Switzerland will probe state-owned arms maker Ruag AG after its failed attempt to sell almost 100 tanks that would eventually have been used by Ukraine in its war against Russia.
(Bloomberg) — Switzerland will probe state-owned arms maker Ruag AG after its failed attempt to sell almost 100 tanks that would eventually have been used by Ukraine in its war against Russia.
The country’s defense ministry has asked external auditors to investigate the controversial deal with Germany’s Rheinmetall AG, which was eventually blocked on the ground that it would violate Switzerland’s status as a neutral country. It will also examine whether the relation between the company and the government needs to be reformed, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Ruag wanted to sell the non-operational Leopard I tanks to Rheinmetall, which planned to refurbish them and send them to Ukraine, but Swiss authorities stopped the deal in June. The tanks had originally been bought in Italy in 2016 and left in storage there, but “incoherences” have emerged over the purchase, according to the statement.
Neutrality in Focus
With national elections coming up in October, the affair could put the theme of Switzerland’s traditional neutrality further into focus.
Ruag’s former chief executive officer, Brigitte Beck, had to step down after suggesting that European countries should go ahead and send Swiss-made arms to Ukraine, as Switzerland wouldn’t do much about it. Her successor, Nicolas Perrin, said the country would have to rethink its international stance “in an increasingly connected world.”
This prompted the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, the strongest force in parliament, to respond by saying that Switzerland enjoys peace and stability only through neutrality, and that the doctrine is non-negotiable. The SVP has repeatedly targeted Defense Minister Viola Amherd, from the centrist Mitte party, for failing to exercise oversight over Ruag.
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