War in Ukraine: stay out or get involved?

Russia's war against Ukraine is prompting more and more states to ask fundamental questions about their stance in global politics. Neutral countries like Switzerland and Austria are struggling to define their role. Others are at odds over the consequences of military support for Kyiv. European commentators complain that the debate is not being conducted honestly.

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Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

We must talk about weapons and munition

The Aargauer Zeitung appeals for more substance in the debate:

“Hardly a day goes by without a politician declaring that traditional neutrality has had its day. Or that we need to redefine neutrality. ... By accepting the EU sanctions, the Federal Council has made full use of its leeway. Otherwise, Switzerland will not be able to make the necessary adjustments. So those who want to redefine neutrality cannot avoid engaging in a discussion about the export of arms materials. The question of weapons and munition will be decisive in determining how far Switzerland is willing to go in redefining its neutrality.”

dieSubstanz.at (AT) /

Domestic motives

Vienna has adopted a cowardly stance vis-à-vis Moscow, the blog dieSubstanz.at says:

“The main priority for Austria seems to be to avoid antagonising Russia or Vladimir Putin too much. And to maintain a semblance of neutrality at home. But none of this is being said openly. Perhaps Austria also has a guilty conscience, because its stance is also based on deeply domestic, party-political motives: more than ever a clear majority of voters is demanding that we stay out of conflicts. Their opinions are being heeded to prevent them from drifting over to the [right-wing populist] Freedom Party.”

Deutsche Welle (BG) /

Bulgaria's neutrality is pure hypocrisy

The government in Sofia must give up its contradictory stance, demands Deutsche Welle's Bulgarian service:

“Outraged by Russian aggression, much of the world now supports Kyiv. Against this backdrop, more and more voters in Bulgaria see the government's attempts to sit on the fence as cowardly and poorly disguised Putinism. ... President Rumen Radev wants Bulgaria to avoid angering the Kremlin and calls those in favour of arms deliveries militarists and charlatans. It is already an open secret that Bulgarian weapons have long found their way to Ukraine via Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Instead of neutrality, a debate on political hypocrisy is needed.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Far too moralistic

Germany is still struggling to find the right stance towards Russia, political philosopher Luuk van Middelaar notes in De Standaard:

“There is a deep German longing to be on the 'right side of history': A key principle of the right side is: never again Hitler. ... This led to a German foreign policy that speaks in terms of values instead of classic raison d'état and strategic interests. With this approach, the country earned international goodwill. ... But it also has two obvious disadvantages. Firstly, one is vulnerable to the accusation of hypocrisy. ... And over-moralisation. Until recently, the Russia debate was about peace, stability and (war) guilt vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. ... Now it's about justice, democracy, Ukrainian suffering.”