Here in Switzerland our president has a chance to advance a peaceful settlement in Ukraine. But he is foolishly letting that opportunity slip right through his fingers.
Instead of pursuing peace he is acting tragically to intensify the war. Below you will see my Open Letter to the president that fills in the details and urges him to change course.
Many European countries also have been working to intensify the war. They are encouraging more fighting, yet there is no end in sight.
This is a very costly way to go. The war has disrupted essential commerce widely. That has spiked inflation. Energy supplies have been compromised. The resultant burden on populations is likely to reach a crescendo as cold weather approaches.
Will things reach a breaking point? Already Reuters has reported on September 3, “An estimated 70,000 people protested in Prague against the Czech government on Saturday, calling on the ruling coalition to do more to control soaring energy prices and voicing opposition to the European Union and NATO.
Here is my Open Letter to the Swiss president;
Open Letter to Swiss President Ignazio Cassis
Dear Mr. President:
Please stop before it is too late.
Untold numbers of people are dying in Ukraine every day. Cities are being destroyed by military battles. It is a horrific war.
Certainly you do not have the military force to intervene. But you have something more powerful in a unique peaceful way. It is the power of Swiss neutrality and the ability to mediate between warring parties.
You are refusing to deploy that asset at this critical juncture. Please stop it. You have a moral responsibility to use the power.
But sadly you are shirking that responsibility. Even worse, you are actually dismantling our centuries-old foundation in neutrality. As we watch you, those of us who cherish Swiss neutrality are kissing it goodbye.
Just look at the ways you have positioned our country regarding the war in Ukraine:
Soon after the start of hostilities you remarked to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky:
“We are impressed by the courage with which your people are fighting for freedom and peace,” and,
“We are impressed by the way you defend the fundamental values of the free world, which are also our fundamental values.”
Your sentiments reflect the widely understood reality that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been deadly, destructive, and disruptive — and was unnecessary. Ukrainian flags have been flown throughout our country in solidarity. Pro-Ukraine demonstrations have been organized. According to Swissinfo.ch, an estimated 40,000 participated in Zurich; in Bern it was up to 20,000 people. The emotionally evocative dimension of the war can not be denied.
Beyond that, though, your remarks harbor biases. They can be best seen if we insert into your comments a Russian bias.
Here are hypothetical remarks you might have made to president Vladimir Putin:
“We are impressed by the courage with which your people are fighting for security guarantees in the face of hostile NATO advancement to your borders,” and,
“We are impressed by the way you defend against the spread of neo-Nazism in modern Europe, a cause consistent with our fundamental values.”
That clearly reflects the Russian bias. Each viewpoint has its own set of assumptions. A neutral stance would be to favor neither. But that is not the course you have chosen for Switzerland. You have been acting in a way that suggests partisanship, not neutrality.
Another example is the “Ukraine Recovery Conference” that you convened with Zelensky. It was held in Lugano, Switzerland during July. Organizers report it was “attended by over 1000 people, including 5 heads of state and government, 23 ministers and 16 deputy ministers.”
Unquestionably, Ukraine will require recovery help at some point. But there is an implicit bias here that is easily overlooked. It is that there must be a winner and loser in the war and that Russia is the presumed loser. That rules out the possibility of a mutually acceptable conclusion. Instead it calls for the dominance of one side over the other.
You must take stock of the seriousness of the situation. This is not anything like a regional conflict in the Balkans. It is not like the Baltic leaders’ fight to rid their countries of remnants of the Soviet period. We are talking about a conflict that frankly pits Russia against the United States.
They alone are preeminent nuclear superpowers with the capability for inflicting widespread harm to the planet. The absence of achieving a truly peaceful settlement over Ukraine realistically could lead to the start of World War III — and given your unwise leadership course, Switzerland would likely be a combatant. Is that where you want us to be, Mr. President?
When you lauded Ukraine for its fight for peace, you were not being honest. Circumstances speak louder that you were talking about dominance and not a peaceful resolution.
