At the end of director Jean Renoir’s great anti-war film, La Grande Illusion, a German patrol opens fire on two escaped French prisoners of war. One German soldier shouts to another, “Stop shooting! They’re in Switzerland!”
“So much the better for them!” is the reply.
I have often thought of this exchange in the context of the present debate on a treaty of neutrality for Ukraine. This is not just as an essential and unavoidable part of any agreement to end the present Russian invasion but one that may have prevented the invasion happening (since it was first on Russia’s list of demands). A declaration of neutrality has generally been treated, both in the West and in Ukraine itself, as a colossal and dangerous sacrifice by Ukraine.
But modern European history does not altogether bear this out. Being drawn into great-power rivalry may not be such a wonderful thing as the U.S. foreign and security establishment—safely isolated from any resulting horrors—tends to imagine. And if sufficient guarantees are in place, neutrality can be a great boon for a nation.
Read the full article in Foreign Policy.