The Ever Changing Nature of Swiss Neutrality

Switzerland defines neutrality as “…non-participation in an armed
conflict between other states” (Confederazione Svizzera). This modern
concept must have taking time to develop. This paper will investigate how
and why Switzerland has grown into the neutral power that it is today. It
argues that Switzerland’s original isolationist stance of neutrality has
changed into active peace mediation. It willfirst show this historical
background of Switzerland and how the old Swiss Confederacy taught the
fledgling nation to be neutral. It will go on to show the different
processes of neutrality during the World Wars and the Cold War. Lastly it
will examine the processes of modern Swiss neutrality and how the role of
nation has changed into the country seen today.
Switzerland had been under foreign control for hundreds of years
during the Holy Roman Empire. Switzerland was divided into subsections
called cantons. Cantons were established after the Peace of Westphalia in
1648. Cantons were separate sovereign mini-states that were part of the
Swiss Confederacy. If another canton was attacked by a foreign invasion,
the other cantons were meant to come to its aid. The cantons had agreed
that they were big enough as a confederacy of allies to defend their own
lands but would not be big enough to help the much larger surrounding
countries of the Holy Roman Empire with their wars and so, the confederacy
was, for thefirst time, established as a neutral.
The Holy Roman Empire fell 150 years later and France had begun to
emerge as the new hegemon. The Swiss were free from Italian and Holy Roman
rule for less than a year in 1798 when it was taken over by France. The
Swiss spoke French and should therefore be placed into the new, “one and
divisible ally of France” Helvetic Empire. France claimed that it was
“liberating” the Swiss people from their feudal government system (Illi).
The French …

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