A neutral country is a state which is neutral towards belligerents in a specific war, or holds itself as permanently neutral in all future conflicts (including avoiding entering into military alliances such as NATO). As a type of non-combatant status, neutral nationals enjoy protection under the law of war from belligerent actions to a greater extent than other non-combatants such as enemy civilians and prisoners of war. The exact nature of neutrality can differ between the interpretations of various countries. Some, such as Costa Rica, have demilitarized; whereas Switzerland holds to "armed neutrality" in which it deters aggression with a sizeable military, while barring itself from foreign deployment. Not all neutral countries avoid any foreign deployment or alliances, however, as Austria, Ireland, Finland and Sweden have active UN peacekeeping forces and a political alliance within the European Union. Sweden is not a truly "neutral" country: the traditional Swedish policy is not to participate in military alliances, with the intention of staying neutral in the case of war. Immediately before World War II, the Nordic countries stated their neutrality, but Sweden changed its position to that of non-belligerent at the start of the Winter War.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 Rights and responsibilities of a neutral power
- 3 Recognition and codification
- 4 Armed neutrality
- 5 Peacekeeping
- 6 Points of debate
- 7 List of neutral countries
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
- A neutral country in a particular war, is a sovereign state which officially declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907.
- A permanently neutral power is a sovereign state which is bound by international treaty to be neutral towards the belligerents of all future wars. An example of a permanently neutral power is Switzerland. The concept of neutrality in war is narrowly defined and puts specific constraints on the neutral party in return for the internationally recognised right to remain neutral.
- Neutralism or a "neutralist policy" is a foreign policy position wherein a state intends to remain neutral in future wars. A sovereign state that reserves the right to become a belligerent if attacked by a party to the war is in a condition of armed neutrality.
- A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral; the policy of non-interventionism is distinct from neutrality, but related, in that it seeks to avoid alliances or intervening militarily in other countries.
Rights and responsibilities of a neutral power
A neutral power must intern belligerent troops who reach its territory, but not escaped prisoners of war. Belligerent armies may not recruit neutral citizens, but they may go abroad to enlist. Belligerent armies' personnel and material may not be transported across neutral territory, but the wounded may be. A neutral power may supply communication facilities to belligerents, but not war material, although it need not prevent export of such material.
Belligerent naval vessels may use neutral ports for a maximum of 24 hours, though neutrals may impose different restrictions. Exceptions are to make repairs—only the minimum necessary to put back to sea—or if an opposing belligerent's vessel is already in port, in which case it must have a 24-hour head start. A prize ship captured by a belligerent in the territorial waters of a neutral power must be surrendered by the belligerent to the neutral, which must intern its crew.
Recognition and codification
Neutrality has been recognised in different ways, and sometimes involves a formal guarantor. For example, Austria has its neutrality guaranteed by its four former occupying powers, Switzerland by the signatories of the Congress of Vienna and Finland by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The form of recognition varies, often by bilateral treaty (Finland), multilateral treaty (Austria) or a UN declaration (Turkmenistan). These treaties can in some ways be forced on a country (Austria's neutrality was insisted upon by the Soviet Union) but in other cases it is an active policy of the country concerned to respond to a geopolitical situation (Ireland in the Second World War).
For the country concerned, the policy is usually codified beyond the treaty itself. Austria and Japan codify their neutrality in their constitutions, but they do so with different levels of detail. Some details of neutrality are left to be interpreted by the government while others are explicitly stated, for example Austria may not host any foreign bases and Japan cannot participate in foreign wars. Yet Sweden, lacking formal codification, was more flexible during the Second World War in allowing troops to pass through its territory.
Armed neutrality is the posture of a state or group of states that has no alliance with either side in a war, but asserts that it will defend itself against resulting incursions from any party. This may include:
- Military preparedness without commitment, especially as the expressed policy of a neutral nation in wartime; readiness to counter with force an invasion of rights by any belligerent power.
- Armed neutrality is a term used in international politics, which is the attitude of a state or group of states which makes no alliance with either side in a war. It is the condition of a neutral power, during said war, to hold itself ready to resist by force, any aggression of either belligerent. Such states assert that they will defend themselves against resulting incursions from all parties.
- Neutrality maintained while weapons are kept available.
- Armed neutrality makes a seemingly-neutral state take up arms for protection to maintain its neutrality.
