The Swiss government opposes the sale of 96 old tanks, arguing that this will fuel the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
The Federal Council, a cabinet made up of seven members representing each of the seven cantons of the militarily neutral Alpine country, rejected a request by the state-owned defense company Ruag to re-export 96 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks to Germany, where the armor of these would be renewed. Combat vehicles first in Germany, and then delivered to Ukraine.
“On June 28, the Federal Council rejected a request from Ruag AG regarding the export of 96 Leopard 1A5 tanks destined for Ukraine as inconsistent with applicable law,” the council said in a statement.
“Therefore, priority was given to Switzerland’s commitment to being a neutral country and to the reliability of applying the rule of law.”
Switzerland has maintained a policy of neutrality for more than five centuries amid countless European wars.
The Leopard 1 is the predecessor of the newer German-made Leopard 2 tank. Built since the early 1960s, they were designed with thinner armor than tanks of late World War II because modern anti-tank missiles can defeat any thickness of solid armor and mobility is the only hope for survival on the battlefield.
Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have committed to buying about 110 Leopard 1s from private arms dealers as part of unprecedented Western military assistance to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
However, German arms giant Rheinmetall says it won’t be able to deliver them until next year.
Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Portugal and Canada have also delivered or commissioned more than 80 Leopard 2 vehicles to Ukraine.
Britain supplied Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 tanks with uranium armor-piercing shells. Meanwhile, the United States sent 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.