US Ambassador Despises Switzerland — BERN 000612

Posted on 21/01/2011 by


For the original cable, please go here.

This will be a long one, folks. It’s the complete cable, sans header, with my comments inserted within the cable’s text. I corrected those punctuation and grammar mistakes which I discovered in the course of my reading, but for the most part I did not try to make this message seem any less ill-considered than it really is.

BERN 000612 is the farewell message (or, more correctly, parting shot) of one Peter Coneway, a Goldman Sachs former General Partner and then-outgoing (2006-2008) US ambassador to Switzerland. He is also long-winded bloke who is a better US imperialist than he is a diplomat. It’s a rare person I don’t like without having met her or him in person a few times; I do not like Mr Coneway.

Without further ado:



Classified By: AMB. P. CONEWAY FOR REASON 1.4 (b) and (d)

As I approach the end of my two and one-half year tenure in Bern, I would like to share a few thoughts regarding our relationship with Switzerland and Liechtenstein. I hope that these observations will be helpful to my successor and others concerned to better understand the opportunities and challenges we face in dealing with these very successful, but frequently frustrating alpine democracies.

“Frustrating” he says. “Frustrating”, as in “the bloody Swiss don’t dance to our tune” frustrating? A very interesting thing to say about a country which does much heavy lifting in the diplomatic world on behalf of the US. (eg actually talking with the Iranian government, et cetera.) This certainly kicks off the message on a good tone, and it only gets better.

Special thanks to our dedicated staff of career professionals at Embassy Bern and at the EUR/CE Switzerland desk in Washington for their contributions to this document and their important role in the bilateral relationship.

——————Historical Context——————

The quintessential element of Switzerland’s foreign policy is its centuries-old tradition of neutrality. In Liechtenstein’s case, neutrality was adopted after World War I. This, alongside the country’s unique system of direct democracy, is considered by the Swiss to be one of the two main factors in the country’s remarkable historical success.

This neutrality allows the Swiss to not involve themselves in the disastrously high military spending which the US systemically needs to support. The rest of the world’s ‘defence’ spending combined cannot match the sum which the US blows on its already grossly engorged military. This is perhaps why the US has involved itself in every major (and almost every minor) war since the dawn of the 20th Century: those bullets, missiles, landmine, bombs, and white phosphorus have to go somewhere!

The “remarkable historical success” wouldn’t be so remarkable, and indeed would be ordinary, if other countries took the Swiss lead and did not try to 1) have an empire, and 2) start lots of wars. But in the case of the US, this seems to be systemically impossible. That aforementioned grossly engorged military has to go somewhere. Simply garrisoning the world doesn’t quite suffice to replace a couple unwinnable wars.

During the last century, when the rest of Europe suffered horrific human and material losses in wars and revolutions, Switzerland remained an island of democratic stability. In a turbulent Europe, the Swiss were at peace. No Swiss factories were bombed, the infrastructure was slowly perfected, and the country’s banks (and even its real estate agents) thrived on its proven track record as a safe haven.

Yes, those are some of the many of the benefits of not starting wars of aggression. Nazi Germany (which is being obliquely referred to) was not an isolated event, as perhaps Mr Coneway believes, but rather the result of the terrible treatment which Germany received at the end of WWI, at the hands of the Allies. Claims that then-President Woodrow Wilson felt bad about Germany’s treatment are, I think, attempts at both glossing over his involvement in the proceedings, as well as salvaging his reputation.

Crushing war reparations imposed on Germany by the Allies were amongst the greatest rhetorical assets which Adolf Hitler used in his bid for power. Lord Keynes, amongst others, understood that a monster would arise from monstrous treatment; At the end of WWI he pushed the Allies to be lenient on Germany, so that the Germans would not become resentful and restive. He was ignored. Better diplomacy — eg Swiss-style diplomacy and neutrality — would have seen the wisdom of his warnings.

Gradually over decades, such circumstances and traditional Swiss industriousness transformed a resource-poor alpine republic into one of the most prosperous societies on earth.

Well, we’re on a roll here. Switzerland is neither federal, nor a republic; it is a Confederation. Forgive Mr Coneway his ignorance: the only historical experience which the US has had with Confederations is crushing them. Trying to be ‘nice’ to a Confederation is quite alien, so perhaps it’s for the best that Switzerland is misunderstood as a republic… otherwise the US might have to invade for old time’s sake.

Additionally, that “industriousness” got a shot in the arm by the Allied blockade of Switzerland during WWII. This blockade cut off not only vast amounts of food, but also nearly 100% of oil imports. Switzerland has no oil, so they built a post-oil economy very quickly indeed. Please keep this historical tie in mind as Mr Coneway continues, because it will become quickly apparent he is unaware of this seminal event in Swiss history.

Even now, in the 21st century, with its growing global political, economic, and environmental challenges, neutrality remains the cornerstone of Swiss foreign policy, a view supported by all major Swiss political parties. Switzerland is neither a member of NATO nor the European Union, and the Swiss public does not aspire to join either, according to public opinion polls.

I suspect this is because the Swiss people aspire to avoid being dragged into wars of aggression. For instance, they have kept a close eye on NATO, and are aware that it is primarily a tool for the advancement of US interests by military ‘coalition’. NATO was an organisation which ceased to have a reason for existence in 1991, and they are well aware of the implications of its continued existence: it was only nominally a defence against the now-defunct Soviet Union, and is more and more simply a forum for the US to access the military assets of other countries in the pursuit of its agenda across the world.

The idea that, somehow, neutrality is a problem “in the 21st century, with its growing global political, economic, and environmental challenges” is beyond stupidity, and possibly completely mad. Switzerland is one of the most civilised and advanced country on the planet, and is certainly better respected than the US; it has its policies to thank for this. The Swiss are much more on the edge of modernity than the US, and they have seen no reason to abandon neutrality as their “cornerstone”; I trust the judgement of the Swiss on this matter, so I therefore conclude that the 21st Century does not, in fact, necessitate the tossing out of neutrality. How Mr Coneway failed to understand this during his two years in Switzerland is a testament to his short-sighted war mongering.

In a 2001 referendum, the Swiss voted to reject full EU membership. Instead, the Swiss opted for a series of so-called bilateral treaties with Brussels to increase Switzerland’s economic integration with the EU (by liberalizing movements of capital, goods, and labor), but preserve the country’s ultimate sovereignty.

The point which doesn’t seem to dawn here on Mr Coneway, is that by preserving the sovereignty of their country, the Swiss ensured they weren’t dragged by treaty into every major war since NATO was formed in 1949. That is quite a few wars they didn’t have to spend lives, resources, and finances on; that is quite a lot of effort and resources which they were instead able to invest in the infrastructure of their country. Perhaps this is why, Mr Coneway, Switzerland is “…one of the most prosperous societies on earth.”

Is anyone else getting the feeling that the ‘frustrating’ part about the Swiss, for Mr Coneway, is that they’re not interested in wars of imperialist aggression? How irritating it must have been for him, trying to get the Swiss to join the fun in Iraq and Afghanistan!

In a 2002 referendum, 55% of the Swiss voted to join the United Nations. Proponents argued that UN membership would allow Switzerland to make its discrete views better heard on global issues. The decision was heavily opposed by the conservative nationalist Swiss Peoples Party (SVP) run by Christoph Blocher, which argued it would weaken the country. UN membership has forced Switzerland to take positions on a range of issues on which it could have previously remained silent. However, when faced with a particularly controversial issue, the Swiss often abstain, such as in the recent vote on whether to refer the question of Kosovo’s independence to the ICJ.

And I have no doubt that the other 45% of Swiss people lament bitterly the 6% who didn’t understand the caustic effects which the UN has upon a country’s sovereignty. Part of the peacefulness of Switzerland has been its ‘friends of everyone, allies of no-one’ stance toward the world, the beating heart of their neutrality. Joining the UN represented a weakening of that stance, because then the Swiss were bound to consider some friends to be non-friends, and some non-friends to be allies.

However, the UN fortunately (and perhaps miraculously) kept itself out of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, even in the face of ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell de facto perjuring himself about the infamous weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Perhaps the UN has the Swiss to thank for keeping it from simply following the demands (“invade, invade, invade”) of the US. The mire of Iraq and Afghanistan is enough to suck every last cent of ‘defence’ spending out of any country which cares to spend the money and resources.

The most interesting part here is that, as far as Mr Coneway is concerned, abstaining is a bad thing, similar to his stance on neutrality. He does not seem to understand that the Swiss abstain on matters which they simply do not want to involve themselves in; this is both reasonable and wise. Why such a sense of propriety should be considered bad is quite a statement of brutish ignorance on the part of Mr Coneway. This reveals a clear difference between the US and the Swiss: the US wants to involves itself in everything, and especially where it doesn’t belong; the Swiss don’t.

