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NATO More defence spending not a panacea, says Swiss minister

The Swiss defence minister listed cybersecurity as one of the priorities for the country 

(Keystone)

Swiss Defence Minister Guy Parmelin has warned that more spending on defence does not automatically lead to greater security. He called for more intelligent use of existing funds. 

Speaking to German-language regional paper Nordwestschweiz after attending the Munich Security Conference on February 18, he cautioned that more money alone may not solve security problems. 

“There is no point in spending more on dubious projects,” he said. 

The Pentagon chief James Mattis, had said that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was important for the US and Europe, but that the latter should invest more financially in the alliance. 

Taking Switzerland as an example, Parmelin said the country will be prioritising spending on training, cybersecurity and projects like anti-aircraft defence systems and combat aircraft. 

“If the international situation deteriorates more, we shall then invest more,” he said. 

Trump’s stance

Parmelin also shared that there was a sense of insecurity in the European defence community due to American diplomacy. 

“The new US administration does not help reassure. They are still finalising their position,” he said. 

He called for patience when it comes to the US, and advised waiting until the Singapore Security Conference for more clarity on the US position.

Responding to US President Donald Trump’s view that NATO was obsolete, Parmelin said “NATO is NATO, Switzerland is Switzerland. We are neutral”. However, he underlined that Switzerland has an interest in a stable Europe, and therefore cooperation with neighbouring countries is important. 

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter was also present at the Munich Security Conference. He participated in a side event of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCEexternal link) – a block of 57 countries from Central Asia, Europe and North America. 

“Uncertainties about the intentions of the new US administration, the future evolution of the relationship between Americans and Russians or the consequences of Brexit and the upcoming elections in several European countries make European security policy not only more uncertain but also more complex,” he said. 

Burkhalter shared that reinforcing the OSCE as “a platform for discussions and instrument of action” was a priority for Switzerland – particularly the issue of conventional arms controls.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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