At the invitation of the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich and the Europa Institut at the University of Zurich, Federal Councillor Viola Amherd gave a public lecture on 8 November 2021 on the subject of a secure Switzerland and what we will and must do to achieve it. ETH President Joel Mesot welcomed her in the packed Audimax lecture hall and referred to the close and multifaceted partnership between ETH and the federal defence department. Security, said the ETH president, is never guaranteed and needs science to contribute, too.
The collaboration between ETH and the federal government ranges from the CSS' political science analysis to the technical expertise of the Zurich Information Security & Privacy Center (ZISC) to the newly established Cyber Defence Campus with a site at ETH Zurich. Not to be overlooked, said Mesot, is the ETH-based MILAC military academy, the collaboration with the Federal Office for Defence Procurement armasuisse in robotics, and SCION, the next-generation secure internet built on ten years of research at ETH.
The world has become more malicious
Amherd began her remarks with the statement that Switzerland's security is closely linked to developments in its environment – and that has become more unstable and unpredictable. One important reason for this is the intensification of rivalries between major and regional powers: "The rivalry between the US and China is escalating. Russia and regional powers such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are asserting their interests more forcefully," she said.
States are also increasingly operating in the grey area between war and peace to pursue their interests. Cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns, said the Federal Councillor, are important tools in the armoury of hybrid attacks. She also referred to the security implications of climate change, which further exacerbates existing problems such as uncontrolled migration and conflicts in crisis regions.
Overall, said Amherd, the security outlook has become bleaker: "International tensions have heightened and the spectrum of threats and dangers has expanded." In order to protect the ability to act, self-determination and the integrity of Switzerland and its people, Swiss security policy must adapt to this harsher environment.