Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd has agreed to an external inquiry into a weapons deal involving state-owned defense contractor RUAG. The company had attempted to sell tanks to a German intermediary for delivery to Ukraine. Amherd’s decision to launch the investigation came after she participated in a hearing with the Swiss parliament’s Security Policy Committee.
The controversy centers around the sale of approximately 96 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks that RUAG purchased in 2016 and stored in Italy. The Swiss firm planned to sell the tanks to the original German manufacturer, Rheinmetall, for refurbishment and subsequent delivery to Ukraine. However, in July, the Swiss government concluded that the terms of the deal would violate Swiss law and blocked the transfer.
The announced inquiry will examine both the failed weapon deal and the management of RUAG. Some Swiss lawmakers have suggested that the government should have a representative on the company’s board of directors to ensure better oversight.
RUAG CEO Brigitte Beck resigned from her position two weeks ago following the government’s refusal to approve the tank sale. The company’s internal investigation found no wrongdoing on Beck’s part but cited the need for a change in leadership due to the controversy. The CEO’s public criticism of Switzerland’s policy of neutrality was also mentioned as a contributing factor in her departure.
The sale of Western-made armor to Ukraine has been part of the military aid provided to the country in preparation for its counteroffensive against Russia. However, Kiev’s attempts to break through Russian defensive lines have thus far been unsuccessful, resulting in the loss of heavy weaponry, including 10 Leopard tanks, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
The investigation into the RUAG weapons deal aims to shed light on the decision-making process and ensure transparency. The Swiss government’s commitment to neutrality remains a vital aspect of the country’s foreign policy, and any potential breaches must be thoroughly examined.
As RUAG faces scrutiny over its actions, the outcome of the investigation will determine whether further measures, such as government representation on the company’s board of directors, will be implemented to ensure stricter oversight. The controversy serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to international laws and regulations, particularly when it comes to the transfer of military equipment.