——————— U.S.- Swiss Relations ———————

U.S.-Swiss relations are correct and cordial, but they lack the natural intimacy and trust that stems from a shared struggle against Fascism or Communism, a common language, or linked history. U.S. and Swiss soldiers never fought side-by-side in a war, no Swiss town felt an emotional bond to the U.S. for a past liberation or economic assistance program, and no flood of Swiss political dissidents or economic migrants had to seek shelter on U.S. shores.

“Correct”: what a curious word. “Correct” by what conditions, and whose agenda? I can only assume it is the US’ agenda, as Mr Coneway is the representative thereof. However, what of the Swiss’ definition of ‘correct’? Did Mr Coneway ever try to understand what the Swiss would like to see from the US, or did he simply ignore them and mindlessly push the US agenda as hard as he could? I think my answer to that question needn’t be stated.

At any rate, the blather about “natural intimacy and trust” here is rather stomach-churning, and suggests to my mind a very peculiar sexualising of Mr Coneway’s job. This is more information than I wanted to know about what goes on in Mr Coneway’s head.

More importantly, it reveals Mr Coneway’s complete ignorance, amongst other things, of history. The Swiss did indeed face the Fascists during WWII, because the Fascists were right at their borders. However, they also had to face hostility from the Allies! During WWII, the Axis and Allies both harassed Switzerland, simply because it preferred to remain neutral. Additionally, and to repeat, the Allies blockaded Switzerland of food, oil, et cetera. There has indeed been “shared struggle[s]” and “linked history”. That struggle has been in opposition; that history has been as de facto enemies.

Somehow I don’t seeing any trust arising from that “shared struggle” or “linked history”. I think a cordial relationship is quite magnanimous on the part of the Swiss, and a testament to their commitment to their policy of neutrality. They are aware of history — probably in opposite proportion as Mr Coneway is not — and they do not allow it to carry an obvious grudge forward. However, they have not forgotten the treatment they received, and I would be shocked if they have forgiven the US.

As far as “a common language” is concerned, Mr Coneway suggests that “natural intimacy and trust” is impossible unless a language is shared. If this were true, why is, for instance Saudi Arabia one of the US’ best allies? I have to wonder what school Mr Coneway comes from, because linguistic imperialism is dreadfully 19th Century. He has clearly missed much development in the art of being bilingual, or indeed hiring a translator.

The reasons why the Swiss never needed “liberation” by the heroic troops of the US, are that the Swiss are 1) armed to the teeth, 2) surrounded by mountains, and 3) neutral. (ie not participating in wars.) As for a “flood” of “political dissidents or economic migrants… [seeking] shelter on U.S. shores”, I refer back to these phrases from Mr Coneway:

“…one of the most prosperous societies on earth…. [and] an island of democratic stability. In a turbulent Europe, the Swiss were at peace.”

Why, exactly, would a Swiss citizen seek to come to the US, with Switzerland described in such terms? And additionally, why would a “flood” come, especially if they were to rub shoulders with a person like Mr Coneway?

Despite paying lip service to the useful democratizing and stabilizing role the U.S. has played in modern Europe’s history, the Swiss foreign policy establishment is at heart convinced that Switzerland’s well-being and success is of its own making, and the country owes a debt to no one. As a result, the fabric of emotional and historical ties between Switzerland and the United States is thinner than with many other countries, and there is no store of historical goodwill or accumulated political capital upon which to draw.

Despite the US paying lip service to Swiss neutrality, Mr Coneway would really prefer it if the Swiss would simply get over their quaint notions and invade some country with lots of oil, specifically for the benefit of the US. Perhaps it would make more sense if Mr Coneway had written “Despite paying lip service to the useful military garrisons which the US democratically maintains in order to ensure stable European docility to our agenda, the Swiss foreign policy…” et cetera. He once again does not seem to notice that Switzerland does not need to occupy oil-rich nations, because they do not need to support a vastly-overindebted economy, a hugely over-geared banking system, and a soul-crushing war machine.

At any rate, it’s true: Switzerland owes a debt to no one, because it is a creditor nation.

As for the US’ “useful… stabilising role” of the US in Europe, the US had the ability to prevent the rise of Nazi Germany after WWI, but did not; it could have taken a non-confrontational stance toward the USSR, but did not. Indeed, the US has had a big hand in the two most destabilising parts of European history. “Stabilising” would entail trying to prevent violent convulsions and desultory contests of spiraling-out-of-control ‘defence’ spending. The US, quite on the contrary, seems to actively facilitate both as part and parcel its foreign policy.

This “emotional and historical ties” drivel is a farce, and shows the total ignorance of history which Mr Coneway blithely displays for our edification. The “fabric” of history between the US and Switzerland is very strong indeed, despite whatever misinformation which Mr Coneway has swallowed. Never mind the Swiss having to fight off the Allies and the Axis during WWII, the US Constitution was based in part upon the Swiss Constitution. The US was specifically designed by the framers of the Constitution to become the Switzerland of the New World. If that isn’t a rich and vibrant historical tie, I have no idea what is.

I personally have trouble thinking about how the apple could have fallen further from the tree. The US has repudiated its Swiss model so thoroughly, (I believe the Swiss are quite conscious of being a source for the US experiment,) one can begin to see why there “is no store of historical goodwill or accumulated political capital upon which to draw.” The US blew that goodwill and capital a long time ago.

This does not mean that the U.S. and Switzerland cannot cooperate effectively in many areas. However, the ways in which the Swiss choose to work with us (such as on global economic, environmental or humanitarian issues) are those where they believe our rational self-interest coincides and which do not require Switzerland to abandon its strict neutrality on international armed conflicts.

So the Swiss actually read the proposals placed before them? And that’s a problem… why? Oh, right: it means they won’t invade random countries, gun down innocent civilians, and torture their own citizens. Got it. Sorry.

Note the condescending “where they believe our rational self-interest coincides”. The intimation: “don’t the Swiss realise that everything will be better if they’d just do what we want them to do and stop with the bloody neutrality stuff?”

Internal debates over Swiss foreign policy tend to focus more on the style and body language of its neutrality rather than its substance. Swiss Federal Councilor for Foreign Affairs Micheline Calmy-Rey is resented in some Swiss circles for her high-profile attempts to offer Switzerland as an intermediary in various disputes, which runs counter to Switzerland’s tradition of discrete, low-profile diplomacy.

That tradition of discrete, low-profile diplomacy has clearly not been inculcated into Mr Coneway. The tradition is also why 1) the Swiss are not involved in wars of aggression, and 2) their country is “…one of the most prosperous societies on earth… [and] an island of  democratic stability.”

Focusing on “style and body language… of neutrality rather than… substance” is a rather shallow take on the Swiss, and indeed is an insult. The Swiss focus on the language of neutrality, because that is an excellent way of dismissing idiotic adventures. As an example, it is impossible to convey “we’re invading Iraq because we can” in neutral terms. If substance cannot be put it good language, than the substance is bad.

Point and case of this is Mr Coneway’s letter which I am presently dissecting for your pleasure. The substance is vile and offensive: it is a point-blank insult to the entirety of Switzerland. Nothing herein can be put in neutral language, hence why the Swiss are presently none too pleased with the US right now.

Thus, for example, Switzerland’s recent offer to represent Russia’s interests in Tbilisi came almost as soon as the hot phase of the conflict ended. However, the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs (EDA) strategists believe the move was an effective way to underline Switzerland’s status as neutral and pose a counterpoint to its representation of U.S. interests in Tehran and Havana. (It also represents Iran’s interests in Washington).

Curious, isn’t it, Mr Coneway, that somehow the Swiss, whom you take pains to revile, are able to have cordial diplomatic relations with Cuba and Iran? Even more curious is how the US cannot do the same, even with Switzerland, considering the tone of this cable. Doesn’t that seem to suggest that the Swiss have an overall better diplomatic perspective on the world? Especially since they’re not the country which is bombing (or threatening to bomb) practically half the planet and garrisoning the other half?

One of the most recent points of tension between the United States and Switzerland was the decision of the Swiss gas company EGL to enter into a long-term contract to buy natural gas from Tehran. Swiss Foreign Affairs Councilor Calmy-Rey has cited it as one of the achievements of her activist style of diplomacy, which has allowed Switzerland to win Iran’s trust. While Switzerland has supported UN sanctions against states of proliferation, including Iran, in Iran’s case, the Foreign Ministry has pursued its own “Swiss Plan,” which has on several occasions sent the wrong message to Iran given the Swiss protecting power mandate for the U.S. (see Political Issues for important expanded history on the Iran Dossier).

What is this “wrong message”, if it isn’t “the message which the US thinks is in the best interests of the US”? If the Swiss aren’t purveying the proper message, I should think the most reasonable thing would be for the US to simply contact the Iranian Government directly. As my mother might say, that’s the grown-up thing to do.

I posit that the Iran ‘situation’ would become suddenly less adversarial if the US would stop using people like Mr Coneway to attempt to negotiate with the Iranians. This might be blasphemy on my part: perhaps it is not the Swiss sending the “wrong message”, but the US? Would it not make more sense to promulgate a message which could be delivered without the messenger feeling qualms?

By simply whingeing — and Mr Coneway here is definitely whingeing — the US shows that it really isn’t interested in dealing with Iran per se, but rather getting everyone to do what the US wants. Not only must Iran dance to the US’ tune, but so must Switzerland; the Swiss do a better job dancing, so that is why they liaison to Iran, rather than Iran being the US liaison to a (once again) bitterly embargoed Switzerland.

————- Liechtenstein ————-

The United States enjoys excellent relations with the Principality of Liechtenstein and its hereditary ruling royal family. Despite having only 33,000 inhabitants, the Principality is an important banking center, providing offshore financial services to thousands of foreign clients. The numerous banks and holding companies located in the Principality manage more than $150 billion of client assets and generate roughly 30% of the country’s GDP. Like Switzerland, Liechtenstein has adopted neutrality as its foreign policy strategy and often follows Berns lead on international issues.

Excellent relations are enjoyed, I suspect, because Liechtenstein has no military. So, since there’s no one with guns to ship over to Iraq/Afghanistan et al., there’s nothing for the US to feel like it isn’t able to play with for its own ends. I am willing to bet that if Liechtenstein should suddenly decide to have a military, these excellent relations would deteriorate rapidly, unless Liechtenstein proved to be more agreeable on military adventurism than the Swiss.

In many countries, Liechtenstein relies on the Swiss Embassy to represent its interests. For these reasons, the U.S. Embassy in Bern devotes only a fraction of its time to managing bilateral relations with Liechtenstein. Our most substantive interactions have involved seeking ways to improve our cooperation in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing and on how to prevent Liechtenstein’s bank secrecy laws from being used by U.S. taxpayers to evade taxes.

What curious notions: the US is of the opinion that its laws stay in force beyond its borders! All the world’s governments exist so that the US can enforce its laws across the planet!

Most governments, I believe, are content to enforce their laws within their own borders, and rely upon cooperation and negotiation to resolve difficulties outside their borders. This badgering of Liechtenstein smacks more of, well, badgering, than it does of negotiation. Does it not make more sense to take steps to improve the efficiency and quality of US taxation, rather than preserving the most ridiculous, non-sensical, and bizarre tax programme in the developed world and expecting everyone to jump through those hoops?

Terrorist Financing

Liechtenstein and the United States signed a mutual legal assistance treaty in 2002 focused on jointly combating money laundering and other illegal  banking activities. Close relations with our Liechtenstein counterparts, such as Liechtenstein’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), have helped the embassy resolve issues before they become problematic. For example, in April 2007, Liechtenstein halted the transfer of Boeing MD-80 aircraft from Germany to Iran via Liechtenstein. Since September 11, Liechtenstein has also frozen approximately $150,000 in terrorist assets.

Frankly, I’m shocked that $150,000 is a number worthy of celebration. Mr Coneway, as a Goldman Sachs alumnus and former General Partner thereof, is used to much higher numbers. $150,000 is an afternoon’s chump change for GS executives.

Liechtenstein is a party to the UN Convention on Terrorist Financing and in March 2008, Liechtenstein hosted the working meeting of the Egmont Group the worldwide association of national Financial Intelligence Units.

Tax Evasion

Like Switzerland, Liechtenstein draws a fine line between banking privacy and secrecy and exempts individuals for tax evasion, but not tax fraud, from criminal prosecution. These technical differences have hindered efforts to obtain banking information on U.S. citizens suspected of tax evasion.

Technical differences to you, Mr Coneway, but rule of law in Liechtenstein. I think it is telling that legal issues which are inconvenient for US agendas are “technical differences”. In my mind, this is a “technical difference” on the order of using a Phillips screwdriver on a flathead screw.

In addition, these “technical differences” are likely not something on which the US will compromise. Rather, as far as the US is concerned, Liechtenstein will simply have to find a way to get its legal code in line with US expectations. Again, this is the US acting as though the rest of the world were simply proxy states; when governments don’t just roll over, the US pressures, cajoles, bribes, embargoes, and invades until compliance is achieved.

Liechtenstein’s largest bank, LGT, which is operated by the royal family, is under scrutiny (and pressure from the U.S. Senate) for allegedly encouraging U.S. citizens to commit tax evasion and tax fraud. As a result, the U.S. and Liechtenstein are currently negotiating a Tax Information Exchange Agreement, which should provide more open access to information and additional avenues for legal cooperation where tax fraud is concerned.

Oh hey, speaking of pressure, here’s a good example! What is the US Senate doing pressuring a foreign bank, when the US Senate could take steps to improve domestic taxation compliance? It could start with canning the entire mind-numbing mess of the US tax code and building something which human beings can understand, and then move onto doing something about the black hole which is the IRS.

That said, the whole ‘getting tough on US tax evaders in tax havens’ really doesn’t make any sense, if one takes the matter at its face value. The more sensible and logical thing to do would be to place much tighter capital controls on outbound funds, as well as simply making the tax code make sense. In short, this cajoling of  Liechtenstein (and other so-called tax havens) is not at all about preventing tax fraud, at its core; there is interest in that, of course, but that’s not the most important thing. Rather, the US is interested in puncturing the independent legal systems of foreign countries by any means necessary, so that its influence can be used to ‘reform’ those legal systems to be more agreeable. Tax evasion is simply the vehicle du jour.

————– Private Sector ————–

Leaders in the private sector (CEOs, CFOs, public affairs officers, etc.) and NGO arenas can wield considerable influence in political matters when they choose to get engaged.

Let us hope for the sake of Switzerland, that these “leaders” will continue to choose to not engage on behalf of US interests. I suspect that Mr Coneway cannot wrap his mind around business people having a sense of loyalty to their country first, and profit second.

This is certainly not something found in the US, where corporations are happy to sell out (or buy off) their country in exchange for increased perquisites to upper management. Lip-service to “Proudly Made in USA” aside, there is no loyalty to the US in the US corporate world. It seems this is different in Switzerland, as Mr Coneway’s confusion suggests.

Typically, they are less involved in Switzerland than our experience in the U.S., but it is a good investment for the COM, DCM, Pol/Econ, Public Affairs, and Commercial officers to develop relationships in these sectors. From programs and panels at the WEF, Swiss-American Chamber events, programs, and issues, and underwriting of exchange programs like the U.S.Fulbright-Swiss Scholarship Program, to general support of our Embassy and mission, the private sector and NGOs can positively influence our success.

And I think the Swiss are very happy to have their corporations less involved in the public arena than as in the US. Although this was not the case at the time this cable was written, the US Supreme Court held that corporations have the same free-speech rights as do flesh-and-blood individuals. In other words: green light on epic campaign contributions, otherwise known as bribery, kick-backs, and so forth.

The Swiss would likely prefer to avoid this sort of thing, and to see the US attempting to use Swiss corporations to influence their government is disgusting at best. It is nothing less than the US using Swiss corporations to go against the will of the Swiss people.

How curious that the US is attempting to bribe the Swiss population with the carrot of higher education. It worked so well in the US proper, the powers that be assumed it would apply across the world. I suspect the US is rather confused as to why it isn’t able to penetrate Swiss politics and business world.

The private sector can also enhance the public’s positive perception of the U.S. and our policies.

In other words, co-opt and bribe the Swiss corporate world so they can manage the public perceptions of the US, and make the Swiss people believe that the US actually has their best interests at heart.

—————- Political Issues —————-

The decentralized nature of political power in Switzerland is unique in Europe. Far from having a unitary Executive, the Swiss government is led by a seven-member cabinet — the Federal Council. The Swiss presidency is largely ceremonial and rotates annually between different members of the Federal Council. Even for those accustomed to dealing with the complex political geometries of European coalition governments, the Swiss form of decision-making can be disorienting. With the exception of the rightist Swiss Peoples Party that opted for an opposition role last year, all the major political parties are represented on the Federal Council, spanning a broad spectrum from left to right. Each Federal Councilor (Minister) serves at his or her own pleasure and enjoys an ill-defined but generally high degree of autonomy. While key policy decisions are taken by the entire Council — sometimes via vote — its deliberations are strictly secret, and the Swiss have a long-standing tradition whereby Federal Councilors avoid publicly criticizing each other. The end result is a seemingly amorphous policy-making process in which decisions are implemented with considerable freedom of interpretation by senior representatives of political parties having often diverging interests.

Yes, properly functioning governments which show even a slight concern for the people they are supposed to serve can often be disorienting for US politicians and diplomats. Darn those pesky Swiss for making their government so hard to corrupt!

Seriously, however, I have to wonder what Mr Coneway means when he says “ill-defined… autonomy.” That same charge could be levelled against the Department of Homeland Security, for example. Within the famous 100 mile Constitution-Free Zone, the DHS can arrest anyone, for no reason whatsoever, for ever, never tell anyone about it, and not admit to any of this having happened in the first place. Personally, I find that to be a better example of “ill-defined… autonomy.” Perhaps Mr Coneway could apply his thoughts toward the DHS, but I suspect he’s probably not terribly interested in such “technical differences”.

An additional “x factor” in Swiss decision-making is the ability of the Swiss people to initiate or to strike down legislation via an expansive and oft-used referendum mechanism. It only takes 50,000 certified Swiss signatures to force a public vote. The threat of a referendum is a fact of Swiss political life that no politician here can ignore, and something that Swiss officials frequently flag for us, particularly when we ask them to do something difficult.

Wow, responsible government! Accountable politicians! Public referendums on important policies! No wonder Mr Coneway’s confused: this is nothing like the US political process!

The condescending attitude which Mr Coneway takes toward the — to him — incredible nature of the Swiss government is offensive, and I’m not Swiss. Indeed, I’m a monarchist, and even I feel that Switzerland offers shining examples of how a normal, civilised country should be run. To treat the Swiss as though they were somehow backward and doddering is incredibly grotesque. The logical extension of what Mr Coneway says, is that the Swiss government should become less responsible to its people!

Dealing with these unique elements of the Swiss political system demands patience and flexibility but can pay important dividends. Given its  international reputation for mediation and diplomatic competence, Switzerland’s influence on the international stage is significantly greater than one would otherwise assume for a country of its size.

Yes, especially when one compares Switzerland’s size to the US. Imagine how respectable the US would be, if it would adopt a Swiss-style diplomatic and military policy.

That said, it would be impossible for the US government to consider such a move. By attempting to gain that level of international respect, it would have to repudiate any desire to use that respect for the purposes of building its empire. Indeed, it would have to abandon the presently controlled empire and resign itself to actually minding its own business. That, in my opinion, is so far outside of the institutional consciousness of the US government, that in addition to suggesting it, one might as well say it in Helvetican Latin.

Standing outside of the EU and NATO, Switzerland sees its comparative advantage as working the seams via diverse and variable coalitions of convenience. With enough effort and coordination, the Swiss advantage in this respect can sometimes become our own, as was the case with the strong supportive roles the Swiss have played on Kosovar independence, on obtaining the release of American citizens wrongfully detained in Iran, on addressing interoperability concerns with the Oslo Accord on cluster-munitions, on the establishment of the Forum for the Future, and with the resolution of the Magen David Adom dispute.

“With enough effort and coordination…” and actually having a somewhat reasonably humanitarian goal in mind, as well. I believe Mr Coneway is unaware of the difference between humanitarian peacekeeping, and expansionist invasions. He also does not seem to know there is no difference between Iran “wrongfully detain[ing]” US citizens, and the US indefinitely detaining as ‘terrorists’ citizens of Canada, the UK, Australia, Iran, et cetera. Mr Coneway sees progress against clustre-munitions as helpful, but sees no problem with the US’ continued use of landmines and white phosphorous against civilians.

Additionally, I suppose that Swiss “variable coalitions of convenience” for the purposes of diplomacy are bad things, because they’re not with the US programme, whilst ‘Coalitions of the Willing’ are perfectly legitimate and indeed noble.

These are both such interesting distinctions. I suppose I should file them under “technical differences”, to use Mr Coneway’s clever phrase.

But getting successful outcomes requires strategic patience on our part and a willingness to take the time to cultivate relationships with each of the Federal Councilors, as well as with industry leaders. In doing so, I have come to appreciate that the extensive horse-trading endemic to the Swiss tradition of political compromise sometimes gives unlikely actors influence on issues of interest to us.

Better horse-trading than pure, unadulterated bribery as in the US, I should think. As an aside, that bribery usually goes by the polite term ‘campaign contributions’. The implication in Mr Coneway’s writing is that it is an unusual thing an US ambassador should need to “cultivate relationships” to get things done. This would suggest that, typically, US ambassadors have only to make a diktat, and the host government jumps. A disturbing thought.

This again shows what a farce the US diplomatic method really is: the Swiss are interested in building relationships of trust and mutual respect. The US is interested in getting people to do what it wants. I think the difference should be clear.

As noted above, the Swiss penchant for equidistance sometimes works to our advantage. However, on one key issue of the past two years (the Iran nuclear problem) Switzerland’s instinct “not to take sides” has harmed international efforts. While many Swiss clearly understand and take seriously the threat that Iran’s dangerous nuclear program represents to our mutual interests, FM Calmy-Rey has apparently seen in this dispute an opportunity to raise her own profile.

What “international efforts” are these, other than what the US wants to have the international ‘community’ do? It seems clear in previous comments of Mr Coneway regarding the “Iran… problem” that the only valid approach is the US’ approach. So, by “international efforts” I can only surmise Mr Coneway actually meant to write “the preferred outcome of the US, which is namely an unelected puppet government amenable to international corporations and US military garrisons”.

Hmm, the “Iran… problem”. Where have I heard the idea of something being “a problem” before? Wasn’t there a whole “problem” complex in Nazi Germany?

While we and the members of the P5 1 group, the EU, and other like-minded states have made considerable progress in increasing the pressure on Iran, Calmy-Reys ministry has undercut these efforts at several turns by offering an alternative “Swiss Plan” for resolving the dispute. The Swiss Plan and Calmy-Reys infamous trip to Tehran in March to secure a major new gas deal with Iran for Swiss firm EGL, have surely given Iran some reason to believe that it can continue to resist pressure to meet its international obligations.

Iran has every reason to believe that it can continue to resist pressure, because 1) it’s an independent country, 2) it has a really big military, and 3) it has a very resilient and embargo-resistant economy. The harder the US et al. pushes with embargoes and such, the stronger Iran becomes; it’s patently obvious to all but the US, it seems.

What I find most interesting here, the whole “international obligations” concept. I suppose it is possible that those obligations are to being a puppet government of the US and open to exploitation by international corporations. However, I have to ask: doesn’t the US have “international obligations” to not indefinitely detain innocent civilians in torture centres across the world? Doesn’t the US have “international obligations” to not invade random countries whenever it feels like it, and perpetrate genocide on their population?

Ah, I remember: “technical differences”. Yes, Iran maybe wanting nuclear weapons someday is technically different from the US actively slaughtering Iraqi and Afghani citizens. Iran contents itself with committing its unlovely acts within its borders, whereas the US seems hell-bent on spreading its madness throughout the entire world.

Swiss behavior regarding Iran is of particular concern because Switzerland has been our Protecting Power in Iran since 1980, and since Switzerland was re-elected to the IAEA Board of Governors last fall. It has required much effort on our part to contain Swiss activism on Iran, culminating with a public endorsement in July of the P5 1 proposal by President Couchepin, along with assurances that Switzerland would no longer promote its own initiatives for resolving the Iran nuclear dispute. At the same time, the Swiss have taken increasingly firm and constructive stances regarding Iran at the IAEA, thanks in no small part, I believe, to our lobbying.

“Contain Swiss activism”? And embargoing Iran to the hilt is not “activism” how? More importantly, however, is the choice of the militarised word “contain”. I suspect that was quite intentional: Mr Coneway really means “contain (by force if necessary) Swiss foreign policy so that they stop making independent choices and put their efforts into our plan for Iran.”

That plan is, to repeat, to install an unelected puppet government agreeable to the US and unresisting to exploitation by international corporate interests. The end state desired for Iran is to turn it into another Iraq: war-torn, overrun with mercenaries and angry partisans, and completely open to unchecked abuses by international corporations.

Perhaps the Swiss are aware of this; if they are, I have to say shame on them for abandoning their independent approach. Their people and history deserve better than being the instrument of US and corporate oppression of Iran.

However, President Couchepins recent declaration, which received broad press coverage (see July NZZ Sonntag article), “For several weeks the Swiss position in the Iran-Nuclear dispute is completely clear. There is no special initiative any more. We do not look for a special mediation/way. Instead we support the position of the P5 plus 1 countries, and we hope that Iran will give in,” has effectively muzzled the Foreign Ministrys determination to  pursue its own “Swiss Plan.”

