers the re-export of Swiss weapons to Ukraine is incompatible with regard to its neutrality, specifically with regard to the principle of equal treatment provided for in neutrality law. Several European countries had massively criticized Switzerland because Switzerland refused to supply arms to Ukraine, citing the applicable law.
For example, Germany was not allowed to pass on Swiss-made 35mm ammunition to Ukraine, without which the Flakpanzer Gepard anti-aircraft vehicles provided by Germany, Spain and The Netherlands cannot operate. Spain also had previously asked Switzerland to allow the re-export to Ukraine of Aspide missiles that are part of the Skyguard system developed and produced by Swiss company Oerlikon Contraves (Rheinmetall Air Defence). The urgent need to set up 35mm production outside of Switzerland is one of the main reasons for which Rheinmetall in mid-November acquired Spanish ammunition manufacturer Expal Systems.
The Oerlikon GDF or Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon is a towed anti-aircraft gun made by Oerlikon Contraves (renamed as Rheinmetall Air Defence AG following the merger with Rheinmetall in 2009). It was developed in the late 1950s and is used by around 30 countries. The system uses twin autocannons, firing 35×228mm NATO-standard ammunition. The Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard (“anti-aircraft-gun tank ‘Cheetah’”, better known as the Flakpanzer Gepard) is based on the hull of the Leopard 1 main battle tank with a large fully rotating turret carrying the armament—a pair of 35 mm Oerlikon GDF twin cannon. The first three Flakpanzer Gepards arrived in Ukraine on 25 July 2022.