Sweden and Switzerland are, independent of each other, famed for their armed neutrality, which they maintained throughout both World War I and World War II. The Swiss have a long history of neutrality: it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and did not join the United Nations until 2002. It pursues, however, an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. According to Edwin Reischauer, "To be neutral you must be ready to be highly militarized, like Switzerland or Sweden."
In contrast, other neutral states may abandon military power (examples of states doing this include Costa Rica and Liechtenstein) or reduce it, but rather uses it for the express purpose of home defence and the maintenance of its neutrality. But not having a military does not result in neutrality as many countries, such as Iceland, replaced a standing military with a military guarantee from a stronger power.
Leagues of Armed Neutrality
The phrase "armed neutrality" sometimes refers specifically to one of the "Leagues of Armed Neutrality".
- The First League of Armed Neutrality was an alliance of minor naval powers organized in 1780 by Catherine II of Russia to protect neutral shipping in the War of American Independence. The establishment of the First League of Armed Neutrality was viewed by Americans as a mark of Russian friendship and sympathy. This league had a lasting impact of Russian-American relations, and the relations of those two powers and Britain. It was also the basis for international maritime law, which is still in effect. In the field of political science, this is the first historical example of armed neutrality, however, scholars like Dr. Carl Kulsrud argue that the concept of armed neutrality was introduced even earlier. Within 90 years before the First League of Armed Neutrality was established, neutral powers had joined forces no less than three times. As early as 1613, Lubeck and Holland joined powers to continue their maritime exploration without the commitment of being involved in wartime struggles on the sea.
- The Second League of Armed Neutrality was an effort to revive this during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was an alliance with Denmark-Norway, Prussia, Sweden and Russia. It occurred during 1800 and 1801. The idea of this second league was to protect neutral shipping from the British Royal Navy. However, Britain took this as the alliance taking up sides with France, thus attacking Denmark. The alliance was forced to withdraw from the league.
- A potential Third League of Armed Neutrality was discussed during the American Civil War, but was never realised.
For many states, such as Ireland and Sweden, neutrality does not mean the absence of any foreign interventionism. Peacekeeping missions for the United Nations are seen as not only compatible with neutrality, but intertwined with it. Indeed, active participation in peacekeeping gave the Irish military a purpose and an identity; and deployment of Irish troops relies on a "triple lock" requiring authorisation not just from the government and parliament, but also from the UN Security Council. In contrast, the Swiss electorate rejected a 1994 proposal to join UN peacekeeping operations. Despite this, 23 Swiss observers and police have been deployed around the world in UN projects.
Points of debate
The legitimacy of whether some states are as neutral as they claim has been questioned in some circles, although this depends largely on a state's interpretation of its form of neutrality.
There are five members of the European Union that still describe themselves as a neutral country in some form: Austria, Ireland, Finland, Malta and Sweden. With the development of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy, the extent to which they are, or should be, neutral is debated. For example former Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, on 5 July 2006, stated that Finland was no longer neutral:
Mr Pflüger described Finland as neutral. I must correct him on that: Finland is a member of the EU. We were at one time a politically neutral country, during the time of the Iron Curtain. Now we are a member of the Union, part of this community of values, which has a common policy and, moreover, a common foreign policy.
However, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila on 5 December 2017 still described the country as "militarily non-aligned" and that it should remain so. Ireland, which sought guarantees for its neutrality in EU treaties, argues that its neutrality does not mean that Ireland should avoid engagement in international affairs such as peacekeeping operations.
Since the enactment of the Lisbon Treaty, EU members are bound by TEU, Article 42.7, which obliges states to assist a fellow member that is the victim of armed aggression. It accords "an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in [other member states'] power" but would "not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States" (neutral policies), allowing members to respond with non-military aid.
With the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in defence at the end of 2017, the EU's activity on military matters has increased. The policy was designed to be inclusive and allows for states to opt in or out of specific forms of military cooperation. That has allowed most of the neutral states to participate, but opinions still vary. Some members of the Irish Parliament considered Ireland's joining PESCO as an abandonment of neutrality. It was passed with the government arguing that its opt-in nature allowed Ireland to "join elements of PESCO that were beneficial such as counter-terrorism, cyber security and peace keeping... what we are not going to be doing is buying aircraft carriers and fighter jets". Malta, as of December 2017, is the only neutral state not to participate in PESCO. The Maltese government argued that it was going to wait and see how PESCO develops to see whether it would compromise Maltese neutrality.
The neutrality of Republic of Moldova is an interesting case. According to Ion Marandici, Moldova has chosen neutrality in order to avoid Russian security schemes and Russian military presence on its territory. Even if the country is constitutionally neutral, some researchers argue that de facto this former Soviet republic never was neutral, because parts of the Russian 14th army are present at Bendery. The same author suggests that one solution in order to avoid unnecessary contradictions and deepen at the same time the relations with NATO would be "to interpret the concept of permanent neutrality in a flexible manner".
Neutrality during World War II
|"Neutrality is a negative word. It does not express what America ought to feel. We are not trying to keep out of trouble; we are trying to preserve the foundations on which peace may be rebuilt.”|
|— Woodrow Wilson|
Many countries made neutrality declarations during World War II. Most, however, became occupied, and in the end only the states of Andorra, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland (with Liechtenstein), and Vatican (the Holy See) remained neutral of the European countries closest to the war. Their fulfilment to the letter of the rules of neutrality have been questioned: Ireland supplied some important secret information to the Allies; for instance, the date of D-Day was decided on the basis of incoming Atlantic weather information secretly supplied to them by Ireland but kept from Germany. Axis or Allied pilots who crash landed in Ireland were interned.
Sweden and Switzerland, as embedded within Nazi Germany and its occupied territory, similarly made some concessions to Nazi requests as well as to Allied requests. Sweden was also involved in intelligence operations with the Allies, including listening stations in Sweden and espionage in Germany, as well as secret military training of Norwegian and Danish soldiers in Sweden. Spain also pursued a policy of "non-alignment" and sent a volunteer combat division to aid the Nazi war effort. Portugal officially stayed neutral, but actively supported both the Allies by providing overseas naval bases and Germany by keeping its war machine alight with the extensive sale of tungsten.
The United States was initially neutral during the war and was initially bound Neutrality Acts of 1936 not to sell war materiels to belligerents. Once war broke out, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt succeeded in getting Congress to replace the act with the Cash and carry program that allowed the US to provide military aid to the allies, despite opposition from isolationist members.
List of neutral countries
Note: Some countries may occasionally claim to be "neutral" but not comply with the internationally agreed upon definition of neutrality as listed above.
|State||Period(s) of Neutrality||Notes|
|Austria||1920–1938 (after World War I to annexation by Germany)
1955–present (Declaration of Neutrality)
|Finland||1935–1939 (to Winter War)
1956–present (from return of Porkkala rental area)
|Related article: Finlandization
List of formerly neutral countries
|State||Period(s) of Neutrality||Notes|
|Afghanistan||1914–1918 (neutral during World War I)
1939–1945 (neutral during World War II)
|Albania||1914–1918 (neutral during World War I)
1968 (attempted neutrality during the Prague Spring)
|Belgium||1839–1914 (to World War I)
1936–1940 (to World War II)
|Bhutan||1914–1918 (neutral during World War I)
1939–1945 (neutral during World War II)
|Cambodia||1955–1970 (to Vietnam War)
|China||1904–1905 (neutral during the Russo-Japanese War)
|Denmark||1864–1940 (after Second Schleswig War to World War II)|
|Estonia||1938–1939 (to World War II)|
|Ethiopian Empire||1914–1918 (neutral during World War I)||
|Hungary||1956 (attempted neutrality during the Hungarian Revolution)|
|Persia||1914–1918 (neutral during World War I)||
|Kingdom of Italy||1914–1915 (to World War I)||
|Kingdom of Laos||1955–1975 (ostensibly neutral throughout the Vietnam War)||
|Latvia||1938–1939 (to World War II)|
|Lithuania||1939 (to World War II)|
|Luxembourg||1839–1914 (to World War I)
1920–1940 (to World War II)
|Netherlands||1839–1940 (to World War II)|
|Norway||1814–1940 (to World War II)||:Related article: The Neutral Ally
|Philippines||2010 (attempted neutrality during the Manila hostage crisis)||
|Portugal||1932–1945 (neutral during World War II)||
|South Korea||1961–1964 (to Vietnam War)
|Spain||1914–1918 (neutral during World War I)
1940–1945 (neutral during World War II)
|Turkey||1940–1945 (neutral during World War II)||
|United States||1914–1917 (to World War I)
1939–1941 (to World War II)
|Ukraine||1990–2014 (to Ukrainian crisis)||
|Kingdom of Yugoslavia||1940–1941|
- List of countries without armed forces
- International humanitarian law
- Dual loyalty
- Non-Aligned Movement
- Policy of deliberate ambiguity
- "The Avalon Project - Laws of War : Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land (Hague V); October 18, 1907". avalon.law.yale.edu.
