Why did Switzerland and Austria choose to stay neutral during the cold war?

1 Answer
Feb 21, 2018

Swiss Neutrality was historic and Austria a legacy of the joint occupation


Switzerland has a history of neutrality going back to the 1500's after the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 Neutrality became the official and permanent official foreign policy, it has adhered to this ever since so taking sides in the 'Cold War' was effectively prohibited by its own constitution.

Austria's post war position was different, like Germany she was treated as a prime belligerent nation as she participated/cooperated on the side of Nazi Germany, and as such was jointly occupied, divided up and ruled by the four victorious nations like Germany was.

However when occupied Germany was returned back into a two state status, (West Germany formed May 1949, and East Germany formed 7 October 1949), Austria's position became an issue in the 'Cold War' due to it having been apart of Germany before the war, after it was annexed in 1938, but it was during the Moscow Conference in 1943, it was decided the annexation would be ignored, and would be treated as a separate country after the war.

The issue of its status however was quickly resolved mainly due to the warming of relations between the East and West during the Early 1950s and 60s, when the Soviet Union's 'Stalinist Foreign Policy' was dropped, and led to the Four Powers agreeing to create the modern state of Austria, but it would be a non-participant in the 'Cold War'. The Austrians were given full independence on the 15 May 1955, and its new government made a promise of "Perpetual Neutrality", much like that of the Swiss.

As a note, we can also see that these two countries have persisted with this neutrality, by not joining NATO -as did Sweden, Southern Ireland and Finland (despite Finland playing on Hitlers side a little bit, they in 1944 were able to establish peace with the USSR, and have kept neutrality in most conflicts today).