And I’m sure that made Mr Coneway very happy. It certainly would be tragic if the Swiss decided to sacrifice Iran on the altar of keeping the US happy. A suggestion to the Swiss people: insist your government resume independent negotiation with Iran. Your credibility and consciences demand it. If you do not, and Iran is overrun — by some miracle — by the US, you will have been instrumental in that horror. The US will be brutal in its attack on Iran, much more so than it was against the Iraqis; war crimes in Iraq will be exceeded by the thirst for war crimes in Iran.

If and when this or the new administration wishes to explore a diplomatic dialogue on the Iranian nuclear proliferation issue, perhaps we could engage the Swiss at the outset to truly represent us, with the understanding at that point, that they would only deliver our message, and not something diluted by independent Swiss thinking. If and when such a dialogue is in our best interests, I believe the Swiss and their Foreign Ministry would jump at the chance to truly represent us without prejudice and with strict guidelines. This idea is worth exploring if an appropriate opportunity presents itself.

And there it is, in his own words; “the understanding… that they would only deliver our message, and not something diluted by independent Swiss thinking.” In other words, be good little liaisons and just do what we want. I rest my case on this matter: the US simply wants the Swiss to serve as the diplomatic conduit to the Iranians which the US is too whingy to establish itself.

Additionally, this is an attempt to force the Swiss to comply with greater US plans for world domination — I use that phrase without humour, by the way. By ensuring docility on this front, the US assumes it can move to enforce Swiss compliance with other matters, such as military participation in invasions and aggressive wars, et cetera. In other words, forcing the Swiss to convey ‘ideologically pure’ US messages is in itself a tool of oppression against Switzerland. The US is playing police toward not only the Iranians, but the Swiss as well. Their treatment is different, but the desired end result is the same: compliance.

To reinforce our ability to identify and pursue goals of mutual interest, in 2006 we signed a MoU with the EDA initiating a so-called “Political Framework for Intensified Cooperation.” Though such instruments are always at risk of becoming merely talk-shops, the EDA places high  importance on the Framework, making it a potentially useful tool for us to define and achieve USG goals, including in such areas as promoting civil society in the Broader Middle East and North Africa, human rights, peace support operations in the Balkans and Africa, and counterterrorism.

Welcome to the USA: proudly promoting civil society, human rights, peace, and counterterrorism by gunpoint since 1776!

But seriously, “promoting civil society” by force of arms does not work. Ever. History is repleat with examples of empires attempting to enforce some notion of ‘proper society’ upon those peoples who much prefer the civil society they already have. Or, they at least prefer being oppressed by the culture they’re used to, rather than simply exterminated by a culture they definitely do not like. Swapping one oppression with another is not promoting civil society, it is just a different flavour of the same, if not worse, oppression.

Whew! This is a little over halfway. How about intermission? Here’s a movie, just so that everyone’s clear on why the Swiss refuse to participate with the US on a few “technical differences”.

Gives a good perspective, doesn’t it? The Swiss would likely prefer that their military did not turn into monsters who believe that they can’t have slaughter without laughter.

————— Economic Issues—————

This section doesn’t hold quite as much fun information, so my comments will be a bit sparse.

Switzerland’s highly advanced and diversified economy has so far proven comparatively resilient in the global financial crisis. The Swiss government estimates that GDP growth will fall from roughly 1.9% in 2008 to a maximum 1.0% in 2009. Switzerland,s GDP in 2007 totaled 512 billion CHF ($450 billion), resulting in a per capita GDP of about $60,000, according to the IMF. Only three percent of Swiss wage-earners take home less that 3,000 CHF per month, and one out of five Swiss pensioners has a net worth of more than 1,000,000 CHF. Unemployment is 2.3%. Switzerland is home to a disproportionate number of large European multinationals, and global companies such as Nestl, Novartis, Roche, Credit Suisse and UBS gave the Swiss Stock Exchange a market capitalization equal to roughly 2/3 that of Germany’s.

U.S.-Swiss economic ties are robust and long-standing, and they contribute most positively to our political relationship with Switzerland. The economic sphere is an area where both sides perceive a clear win/win situation. Swiss firms have collectively invested over $140 billion in the United States and employ nearly 500,000 U.S. workers, ranking Switzerland seventh among all foreign investors in the U.S. On the other side, more than 600 U.S. enterprises have together invested more than $90 billion in Switzerland, providing jobs for 70,000 people (or about 2% of the nations entire labor force.) Switzerland is a preferred location for the European headquarters of a number of top U.S. multinationals (Caterpillar, GM, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Colgate-Palmolive, etc.), while U.S. citizens head up some of  Switzerland,s bluest of blue chip companies. These include Brady Dougan at Credit Suisse, Michael Mack at Syngenta, and James Schiro at Zurich Financial Services. The Swiss bank UBS actually has more employees in the United States (32,000) than it does in Switzerland (27,000).

Wait, I thought ties were thin? What about the whole “U.S.-Swiss relations are correct and cordial, but they lack the natural intimacy and trust that stems from a shared struggle against Fascism or Communism, a common language, or linked history. U.S. and Swiss soldiers never fought side-by-side in a war, no Swiss town felt an emotional bond to the U.S. for a past liberation or economic assistance program, and no flood of Swiss political dissidents or economic migrants had to seek shelter on U.S. shores” thing?

Methinks this cable was not edited for internal consistency.

Despite the lack of a free trade agreement, U.S. trade with Switzerland is largely free outside of agriculture, and Switzerland is a strong supporter of global services and manufacturing trade liberalization. In 2007, U.S. merchandise exports to Switzerland rose 18.5 percent to $17.0 billion (making the alpine country our 17th largest export market). At the same time, merchandise imports from Switzerland rose 3.7 percent to $14.8 billion. Key U.S. exports to Switzerland included precious stones and metals, pharmaceutical products, art and antiques, optical and medical instruments, and aircraft, while top U.S. imports from Switzerland included pharmaceutical products, clocks and watches, machinery, optical and medical instruments, and chemicals. Although most trade and business activity takes place entirely in the private sector, the Mission must still occasionally intervene with Swiss authorities to defend U.S. commercial interests.

In 2005, Switzerland’s Federal Council decided to propose exploration of a free trade agreement with the United States. The attempt [floundered] on opposition from Switzerland’s highly-protected farm sector. Instead, the U.S. and Swiss governments agreed to establish a bilateral Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum to address small yet sensitive trade issues. Under its auspices, in October 2008 the two governments signed an E-Commerce Declaration, which provides a framework for cooperation to improve trade conditions for these services. In addition, a Safe Harbor Agreement to allow free flow and effective protection of personal data is in the final states of negotiations and is likely to be concluded before the end of 2008.

Most likely “Switzerland’s highly-protected farm sector”, as well as the Swiss people in general, wants to avoid being force-fed Monsanto’s genetically modified foods. Whatever you’re opinion of GM foods, the US-engineered food price spike which was designed to force the EU to accept Monsanto GM crops makes Monsanto — as well as the US — frankly evil.

Also this year, the U.S. and Switzerland concluded an expanded Open Skies Agreement, and are exchanging discussion drafts on a Multilateral Convention on International Investment in Airlines. The U.S., Switzerland, and several other countries are also engaged in negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, (ACTA), which held its last negotiating round in Tokyo in October 2008 and is intended to increase international cooperation and strengthen the framework of practices that contribute to effective IPR protection.

Another tool utilized by the Mission to promote trade is the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC). The JEC meets once a year to discuss and resolve bilateral misunderstandings. The JEC also holds a panel at the World Economic Forum at Davos, the premier international event of its kind, as documented in the World Economic Forum section below.

“The JEC meets… [to] resolve bilateral misunderstandings” in favour of US interests.

The JEC panel, which is organized by the Mission in cooperation with the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, and EconomieSuisse, allows the mission to publicize USG messages to an influential global audience, such as supporting the Doha Round at the 2008 panel and addressing the impact on trade of the global financial crisis, the topic of the upcoming 2009 panel.

And yes, indeed, the JEC is a tool to “[allow] the mission to publicize USG messages to an influential global audience”. Please review my above comment.

——————– World Economic Forum ——————–

The World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is unlike any other event of its kind. Over a five-day span at the end of January each year, 2,000 world leaders, Fortune 500 chief executive officers, international media moguls and nongovernmental organization (NGO) leaders gather in the small alpine village of Davos to participate on panels, in industry meetings and in “off the record” sessions. The WEF meetings in Davos have been a ripe target for public diplomacy efforts over the past 38 years, and the WEFs founder, Dr. Klaus Schwab, has preserved the original intent of the forum in maintaining its focus as a place for informal dialogue and debate on major social and economic problems.

“Ripe target”? As in carpet bombings, precision shelling, or character assassinations?

The penchant which Mr Coneway has for militarising his diplomacy is quite disturbing. I posit is speaks volumes about the true nature of US diplomacy throughout the world. It is little wonder that the Swiss are — or, perhaps, were — leery of being the middlemen for US messages.

Davos 2008 was an important milestone for the United States. During the final year of the Bush presidency, the administration dispatched five cabinet secretaries, three deputy secretaries, and numerous undersecretaries to Davos. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Robert Kimmitt, participated in five days of panels and discussions that covered topics ranging from Middle East peace, climate change, and educational reform to immigration, financial market stability, and trade liberalization.

[Sung to Twelve Days of Christmas, generally phonetically, starting at ‘five’]
Five cabinet sec’re’trees! Eight years a-waning, three dep’ty secs, two major wars, and num’rous under sec’re’trees.

I have to observe that this level of bureaucratic roll-out on the part of the US suggested a degree of desperation. Indeed, perhaps this was a move to see which countries of the world would be amenable to harbouring war criminals? I can think of few better forum for ‘sounding’ various countries on their stances of “Middle East peace” and “immigration”.

Embassy Bern has worked closely with Klaus Schwab and his WEF team to include U.S. delegations that not only speak with strength and conviction on the global issues of our time, but are also internationally recognized experts on the pressing issues of the day.

Yes, US delegations which “speak with strength and conviction on global issues of our time” and what the US wants everyone else to do about them.

During the last three years, our Mission has helped shape six panels for Klaus and his team. The environment, challenges in the global financial arenas, energy security, global prosperity, and Muslim outreach are among the topics on which we have collaborated with Dr. Schwab. No other nation works so closely with the WEF on topics and participants, and no other nation has our record of success in organizing panels for key officials.

Pardon me, “Muslim outreach”? As in, “reach out and press the button to bombard Muslims with white phosphorus”? That seems to be the primary flavour of “Muslim outreach” which the US is performing for the past few years. It is hard to take the US seriously on “Muslim outreach” when it is occupying two Muslim-heavy countries and exterminating millions of said Muslims, amongst other side projects.

That the US was not laughed — or, better still, escorted — out of the WEF with nonsense like this does not, in my mind, speak well of the WEF’s credibility. As it becomes clear that the US’ actions across the world are mostly heinous, those organisations which do not throw out the US will be shown as mere tools of US oppression. Keep watch.

Engaging a skeptical world is not an easy task. Public diplomacy is vital if the United States is to correct skewed impressions. Communication and public diplomacy are major reasons for the success of the World Economic Forums annual meeting in Davos. Klaus Schwab has made Davos media-friendly. One of his primary goals each year is to expand the medias reach. As a result, world leaders travel to the Swiss Alps to deliver addresses aimed at their constituents around the world. It has been an effective platform for the United States Government and private sector leaders to support and advance America’s missions and values.

“Skewed impressions?” “Skeptical world?” It seems Mr Coneway is not particularly informed about the activities of his country. That, or he knows and thinks it is no big deal. Either way, I think the world has every right to be skeptical, and I think impressions of the US as murderous aggressor are quite valid.

To say otherwise, as Mr Coneway does, is an offence to those Iraqi and Afghani people who must live in conditions best described as hellish, thanks wholly to the US’ mad drive for empire. Those environments which they live in now are uniformly more horrible than anything which came before; violent overthrow of violent regimes can only result in more violence.

What Mr Coneway should have written is: “It has been an effective platform for the United States Government and private sector leaders to support and advance America’s propaganda, obfuscations, and perception management regarding its true missions and values.”

————————– Foreign Commercial Service ————————–

The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) has the lead on providing promotional support and advocacy for U.S. exporters and on attracting Swiss business investment to the United States. Thus, it intervened with Swiss authorities in the telecom sector to obtain regulatory approvals and in the pharmaceutical sector to expand insurance reimbursements. In aerospace, FCS and Mission management facilitated export licenses leading to millions of dollars in U.S. exports. Over the past year, FCS developed programs with multiple U.S. universities to attract Swiss students to the U.S.A. In October 2008, it mounted a USDOC-certified U.S.A. Pavilion at WorldDidac (an educational fair in Basel). These activities took place at the same time as we were consolidating the operations of our FCS Zurich office into the new Embassy in Bern.

Economic imperialism, anyone? Whatever happened to laissez-faire economics, where businesses compete on their own merits? I thought that the US was all ‘hands-off’, ‘let the miracle of the free market do its magic’… oh well.

But seriously, I wonder how much of that “millions of dollars in US exports” were in the same vein as Monsanto versus the EU? I suspect it is much closer than one might find comfortable, because I am not at all willing to cast off the engineered, Monsanto-friendly food price spike as an isolated incident. It was discussed too blithely in the cable to be a unique incident.

Rather, I suspect that there has been, and is, an ongoing programme of economic coercion, retaliation, and punishment. The Monsanto-EU retaliation is not, to repeat, an isolated incident, and I have no doubts that this FCS is part and parcel of the system of economic oppression which favours US interests at the detriment of 1) the desires of foreign peoples, and 2) the economic health of foreign countries.

Just as Cablegate has revealed the US State Department’s network of foreign informants, so too has it revealed this programme. I posit it is only a matter of time for more evidence to come out.

Our strong relationship with the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce is a vital asset in our efforts to promote U.S. business. The 41-person board of directors of the Chamber is a Who’s Who of the Swiss business community led by Executive Director Martin Naville who is one of our biggest friends and assets in-country. Virtually every board member is a CEO or senior officer of a major corporation in his/her own right.

Swiss prosecution and intelligence authorities, please take note that the name “Martin Naville” and the phrase “one of our biggest friends and assets in-country” occur in close proximity to one another in a previously classified US diplomatic cable. I think it might be significant.

There is probably no better high-level, pro-U.S. audience in Switzerland with which to promote investment in the U.S. In June 2008, I rolled out the Commerce Departments Invest in America Initiative in a speech to nearly 400 Swiss AmCham members and guests. In November 2008, the Chamber and FCS will co-host an Invest in U.S.A. Seminar with speakers from Commerce, Treasury, State, and Homeland Security. Finally, in June 2008 FCS consummated its “Transformational Commercial Diplomacy” initiative for Switzerland by integrating its Zurich office with the Embassy in Bern.

In other words, “[t]here is probably no better high-level, pro-U.S. audience in Switzerland” which can be used to sway/hoodwink the Swiss government and people toward the policies and programmes which the US wants to see. These comments by Mr Coneway should be regarded with a vague sense of disgust and terror, in my opinion; anyone who he speaks highly of, is immediately a questionable character in my book. This is high praise indeed which he dishes out here, especially toward one Mr Martin Naville.

———- Management ———-

In June 2008, the Mission completed the sale of the government-owned chancery complex and moved to a newly-renovated, short-term lease property. It represents a substantial upgrade in embassy habitability, and the new building occupies a geographically central location in Bern that minimizes transportation movements in our daily business. The USG-owned Chief of Mission Residence (CMR) is located next to the new chancery.

Note to Swiss government: keep the Mission on month-to-month.

————- Post Security ————-

The Missions overall security posture significantly improved with the relocation of the Embassy. The physical security of the building is excellent; it is outfitted with modern hardline doors, windows and barriers, and we achieved significantly more “setback” from the street. Moreover, we now control all vehicles entering and exiting the compound, which was not the case in the previous location. Technical security also improved with better-constructed and well-defined CAAs.

Yay, fortress embassy. Sends a good message to the universe!

The Regional Security Officer (RSO) faces a challenging audience when dealing with Swiss authorities on Post security. Many Swiss authorities do not consider the United States Embassy in Bern as a high-value target for terrorists; this fallacy and its resulting challenges require frequent intervention and lobbying by the RSO. Recurring conversations and education resulted in positive instances of excellent security support. We succeeded in persuading Swiss authorities not to cut the number of posts currently manned by either Swiss law enforcement or military.

Many Swiss authorities probably think that the US should clean up its act and stop bombing countries at quasi-random. More importantly, however, I think that the Swiss have good reason to not worry about internal terrorism, simply because 1) their population is armed to the teeth, 2) they are quite law-abiding, and 3) their border security is sensible and excellent.

I find it quite interesting that Mr Coneway is angry — “this fallacy” sounds angry to me! — at the Swiss for not engaging the US in its security madness. This anger is uncalled for, and quite unbecoming of Mr Coneway’s position. I suspect that this point of contention (“technical difference”, anyone?) is an attempt to get the Swiss to give an inch, so that the US might try to take a mile.

In other words, getting extra-special security treatment — the inch — might be the first step toward accessing Swiss military assets for invasions — the mile. I honestly wonder if the US wouldn’t be satisfied until there is a tank at every street corner around the embassy, (US tanks, to be precise,) and security checkpoints across all of Bern.

That way it feels more like Iraq!