- "The Avalon Project - Laws of War : Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War (Hague XIII); October 18, 1907". avalon.law.yale.edu.
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.1
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.10
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.11
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.13
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.4,5
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.6
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.2
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.14
- Hague Convention, §5 Art.8
- Hague Convention, §13 Art.6
- Hague Convention, §13 Art.7
- Hague Convention, §13 Art.12
- Hague Convention, §13 Art.14
- Hague Convention, §13 Art.16
- Hague Convention, §13 Art.3
- "Neutral European countries". nato.gov.si.
- Oppenheim, International Law: War and Neutrality, 1906, p. 325.
- "Armed Neutrality". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
- "Armed Neutrality Law & Legal Definition". USLegal. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
- "Armed Neutrality". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
- Bissell and Gasteyger, The Missing link: West European Neutrals and Regional Security, 1990, p. 117; Murdoch and Sandler, "Swedish Military Expenditures and Armed Neutrality," in The Economics of Defence Spending, 1990, p. 148-149.
- "Switzerland - Knowledge Encyclopedia". Knowledge Encyclopedia. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
- Chapin, Emerson. "Edwin Reischauer, Diplomat and Scholar, Dies at 79," New York Times. September 2, 1990.
- See, generally, Scott, The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800: A Collection of Official Documents Preceded by the Views of Representative Publicists, 1918; Karsh, Neutrality and Small States, 1988, p. 16-17; Jones, Crucible of Power: A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913, 2009, p. 15-17.
- Vinarov, Mikhail. "The First League of Armed Neutrality". CiteLighter. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- Kulsrud, Carl. "Armed Neutralitys to 1780". American Journal of International Law. Missing or empty
- See, generally, Scott, The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800: A Collection of Official Documents Preceded by the Views of Representative Publicists, 1918; Karsh, Neutrality and Small States, 1988, p. 17.
- Bienstock, The Struggle for the Pacific, 2007, p. 150.
- "Protecting neutrality in a militarised EU".
- International peace-keeping operations. Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Federal Administration admin.ch. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
- Presentation of the programme of the Finnish presidency (debate) 5 July 2006, European Parliament Strasbourg
- "Finland should stay militarily non-aligned: prime minister". 4 December 2017 – via Reuters.
- Affairs, Department of Foreign. "Neutrality - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade". www.dfa.ie.
- "Malta to 'wait and see' before deciding on PESCO defence pact, Muscat says".
- Marandici, Ion (2006). "Moldova's neutrality: what is at stake?". Lviv: IDIS-Viitorul and the Center for European Studies. Archived from the original (MS Word) on 2008-10-30.
- "The WWII camp where Allies and Germans mixed". 28 June 2011 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
- Chen, C. Peter. "Sweden in World War II".
- Brinkley, Dougals; Rubel, David (2003). World War II: The Axis Assault, 1939-1940. USA: MacMillan. pp. 99–106.
- "Costa Rica". World Desk Reference. Archived from the original on February 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
- El Espíritu del 48. "Abolición del Ejército". Retrieved 2008-03-09. (Spanish)
- Álvaro Murillo (El País). "Costa Rica prohíbe por ley participar en cualquier guerra". Retrieved 2008-03-09. (Spanish)
- Neutrality in the 21st century - Lessons for Serbia. ISAC Fond. 2013.
- Burke, Dan. "Benevolent Neutrality". The War Room. Archived from the original on 20 June 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Joe McCabe (1944-06-03). "How Blacksod lighthouse changed the course of the Second World War". Independent.ie. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- John P. Duggan, Neutral Ireland and the Third Reich Lilliput Press; Rev. ed edition, 1989. p. 223
- "Background Note: Liechtenstein". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
- "Imagebroschuere_LP_e.indd" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-16. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
- Woodliffe, John (1992). The Peacetime Use of Foreign Military Installations Under Modern International Law. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-7923-1879-X. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
- La Jornada (27 April 2007). "Adiós a la neutralidad - La Jornada". Jornada.unam.mx. Retrieved 2013-09-19.
- "Why Mongolia wants to "permanently neutral" can be authorized for an observation". Tencent News. 22 October 2015.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
- "TREATY CONCERNING THE PERMANENT NEUTRALITY AND OPERATION OF THE PANAMA CANAL" (PDF).
- "Rwanda becomes a member of the Commonwealth". BBC News. 29 November 2009.
- Enclosed by NATO, Serbia ponders next move Archived 2009-04-07 at the Wayback Machine. AFP, 6 April 2009
- Ejdus, Filip (2014). "Serbia's Military Neutrality: origins, effects and challenges" (PDF). Croatian International Relations Review: 43–69. doi:10.2478/cirr2014-0008.
- Carroll, Rory (4 March 2002). "Switzerland decides to join UN". the Guardian.
- "A/RES/50/80; U.N. General Assembly". Retrieved 29 December 2009.
- "Ukraine votes to drop neutral status". 23 December 2014 – via www.bbc.com.
- "Ukraine's Neutrality: A Myth or Reality?". Retrieved 8 September 2014.
- "Ukraine Parliament Ok's neutrality bill". Kyiv Post. Kiev, Ukraine. AP. 4 June 2010.
- Contemporary Yugoslavia: Twenty Years of Socialist Experiment by Wayne S. Vucinich and Jozo Tomasevich, Stanford University, page 64
- Neutrality and Neutralism in the Global Cold War: Between or Within the Blocs? by Sandra Bott, Jussi M. Hanhimaki, Janick Schaufelbuehl and Marco Wyss, page 74
- Bemis, Samuel. "The United States and the Abortive Armed Neutrality of 1794. In "The American Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Oct., 1918), pp. 26-47
- Bienstock, Gregory. The Struggle for the Pacific. Alcester, Warwickshire, U.K.: READ BOOKS, 2007. ISBN 1-4067-7218-6
- Bissell, Richard E. and Gasteyger, Curt Walter. The Missing link: West European Neutrals and Regional Security. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8223-0953-X
- Fenwick, Charles. "The Status of Armed Neutrality." The American Political Science Review, Vol. 11, No. 2 (May, 1917), pp. 388–389
- Hayes, Carlton. "Armed Neutrality with a Purpose." In "The Advocate of Peace." Vol. 79, No. 3 (MARCH, 1917), pp. 74–77
- Jones, Howard. Crucible of Power: A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913. 2d ed. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. ISBN 0-7425-6534-3
- Karsh, Efraim. Neutrality and Small States. Florence, Ky.: Routledge, 1988. ISBN 0-415-00507-8
- Kulsrud, Carl. "Armed Neutrality to 1870." Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul., 1935), pp. 423–447
- Murdoch, James C. and Sandler, Todd. "Swedish Military Expenditures and Armed Neutrality." In The Economics of Defence Spending: An International Survey. Keith Hartley and Todd Sandler, eds. Florence, Ky.: Routledge, 1990. ISBN 0-415-00161-7
- O'Sullivan, Michael Joseph. Ireland and the Global Question. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8156-3106-5
- Oppenheim, Lassa. International Law: War and Neutrality. London: Longmans, Green, 1906.
- Scott, James Brown. The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800: A Collection of Official Documents Preceded by the Views of Representative Publicists. New York: Oxford University Press, 1918.
- Wills, Clair. That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland During the Second World War. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-674-02682-9
- "Woodrow Wilson asks U.S. Congress for declaration of war". The History Channel website. 2014. Event occurs at 10:51. Retrieved April 28, 2014..
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Neutrality.|
- Declaration for the Purpose of establishing Similar Rules of Neutrality, with Annexes
- The British Government's note affirming its neutrlality in the French-Prussian War of 1871, and answering Prussian allegations of a hidden pro-French bias
- "About.com". Netplaces.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "Armed Neutralities". Americanforeignrelations.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "NationStates • View topic - The League of Armed Neutrality (FT alliance)". Forum.nationstates.net. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "The First League of Armed Neutrality". Citelighter.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "League of Armed Neutrality". Everything2.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "Armed Neutrality Law & Legal Definition". Definitions.uslegal.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "The Neutrality Act of 1937 . FDR . WGBH American Experience". PBS.org. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "Wilson's First Warning to the Germans - World War I Document Archive". Lib.byu.edu. Retrieved 2016-04-21.