Plan to return decommissioned Leopard 2 tanks to Germany wins backing of Swiss executive branch


Switzerland's executive branch on Wednesday threw its weight behind a proposal to decommission 25 out-of-service Leopard 2 battle tanks that Germany's government wants returned to the German manufacturer to help plug gaps in Berlin's arsenal after it shipped tanks of its own to Ukraine.

The Federal Council, the Swiss seven-member executive body, said it backs a proposal from a key parliamentary security-policy committee to decommission the tanks and re-export them to Germany. Defense Minister Viola Amherd is expected to endorse the plan a speech to the lower house of the legislature next month.

Any such re-export would also require the backing of the upper house at its session in September, and a subsequent go-ahead from the Swiss economy minister. The tanks would be sent only on condition that they would be returned to manufacturer Rheinmetall — and not go to Ukraine.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led Switzerland to grapple with its longtime, constitutionally-mandated adherence to neutrality, which among other things bars the export of Swiss-made or Swiss-owned weaponry or war material to combatants in active conflicts.

Switzerland, however, has lined up with European Union sanctions targeting Russian individuals and businesses in the wake of the invasion.

The Swiss army currently uses 134 renovated Leopard-2 A4 WE tanks, and holds another 96 that have not been renovated and have been mothballed.

Germany's economy and defense ministers in February reached out to Swiss authorities in February seeking the re-sale of the tanks to Rheinmetall, Swiss officials say. The ministers committed to keeping the tanks in Germany or among NATO or EU partners to complement their arsenals.

Germany has delivered 18 of its Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine.