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Ukraine Offer to Russia to be Neutral But What is a Neutral Country?

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has said that Ukraine may be ready to become a neutral country as part of ongoing talks with Russia to end the war.

But what does it really mean to be a neutral country?

Different Definitions

A neutral country is not a party to a war between two or more countries. He can neither help nor harm warring states, nor allow them to use their territory for military purposes.

This principle of neutrality is enshrined in the constitutions of many countries, including the constitutions of Europe and Central Asia.

Other countries have declared themselves unaffiliated, which means they will not side with any party to the conflict.

“The concept of neutrality has a long history, but in the end, neutrality is what states say about it,” says Owen Green, a professor of international security and development at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.

But he says “it’s very broad and there’s a lot of talk about it.”

Swiss Neutrality

Switzerland is the oldest and perhaps most famous example of neutrality. Neutrality has been a staple of Swiss foreign policy since 1815.

Switzerland remained neutral during World War II, and after the war, it was accused of harboring Nazi criminals. It has never joined the European Union, although it has agreements with the European Union on trade and freedom of movement. It has never been a part of the Western military alliance NATO and joined the United Nations in 2002.

Professor Green says it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain Swiss-style neutrality in this globally interconnected world.

Because the European Union’s joint foreign policy includes security and defense, Russia considers it an ally of the Western bloc because of the close ties between Switzerland and the European Union.

Professor Green says Switzerland is slowly “moving away” from its long-standing neutral policy.

And a recent example is that after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Swiss government, along with the European Union, imposed sanctions on Russian companies and individuals.

Reduce Stress

But Switzerland is not the only European country pursuing a neutral foreign policy. Others have done the same to reduce geopolitical tensions.

After World War II, Austria was occupied by the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain, and France. Neutrality was a precondition imposed by the Soviet Union to ensure that there was a buffer between the Soviet Union and the West.

The country adhered to this principle and incorporated it into its constitution in 1955 as part of a landmark agreement to unite with Germany before World War II and then regain its independence after the occupation by Allied forces at the end of the conflict. To be obtained.

Professor Green says Austria’s neutrality “comes directly from a particular conflict” and is not as strict as Swiss neutrality.

Although Austria is not a member of NATO and will not allow foreign military bases on its territory, as a member of the European Union it has imposed sanctions on Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.

“Although Austria is a neutral state from a military point of view, we are not neutral when it comes to violence,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Scheinberg.

Six EU countries are not part of NATO: Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, and Austria.

But with the exception of Cyprus, all of them cooperate with NATO through the Partnership for Peace (Partnership for Peace) program, which allows them to re-establish their relationship with the Western military alliance as needed.


Nonetheless, states are still pursuing their geopolitical goals, says Pascal Lutz, a Swiss researcher on neutrality at the Waseda Institute for Advanced Study in Tokyo.

He says they work by keeping “physical space” between opponents and thus “reducing the security problem.”

The former Soviet republic of Moldova wrote a provision of permanent neutrality in its constitution in 1994.

In the other former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, December 12 is widely celebrated as Neutrality Day, the anniversary of its declaration of permanent neutrality in 1995.

Mongolia, often embroiled in diplomatic disputes between China and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, declared its neutrality at the UN General Assembly in 2015.

Former Mongolian President Sakhia Elbeg was in power at the time. “Mongolia’s history, our geographical location, and the uniqueness of our chosen path of development are in harmony with the spirit and principles of neutrality,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Investment in Military Equipment

Professor Green says it is a misconception that neutral states are less concerned about security. “In fact, most non-aligned states invest more in their armies than partisan states because they have to rely on themselves to defend themselves,” he says.

The Swiss Armed Forces are considered one of the most capable armies in Europe. All healthy Swiss men serve in the military, and guns are issued to keep everyone at home.

“Being a neutral state in the modern world does not mean that we do not believe that war can ever happen,” says Professor Green. They are just saying that we will not take part in it voluntarily. ”

So neutrality is very different from having no army.

Costa Rica announced the withdrawal of its troops in 1949. But Costa Rica has a police force as strong as the armies of its neighbors.

Costa Rica considers itself a state that protects the collective interest. Costa Rica had made a political decision to disband the army due to military coups in the region.

Professor Green says Costa Rica’s constitution prohibits foreign wars, but if a country attacks it, it will face stiff resistance.

Japan’s constitution also prohibits it from participating in wars, but Japan has a strong military. In addition, Japan has a security alliance with the United States.

Liechtenstein is a small country between Austria and Switzerland that relies on Switzerland for its defense. Liechtenstein disbanded his army in the 19th century.

Trying to Maintain Balance

Some countries try to adopt a policy of neutrality in world affairs but it has no legal status.

Singapore and Taiwan are among the countries that have to strike a balance between rivals such as the United States, China, and Japan. Singapore has for a long time successfully pursued a policy of neutrality between the United States and China. But because of the threat of an attack from China, it is difficult for Taiwan to pursue a policy of neutrality.

120 countries in the world call themselves non-aligned and are not part of any big bloc. The Non-Aligned Movement came into being in 1961 with a non-aligned political ideology emerging from the former Yugoslavia.

Serbia, part of the former Yugoslavia, declared neutrality in 2007 and is now negotiating to become a member of the European Union.

The African country of Rwanda has declared permanent neutrality since 2009 following the 994 genocide and is now part of the Commonwealth.

What Will Neutral Ukraine Look Like?

It depends on the ongoing negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian diplomats. Swiss researcher Lutz believes that Russia’s condition of “neutrality” with Ukraine is such that Russia will not compromise. He would also like to see neutrality enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution.

But Professor Green says that neutrality is such a vague thing. “I think it would be unwise for Ukraine to remain neutral.”

Professor Green says Russia will define neutrality in a way that is unacceptable to Ukraine.

One concrete definition of neutrality regarding Ukraine could be that it would neither join the NATO alliance nor allow NATO or Russian forces to enter its territory.

But the issue will be stuck on Ukraine’s EU membership. Some experts believe that Ukraine, like Austria, could become a member of the European Union without being part of the NATO alliance. But EU membership would also guarantee security, and Russia would consider it a violation of its neutrality policy.

But Lutz believes the two countries can leave the issue of EU membership unclear to begin the peace process. Russian President Vladimir Putin says he wants to “demilitarize” Ukraine but has never said so.

Professor Green believes that “non-military” Ukraine will not be able to survive. But Lutz believes Russia is not asking Ukraine to withdraw its troops.

Lutz believes the two countries may agree not to enter into an agreement with NATO other than banning Ukraine’s troop numbers, and nuclear and other lethal weapons.

Lutz says one aspect of Ukraine’s demilitarization may be that it will not acquire offensive weapons, but he also believes that it depends on the diplomats who are negotiating.

Hamza Ahmed
Hamza Ahmed
Hamza Ahmed is graduated from the NED faculty of Software Engineering Karachi. This website is owned and operated by Hamza Ahmed


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