96 decommissioned tanks
How Switzerland almost sold their Leopard tanks
Switzerland is debating the use of its Leopard tanks because of the Ukraine war. Once upon a time, Switzerland almost shed them. A courageous action by a tank officer changed Ueli Maurer’s plans.
Published: 13 minutes ago
About eight years ago, Switzerland would have sold almost 100 Leo 2 tanks – as part of a clearing plan.
Switzerland has what Ukraine longs for. Almost 100 mothballed Leopard 2 tanks not currently deployed in Switzerland. But neutrality and the War Material Act prohibit Switzerland from exporting weapons to countries at war.
Actually, the Leopard 2 tanks should have been sold long ago. At least if it had gone according to the plan of the responsible federal councillors. In 2005, then Defense Minister Samuel Schmid (76, BDP) presented his far-reaching restructuring of the army to the Federal Council. His plan at the time: more than half of the 380 Leopard tanks were to be cleaned out. At that time there was talk of a reduction to up to 120 pieces.
“Don’t eat anyone’s hay”
The later SVP Defense Minister Ueli Maurer (72) also spoke in 2014 about the army’s “clearing plan”. At least that’s what Maurer called it publicly. This also included 96 Leo tanks. Maurer told the media at the time that these were available for a price “slightly more than the scrap iron value”.
As the “Tages-Anzeiger” reported on Saturday, it is thanks to the then tank officer and current general, René Wellinger, that the army still has almost 100 Leo tanks in a hidden location. Wellinger sought a conversation with Maurer and is said to have convinced the Federal Council that the tanks were to be preserved. Wellinger is said to have told the Federal Council that peace could also come to an end at some point.
And then the tank officer is said to have said to the Federal Council: “Mothballed, these tanks won’t eat anyone’s hay!” Maurer is said to have shown understanding and was ready to come back to his decision.
Swiss arms to Ukraine
It is unlikely that the mothballed tanks will be deployed anytime soon. Even if the Security Policy Commission of the National Council wants to change current weapon practice. The Commission spoke out in favor of this this week.
However, a proposal by the FDP, which wanted to sell stored Leopard tanks to countries such as Finland or Poland, did not receive a majority. This should enable them to pass their tanks on to Ukraine, as the “Nebelspalter” writes. The application provided for tanks to be sold for a symbolic franc each.
In recent months, there has been repeated talk that Switzerland does not allow other countries to deliver war material to Ukraine that was manufactured in Switzerland. (you)