In addition, we have requested and received security support for dozens of high-level U.S. officials either visiting or transiting Switzerland. The response of Swiss authorities to security incidents has been commendable. They sent a well-trained professional team to the Embassy to deal with a “white powder” incident, and on several occasions have controlled and mitigated suspicious individuals or vehicles in the area of the Embassy. They sent appropriate support for demonstrations directed at the Embassy and for special events such as the July 4th celebration. On occasion, the RSO has requested and received close protection for me at large public events.

The Swiss have every reason to be reasonable, excellent, and commendable in their security. It is not that they take security lightly; they take US security-madness lightly.

One thing I have to ask: if Mr Coneway felt his life was in danger in a country as peaceful and civilised as Switzerland, what, exactly, is he doing on the job? Is he doing something which, if the Swiss people became aware of, they would tend to regard him with, shall we say, disfavour?

The veiled hysteria which is in Mr Coneway’s writing at this point is quite telling. It speaks, to me, of a conscience so wracked with guilt it has made that guilt normal. Perhaps he no longer recognises that what he does under the cover of secrecy is immoral, or even criminal. It is simply part and parcel of ‘reality’.

So, therefore it would be normal for him to expect extraordinary security, and be irate and resentful when he doesn’t get it. Just as his guilt is submerged, his mad need for extra security is — to him — perfectly reasonable, in opposite proportion to the reasonableness of his ‘needs’ being refused by the Swiss.

This is another interesting facet of Mr Coneway’s personality, coupled with the “intimate trust” creepiness from above. Is what he does in his job so unlovely that he has to normalise its offensiveness, to the point of sexualisation? I have no answers on this, but I think it is an interesting possibility.

The most disappointing security issue was the rejection by the Swiss government of our request to deploy a surveillance detection team. The decision was made at the highest levels (the Federal Council) and was conveyed to us by the Foreign Ministry. The chances of reversing that decision are poor considering the high level of political attention it received. The RSO will continue to work with his resources and coordinate with Swiss authorities to provide appropriate levels of security support.

In good US fashion, they went ahead and set up a “surveillance detection team” anyway! Without approval! Against Swiss law! Awesome job, Mr Coneway! I have no doubt that he is behind, or had a large part, in the authorisation of this illegal US surveillance programme on Swiss soil.

What great diplomats the US has: when the host country doesn’t let them do what they wants, they go ahead with their plan anyway. I can’t say for certain that Mr Coneway was responsible for the above illegal programme, but the timing seems to be right.

At any rate, ignoring who was ambassador when the programme started, it is clear proof that the US does not care one jot about diplomacy or respecting foreign laws. It only cares about getting what it wants, and damn anyone who gets in the way.

If indeed Mr Coneway was behind the initiation of this illegal surveillance programme, this makes his above paragraph (“the most disappointing security issue…”) into sanctimonious wankery. He knew full well that a team was going to be in place, whether or not the Swiss gave authorisation.

Perhaps this is why he is so desiring of special security for his person and the embassy? I could certainly see the Swiss people becoming irate, if and when it comes out that the US embassy has been systematically defying Swiss law. Personally, I’d say “when”.

———————- Defense Attach Office ———————-

State of the Partnerships

Switzerland’s continued presence in the Balkans, level of engagement in NATOs Partnership for Peace, and its recent decision to withdraw the two military officers assigned to ISAF reflect a military willing and at least superficially able to contribute to regional security but severely constrained politically. As Switzerland tries to find its niche on the geo-strategic security stage, it has begun to focus limited efforts towards Africa. Given the current turmoil within the Defense Ministry and the recent abrupt resignation of the current Defense Minister Samuel Schmid, Swiss engagement abroad will increasingly be under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry.

“[S]everely constrained politically” smells to me like a “technical difference” in the making. In other words, I think he’s saying that all it would take to ‘unlock’ the Swiss military for use in US ‘operations’ is a simple little tweak to the Swiss constitution.

Presto chango, no more neutrality, no more keeping out of desultory, unwinnable wars for oil! What more could the US ask for in an ‘ally’?

Seriously, however, I think it’s more than a bit insulting to Switzerland to say that it is “[trying] to find its niche on the geo-strategic security state”. The Swiss have found it, a long time ago: ‘friends of all, allies of none’. They protect their country, and will help others do the same through advice and education. That seems to be a very sensible “niche on the geo-strategic security state”. The US could learn from that example; it is unfortunate that it never will.

Greatest Challenges

The Swiss military is limited by law to participating only in peace support operations (PSOs) — as opposed to peacekeeping or peace enforcement — and only under the auspices of either a UN or an OSCE mandate. Furthermore, the standing posture of the military’s involvement in PSOs and other military engagements is participation under a multilateral umbrella, equally avoiding bilateral involvements with either NATO or the EU.

Beat a dead horse much?

I file this under standard “why won’t the bloody Swiss just get onboard and start invading other countries like it’s supposed to?!” whingeing, methinks. I shan’t rehash my arguments, as I think I’ve made Mr Coneway’s ignorance clear to all but him.

Contribution to Regional Stability, Democracy, and Foreign Assistance

On September 20, 2007, the Swiss parliament voted to double the number of peace support operations troops from 250 to 500. While the actual realization of this effort will most likely occur beyond the 2010 timeline originally attached to the bill, it nevertheless provides insight into the Swiss desire to be seen as contributing to regional security and stability. Currently, Switzerland is coordinating though DAO Bern to donate medical equipment to the Afghan National Army. And, as mentioned previously, Switzerland is increasingly focused on disarmament, democratization, and reintegration efforts on the African continent.

Or, the other way to look at the doubling of troops, is that it “provides insight into the Swiss desire to be seen as” giving the US what it wants without going too far. In other words, the Swiss threw the US a bone, and the US thought it was a porterhouse steak. I don’t think that the Swiss government is oblivious to their situation; indeed, I think they’re painfully aware of it. They might be giving the appearance of grudging compliance, in order to both appease the US, and keep it off its guard.

I suspect that Swiss “disarmament, democratization, and reintegration efforts on the African continent” does not involve bombing them into agreement.

Our engagement initiatives with the Swiss military will continue to emphasize U.S. desires for them to maintain their 250-strong peacekeeping contingents deployed in Kosovo and Bosnia and broaden their NATO-partnership activities beyond Europe, and we will continue to explore cooperative ventures for improved regional security and stability in Africa.

Towards that end, we will work in concert with both U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and African Command (USAFRICOM). We will continue to maintain a robust defense procurement relationship with the Swiss military, even as Swiss budgetary constraints manifest themselves in less outlay for acquisition. We will also continue to encourage the Swiss military to further utilize military assets — particularly excess defense articles — in humanitarian relief/aid efforts.

————— Law Enforcement —————

Counterterrorism and Law Enforcement Efforts

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are the law enforcement entities represented at post. Other law enforcement offices are represented through regional offices. Ongoing efforts continue with the government of Switzerland to grant the Regional Security Office (RSO) law enforcement status.

The last thing the Swiss should do is give Homeland Security any status at all except persona non grata. The DHS is an out-of-control thuggish organisation without any oversight; if it should get law enforcement status in Switzerland, it will prove to be a disaster.

I live in a city which is effectively under lock-down by the DHS. There are as many — or perhaps more — DHS agents as local police. DHS agents have begun to muscle into the realm of local law enforcement  by responding to coffee shop robberies, amongst other things. They have the power, thanks to the PATRIOT Act, to arrest anyone, for no reason, for ever, and never tell anyone. Additionally, the DHS has gagged the local paper: it cannot report on any DHS operations, nor can it report if someone in the city is arrested by DHS agents.

Swiss people and authorities, please note: it is probably not a good idea to let the DHS have law enforcement powers in your country. Take it from me, yes?

Switzerland strictly forbids investigative activity within its territory by U.S. law enforcement. Thus, a high reliance exists on the Swiss authorities to conduct investigations on behalf of the U.S. in Switzerland.

Yes, Switzerland forbids this, but hey! That didn’t stop you, now did it, Mr Coneway?

Once again, Mr Coneway’s resentment of Swiss policies shines clearly here. He resents that the Swiss don’t just stand aside and let the US take charge of investigations. This is perhaps because, if there is evidence against him, it can’t be quietly done away with by judicious, friendly editing. Just a thought.

Obstacles that have continued to hinder full cooperative efforts and the free exchange of information in this regard include an unfavorable Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) that requires Swiss notification to the subject and disclosure, and Switzerland’s strict personal privacy statutes.

Put another way, it is highly inconvenient that the Swiss even have privacy statutes. They’re a real pain when you want to spy on everyone; which is, of course, standard DHS operating procedure.

This has reinforced the importance of the development of liaison and rapport with Swiss law enforcement authorities by U.S. law enforcement agencies at a working level, as well as efforts at the ministerial level to invigorate information sharing, particularly as it relates to counterterrorism and money laundering.

In other words, you — Swiss — spy and arrest, we — US — interrogate, torture, put through a kangaroo court, convict, and imprison, perhaps execute.

As a result of these efforts, we have seen a measured improvement in overall Swiss cooperation with U.S. law enforcement authorities at the federal, cantonal, and local level. In addition, we remain optimistic concerning a new version of the Operative Working Arrangement (OWA) recently ratified by the Swiss parliament, which allows the formation of joint U.S.-Swiss investigative teams to address criminal and counterterrorism investigations with a U.S.-Swiss nexus.

Our current challenge exists in continuing to enhance law enforcement cooperation, intelligence sharing, and efforts to apply the OWA in joint cases.

Liechtenstein continues to be a model of cooperation for U.S. law enforcement, having offered legal assistance on important money laundering investigations and the arrest of significant U.S. fugitives. The principality continues to be in full compliance with the Financial Action Task Force requirements.

And here I rest my case about the US’ only interests being getting its way: “The principality continues to be in full compliance with the Financial Action Task Force requirements.”

Yes, the FATF is based in France, but let me explain. Given that the French response to Cablegate has been nearly in copycat lockstep with the US reaction, I posit that the French government is effectively a puppet government of the US.

Additionally, Mr Coneway’s glowing review of Liechtenstein’s compliance as a “model of cooperation for U.S. law enforcement”, does not bode well for the independence of the FATF. Because of all this, I would suggest that the FATF is indeed a not-terribly-veiled enforcement vehicle for US interests.

—————- Public Diplomacy —————-

The Public Affairs Section (PAS) is lean, with one officer and three staff members. The budget supports limited programming, two IVLPs, and one to one-and-one-half I-Bucks speakers. Public Diplomacy outreach focuses on enhancing public support for the United States and its goals and on improving counterterrorism cooperation. Mutual understanding is advanced through intensive use of the Fulbright and IV Programs and alumni; actively engaging media in Switzerland’s three major languages; increasing educational advising and university relationships; presenting multi-culturalism in the United States through Iftar, Black-and Womens History Month speakers; and programming American terrorism experts in all language regions.

How fascinating: the US is using public education to spread its patented brand of paranoia and security-madness to unsuspecting Swiss citizens. The term ‘brainwashing’ comes to mind, as I really can’t find any other way to describe “enhancing public support for the United States and its goals and on improving counterterrorism cooperation” or “programming [of] American terrorism experts in all language regions”.

I find it frankly disgusting that things like Black and Womens History Month is being usurped in favour of some agenda promulgated by — primarily — white men. Especially when that agenda is violent, paranoia-inducing, and morally reprehensible. What does it say about a country which might use Martin Luther King Jr, or Ruth Benedict, to push for making informing on one’s neighbour an okay thing to do?

The last published media survey addressing Swiss anti-Americanism was Q1 2007. It ranked Switzerland as having the most anti-American levels in Western Europe. Moreover, a September 2008 interview with Swiss Ambassador to the United States Urs Ziswiler said he was concerned by the anti-American attitude of the Swiss. PAS believes anti-Americanism remains high: Inaccurate and/or negative stories about the United States or the Embassy continue in tabloids, free commuter papers and in the Geneva dailies.

Yay, anti-Americanism! Where’s McCarthy when you need the old bloodhound? A commie’s a commie, after all.

But seriously, I do wish Mr Coneway had provided examples of “inaccurate and/or negative stories about the [US]”. Perhaps we would have seen such things as “White Phosphorus used by US Military on Civilians in Fallujah”, or “US Torture Centres Across Planet”. Or indeed, perhaps anything which had “WikiLeaks” in it as a source would be considered “negative”, at the very least.

Sadly, we’ll probably never know which “tabloids, free commuter papers and… Geneva dailies” Mr Coneway had in mind as he wrote his warning. The subtext of this, in my mind, is “these Swiss people are just too free-thinking. We need to get them addicted to mass media disinfotainment, just like back in the US. All are troubles will be solved through propaganda”.

However, the investment in ramped-up outreach has yielded results, including dramatic increases in the number and diversity of Fulbright applicants; the number of universities hosting Embassy programming; the number of media inquiries and accurate stories; and alumni group participation and activity.

I’m just going to rewrite this entire paragraph.

However, the investment in ramped-up brainwashing has yielded results, including dramatic increases in the number and pliability of Fulbright applicants; the number of universities hosting Embassy pro-US propaganda; the number of docile media inquiries and approved stories; and alumni group participation and activity in reporting on neighbours and other suspicious persons/activities.

——– Consular ——–

In 2008, the Consular Section led an interagency effort to convince the Swiss government to begin negotiations on the Terrorist and Criminal Information-Sharing Agreement. To date, the Swiss have shown little interest in this proposal, arguing that such an agreement would be incompatible with Swiss privacy laws. The Consular Section is now attempting to get Swiss authorities to suggest their own version of such an agreement that would be consistent with Swiss privacy laws and still fulfill the intent of the U.S. proposal. We hope to lay the groundwork for a Swiss negotiating team to visit Washington in early 2009.

I rest my case again, about how the US is only interested in getting what it wants. The topic is immaterial; the only allowed outcome is compliance.

The January 12, 2009, deadline for mandatory use of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA, a DHS program for advance registration of travel to the U.S. so far aimed at Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers) is fast approaching. The Bern Consular Section has been active in getting the word out to airlines, tourist agencies, leading business groups, and the Swiss traveling public at large that ESTA is out there and that its use will be required for all Visa Waiver travel as of January 12. These outreach efforts have been assisted by FCS and PAS.

“The U.S. Government recommends that travellers go online to submit an authorization request three days (72 hours) before travelling to the United States… [the authorization is] formerly paper-based and filled on arrival by participating VWP citizens in advance of travel to the United States.” [source]

In essence, this is a programme for converting a previously paper-based system over to a computer-based system. It seems that an entire Department was needed in order for this to happen. Example #327 why the US government is fifteen years behind the times.

The early arrival (August 2008) of the new Consular Section chief, permitting a 3-month overlap with the departing Section Chief, temporarily brought the Sections officer complement to the full staffing of four officers. This enabled Post to greatly reduce its large backlog of NIV appointments, which had occurred due to staffing gaps. Currently, the waiting period for an appointment is one week.

As of early November, the Consular Section has found itself again short one officer, and only the seasonal drop in NIV applications has prevented the backlog from again approaching high levels. The next entry level officer is due to arrive in March 2009. Post is seeking TDY/WAE support in the meantime to keep the situation from assuming the unacceptable Spring-Summer 2008 proportions.

———– Conclusion ———–

I would like to thank the following dedicated and talented career officers at Embassy Bern who have worked with me in advancing our mission in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. They contributed significantly to this memorandum and remain committed to working under the leadership of Deputy Chief of Mission and Charg, Leigh Carter, until the next ambassador arrives.


Boy oh boy… I would have liked to have seen those names. Oh well, it’s likely for the best that it was removed, although I doubt it will delay the Swiss prosecution authorities very much. Perhaps we will enjoy the delight of Mr Coneway being prosecuted for having authorised those unlawful espionage activities around the US embassy.

Thank you for this opportunity to serve my country.

I think, Mr Coneway, your services could have been done without.

Ambassador Peter R. Coneway



Closing analysis:

My reading of Mr Coneway, is that he is someone with quite a lot to hide. This is to be expected of a Goldman Sachs General Partner, but I suspect there is much regarding his actions as ambassador which he would like to keep quiet as well. At times he seems almost hysteric in his adamant insistence for increased personal and consular security from the Swiss government.

His prose against Switzerland is vitriolic and hateful, as far as I’m concerned. He clearly harbours burning resentment for the Swiss — indeed, he seems to despise them — and seems to air these feelings in manners which, far from being idiosyncratic, feel more like US-approved grudges against the Swiss.

Additionally, his ignorance about the history of his host country is shocking, especially considering the importance of his post, and of Switzerland itself. Even a half-hour of reading Wikipedia about the country would have been helpful to Mr Coneway, I should think.

I think it needs to be stressed that we are reading more than just one man’s impression of Switzerland: we are reading the US government’s internal opinion and analysis of Switzerland, through the mouthpiece named Peter Coneway. This is frightening. If the US institutionally has that much ignorant anger directed toward what is widely regarded as one of the best countries in the world, there is something deeply wrong with the US.

I think this cable shows this: Mr Coneway has kindly provided us all with a candid window into the methods by which the US systematically subverts the sovereignty of the entire world. The techniques used against Switzerland are no different as to the techniques against Iran; the only question is the degree of obvious retaliation and punishment. There is no consideration given as to the target country, for all are equally targets of opportunity. The US, without a doubt, seeks to remake the world in its image.

Because there’s no angry like Rammstein angry.

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