Switzerland Is Finally Getting Around To Dismantling Its Cold War-Era Defence System

Switzerland Rhine Bridge WoodenWikimedia CommonsThe historic Säckinger Bridge connects Switzerland and Germany across the Rhine river.

Switzerland has a vaunted reputation for political neutrality and hasn’t fought a war since 1815.

The mountainous and land-locked country wanted to keep its stance intact even during the tensest years of the Cold War — and even if it meant destroying crucial pieces of its own infrastructure to stop an invading army.

As The Financial Times explains, many of the crossings linking the German town of Bad Säckingen with its Swiss neighbours were once fitted with incendiary explosives that would be detonated in the event of a Soviet ground incursion.

And twenty-five years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet military threat to central and western Europe, Switzerland has finally dismantled a part of a sprawling defence system intended to destroy potential Soviet in-roads into the country, including major bridges.

In November, a TNT payload was removed from Switzerland’s iconic Säckinger Bridge.

As The Financial Times notes, “by a quirk of fate the conclusion of the process comes just as east-west relations are at their lowest ebb since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Switzerland intensified its bomb-planting efforts in 1975, though it had installed some explosives as early as the 19th century and during World War II. At its peak, the network included 2,000 structures, from bridges to tunnels, roads and airstrips wired for self-destruction — infrastructure that could be scuttled if the country were ever under attack or under occupation.

A Swiss army spokesman who spoke with The Financial Times said the system’s dismantling was not out of a concern for safety, but because of its obsolescence. Switzerland has a modern military and can assure its defence by “mobile defence resources,” with no apparent need to collapse bridges on an advancing army.

The disarmament of the Säckinger Bridge was only the latest bridge along the German-Swiss border to be defused in recent years, according to The Telegraph. But across the country “bridges and tunnels are thought to be kept rigged with explosives, ready to be detonated if necessary.”

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