When I think of Switzerland, the first things that come to mind are: chocolate, cheese, watches, army knives, bank accounts, and neutrality. Switzerland has been neutral since 1516, a status officially recognized in 1815 by the European powers that be.
Switzerland, in its neutrality, does not enter military alliances. I read once that external neutrality is one of the things that allows for its internal cohesion. On L day, I mentioned that despite four national languages (German, French, Italian, Romansch), Switzerland stands united. What does neutrality have to do with any of that, you ask? Let’s say France and Germany decided to wage war on each other and that Switzerland wasn’t neutral. Switzerland would inevitably choose sides and in doing so would alienate part of their population! Some Swiss would be happy with the decision and others revolted. With scenarios like this in mind, it’s difficult to imagine Switzerland staying united without their chosen path of external neutrality.
As part of their neutrality, Switzerland will not house or allow passage to foreign troops. Go around.
Neutral states can enter military alliances as a defensive strategy. Before I came to Switzerland, I thought that countries chose not to attack the Swiss out of respect for their neutrality. It was sort of a vague concept to me. Now, I realize that a country would be crazy to try to attack Switzerland. You see, Switzerland has an army. And not just any ol’ army. All able-bodied men in Switzerland are required to serve in the army, air force, or navy. They are promptly given a gun that they keep at home (bullets not provided since 2007) and take with them to their annual (required) shooting practice. If Switzerland were attacked, all the men of Switzerland could be armed and ready in a matter of hours. Don’t mess with Switzerland because Switzerland can mess you.
This doesn’t mean Swiss troops are inactive. They are known for providing support for humanitarian efforts as well as guarding the Vatican: