The commander of the Swiss army issues an unexpected warning on Italian-language public television RSI, in very clear words: in the event of war, the Swiss army may only last a couple of weeks.
The words are from army chief Thomas Süssli, in an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger. “Resilience is composed of several elements,” he explains. “One is the human factor: since the deflagration of the war, we have been training more and more recruits to make them capable of traditional defense.” However, there is also the issue related to material: “We have not yet been able to fully equip the army and replenish the ammunition depots. There is only enough material for one-third of the army, and in addition, armored artillery and tanks are lacking. The problem is what to do with the other two-thirds.
The situation thus remains the same as in his March 2022 statements, when Süssli said that if Switzerland were to fight a defensive war alone, it would last a couple of weeks. The cause of Swiss weakness is linked to two factors: first, “the fact that the security environment in Europe is deteriorating,” and second, “the financial conditions of the Confederation are so strained.”
“Switzerland could be involved in the war in Ukraine.”
Should Switzerland therefore fear for its own security? Is there a risk of the country becoming involved in the war in Ukraine? “One cannot look at Switzerland in isolation,” Süssli replied. “Two weeks ago, I spoke with army chiefs from other countries. They all fear a worsening of the situation. Switzerland is part of the European security architecture and could therefore be affected.” Of particular concern is Russia’s change of attitude: “We are no longer talking about ‘a special operation.’ Instead, we are talking about a war against the West.” So, the message to the people of the Confederation is, “We must prepare for the possibility of war spreading to Europe.”
The most likely threat comes “from afar.”
The most likely attacks, the army chief explains, could come from afar, such as cyber attacks, critical infrastructure, or remotely deployed weapons. Switzerland “has little protection” from these attacks. “This is precisely why we are acquiring the Patriot missile system,” which, from 2030, “will enable us to defend against long-range threats.” In addition, “a new missile system for medium- and short-range air defense is on the purchase list” of the Federation. After all, Bern is rather unlikely to be attacked by Italy or France, while cyber attacks on Swiss institutions are very likely.
Of course, the question arises as to what purpose tanks serve against cyber attacks. Similarly, Switzerland is divesting tanks, and this is contradictory to the admission of weakness in the armored component.