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‘Neutral’ Swiss plan to boost defense spending in a world destabilized by Ukraine, Mideast wars

GENEVA — Switzerland’s government plans to boost its defense spending by up to 19% over the next four years, citing a rise in global instability, including wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and gaps created when Swiss authorities cashed in on a peace dividend from the fall of the Berlin Wall decades ago.

Laying out mid- and long-range projections for military spending, Defense Minister Viola Amherd, who also holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, said that as a result of cost-cutting measures over the last 30 years, “the army has been weakened,” and it would take time to make up lost ground.

“For the first time, we are indicating how the army must evolve in the next 12 years,” Amherd told reporters on Wednesday. She said the weakening of Swiss defense was “not an accusation, but a fact, which can be traced to the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

The move reflects growing worries about security in the self-described “neutral” country that is all but surrounded by friends in the European Union, a 27-member bloc that does not include Switzerland. In recent years, Swiss authorities have decried rising threats in cyberspace and spying activities in the rich Alpine country.

Many other European countries and members of NATO — which also does not include Switzerland — have been beefing up their military spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The Swiss military plans to raise the ceiling on defense spending to 25.8 billion Swiss francs ($29.2 billion) between 2025 and 2028, up from 21.7 billion francs in the previous four-year period.

Switzerland’s government plans to use the extra funding to develop and upgrade radar systems, short-range missile defense, its tank fleet, missiles used by ground forces and cyberattack defense capabilities, among other things.

Word of the planned increase came as the government announced a 1.4 billion franc deficit for 2023 and an across-the-board 1.4% spending cut in all other government departments except defense in its three-year financial plan.

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