In February, Germany requested Switzerland to sell some of the tanks back to arms manufacturer Rheinmetall. This would allow Rheinmetall to fill gaps in the armaments of European Union and NATO members.
Countries such as Germany, Poland, Portugal, Finland, and Sweden have been sending Leopard tanks to support Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression. However, this deployment has created shortages in their own tank arsenals.
This issue poses a challenge for Swiss authorities due to the country’s neutrality laws and a separate arms embargo, which prohibit direct weapon exports to Ukraine.
Currently, the Swiss military has 134 Leopard 2 tanks in active service and an additional 96 in storage. The government has assured that Switzerland’s own military requirements will still be met.
The Swiss parliament will now need to make a decision on the matter, as stated in a government statement.
Previously, Bern had blocked requests from Germany, Spain, and Denmark to allow the re-export of Swiss-made munitions they had previously purchased for Ukraine. However, the issue is becoming increasingly divisive in Switzerland, with a growing pro-Ukraine sentiment among the public and politicians, putting pressure on the government to lift the ban on weapon exports to conflict zones.