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Switzerland concludes military exercises with Nato

General Joseph W. Ralston, head of Nato forces in Europe, at the closing ceremony


The first-ever military exercises between Swiss and Nato troops wound down on Friday, with both sides declaring the training a success. Soldiers from 19 countries participated in "virtual" exercises simulated on computer.

The exercises, which ran for six days, were held under Nato's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, and took place along the shores of Lake Lucerne.

Switzerland's participation was applauded by the president and defence minister, Adolf Ogi, but he was at pains to stress that Swiss neutrality remained intact and that Berne had no intention of joining Nato.

The so-called "Cooperative Determination exercise" involved 450 soldiers - 120 of whom were Swiss - from 19 countries. Their brief was to deal with two crises: a volatile fuel dispute between two fictitious European countries, as well as an exodus of refugees caused by an ethnic conflict.

The exercises aimed to test compatibility between armies, as well as the forces' ability to cooperate, and were conducted chiefly through computer-based simulations.

Swissinfo correspondent, Juliet Linley, who observed the exercises, said she was struck by how realistic they seemed. "The day started with the morning news, which announced that refugees were flooding out of 'Nordland', part of a fictitious country, torn in half by civil war.

"The multinational brigade deployed there had to keep apart the warring sides from 'Nordland' and 'Sudland', and get the peacekeeping process up and running."

The simulation was drawn up according to criteria used by Nato in real peacekeeping missions. Swiss army officer, Daniel Möchtli, told swissinfo the exercises had been extremely useful.

"It's the first contact we have had with non-Swiss officers. We have learnt how a multinational brigade cooperates in particular cells; we have a very different system in Switzerland and we have to comply with Nato standard orders."

Switzerland took a small step away from its traditional policy of strict neutrality in 1996, when it joined the PfP in a bid to promote collective security in Europe. Nato launched the PfP in 1994, following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe.


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