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Thursday, March 23, 2023

War in Ukraine: the Czech Republic also wants old Swiss Leopard 2s

“We have not discussed the purchase of tanks from Switzerland, but if Switzerland wanted to give us its Leopard 2s as a reward for our help to Ukraine, we would certainly not be against it,” the spokesman said. Czech Defense Minister David Jares interviewed by AFP

Once Switzerland’s defense needs are met “there will be a number of tanks which we will not need and which we can make available if Parliament declares them out of service”, explained Ms Amherd in her interview.

She did not give any details on Prague’s request and in particular the number of tanks requested by the Czech Republic.

At the end of February, Germany had asked the minister “to approve” the takeover by the German defense group Rheinmetall of Leopard 2 battle tanks from the Swiss army which are currently decommissioned and stored in secret.

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As Switzerland prohibits in the name of its neutrality the transfer of military equipment to a country at war, Berlin assured him that the tanks would not be re-exported to Ukraine, according to the ministry. The same rule should apply to the request of the Czech Republic.

The latter is a very important supplier of arms to the Ukrainians and in particular armored vehicles of Soviet origin of the same type as those in service in the Ukrainian army.

The maintenance of Swiss tanks “in Germany or with NATO and EU partners would be guaranteed” to fill the gaps created by the handover of the Leopard 2 tanks ceded by these countries to Ukraine and to improve the supply of spare parts, had specified the Swiss Ministry of Defense at the time of the announcement of the German request.

The Swiss army has stored 96 Leopard 2 tanks for years. They are regularly tested but have not been modernized.

The Swiss army has 134 Leopard 2s in service. She believes she can do without a “limited” number of stored Leopard 2s.

The debate on neutrality has agitated Switzerland since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If the Alpine country – which is not part of the European Union – has adopted all the sanctions imposed against Russia by Brussels, it has on the other hand been inflexible on its military neutrality.

Although pressed by Kiev and its allies to authorize the re-export of Swiss arms and ammunition to Ukraine, the government has so far brushed aside demands made by Germany, Spain and Denmark.

Various initiatives are underway in Parliament to relax these rules, but no decision is expected for several months.

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