The Swiss army: your questions answered

Issues facing the Swiss armed forces
This content was published on June 13, 2022 - 16:13

In Switzerland, all able-bodied men complete compulsory military service, while others opt for a civilian service. But how useful is a conscript army in light of what Russia did to Ukraine? This is one of many questions SWI readers sent to us. Daniel Reist, head of media relations for the Swiss armed forces, takes a shot at answering them.

What use are small armies?

How would Switzerland cope with a large invasion?

In an online pollExternal link published in March by the Tamedia newspaper group, 45% of respondents said the army budget should be increased, 41% said it had enough resources already, and 8% wanted to reduce funding. Politicians however have been more keen to shore up the army’s capabilities: earlier this month a majority of parliament voted to boost annual military spending from CHF5.6 billion to CHF7 billion ($5.8 billion to $7.3 billion) by 2030.

Why does Switzerland need an army?

Did you know: Switzerland manufactures arms and exports them to many countries, which many consider incompatible with its neutrality and its desire to promote peace. 

Does self-defence have anything to do with neutrality?

Some 250 Swiss soldiers and civilians are now deployed in over a dozen peace support operations in Europe, Africa and Asia, within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU). 

Kai Reusser /

Could the Swiss deal with a nuclear threat?

Equipping and maintaining nuclear bunkers dotted around the country is also an army matter, or more specifically, part of the civil protection organisation’s duties. Civil defence or protection is an option for those deemed unfit for military service, but fit enough to perform other non-military tasks.

Are Swiss soldiers exploited?

Only males are called up to serve. When will this change?

In 2013, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a pacifist initiative to scrap conscription. It is now one of the last countries in western Europe with mandatory military service.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

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