Advocating for dominance is not a neutral position. It is a dangerous one. Your actions are not befitting of our Swiss heritage. You should be protecting it, not destroying it.
A constructive posture for Switzerland would be to invoke our dedication to neutrality and to seek peace that is truly peaceful. That would be the Swiss way of doing things.
But instead, under your stewardship we are seeing on our streets increasing numbers of luxury cars bearing Ukraine registration plates: BMWs, Mercedes, Bentleys. One wonders how many of their owners are now receiving status S benefits from us. Many Swiss are outraged by this diversion of our tax money.
A Switzerland true to its roots, with a return to honest neutrality, could play a lynchpin role in bringing the Ukraine war to a peaceful conclusion.
Intensifying war is not the answer for ending the war. Simply pouring more weaponry into Ukraine is not the solution. Indeed, it is an escalatory action.
A truly peaceful solution must be found through diplomacy, not by promoting more death and destruction.
France and Germany jointly made a failed attempt at a diplomatic advance. It is generally referred to as the Minsk Accords. They initially had the appearance of success. Back when armed conflict was still limited to the Donbass region, Russia and Ukraine were brought to agreement on a ceasefire and for the integration of the Donbass republics into Ukraine in a mutually satisfactory way.
Both signatories, however, subsequently accused each other of refusing to implement the agreement. In the end France and Germany accomplished nothing toward promoting compliance.
In retrospect that should be no surprise. They are both NATO members and are actively engaged in supporting hostilities. If that is in their interests, they either must be receiving some benefit or their actions would be absolute madness.
Putting any NATO member in charge of resolving the Ukraine war is tantamount to the assigning the proverbial fox to guard the henhouse or a bank robber to guard a bank.
This is a job for a truly neutral country, one such as defined in the Swiss constitution. That country has a unique opportunity to play a pivotal role in ending the war peacefully. But with your perversion of our national mandate it is a lost opportunity. With stakes so high in Ukraine, this represents a moral crime of the highest order.
It is imperative that you take note and change your course. Here is my prescription for Swiss change:
1. Abandon the NATO-leaning partisanship immediately.
2. Withdraw support of war inspired sanctions. You have chosen to support the EU issued sanctions, but not those of Russia. Neutrality demands honoring the sanctions of neither side.
3. Recoil from any Swiss role that might involve facilitating the provision of weapons for use in the war.
4. Recognize that the ultimate decision makers in the conflict are Russia and the United States. It is readily apparent that NATO, the EU, and Ukraine are largely marching to the beat of an American drummer. Switzerland should seek to open negotiations with the principals, Russia and the United States, preferably hosted on Swiss territory.
4. Host the renegotiation of the basic precepts of the Minsk Accords, but this time with Russia and the United States as principals. That would mean achieving a cease fire and finding a mutually acceptable way of somehow incorporating the Donbass republics into Ukraine.
5. Work toward addressing Russia’s publically proclaimed security concerns vis-à-vis Ukraine, including the exclusion from Ukrainian leadership individuals who identify themselves, either by words or actions, with neo-Nazi ideology.
6. Seek agreement from Russia for the conduct of a Swiss-monitored referendum to affirm the current status of Crimea.
The hour for Swiss action has struck. It is an opportunity not to be missed in order to create lasting peace. Switzerland can be an island for peace once again in its rich history of mediation between warring states.
For this to happen, you must embrace the role of neutrality. Only that will enable us to play out our country’s unique strength on the stage of international diplomacy.
I feel a special passion for this arising from a historical family connection. My great granduncle, Rudolf Minger, served as Swiss Federal President in the last century. He was a strong protector of our nation’s independence and neutrality.
Now it is high noon and any delay in acting will increase the risk of further escalation. We are amidst an already tense conflict beyond which the world has never seen.
Peace must prevail over war. There are no two ways about it. Swiss neutrality is the key for success. I dearly hope that you finally will grasp that.
Pascal Najadi is a Swiss businessman with extensive experience in investment banking, public relations, and marketing. He works internationally in several countries around the globe. That has led him to assist world governments that have faced serious crisis management challenges.