It’s not just Swiss pundits and papers questioning how the “Crypto leaks” scandal affects Switzerland’s reputation. International media, as well as our readers from around the world, are also commenting on the affair.
“Due to its political neutrality, Switzerland is considered an honest and reliable broker when it comes to mediating between two conflict parties. But this good and hitherto extremely profitable reputation of the country is now threatened with damage by the spectacular espionage affair,” commented the Frankfurter Allgemeineexternal link, a German newspaper.
Crypto leaks in a nutshell
Crypto, a Zug-based communications encryption firm which was liquidated in 2018, sold code-making equipment to Iran, India, Pakistan, Latin American nations and dozens of other countries. The technology was modified to let the CIA and German secret service (BND) break codes, as reported by The Washington Post along with Swiss public television, SRF, and German broadcaster ZDF.
“I think that for Switzerland, this has come at a very bad time because the country is still trying to realign or readjust itself with changes to its banking system and the neutrality that it always brought into the banking environment,” Mark Gregory, a network engineering professor at RMIT University in Australia, told Moscow-based news agency Sputnik Newsexternal link.
Gregory went on to say that the Swiss government should look more closely at companies that sell products and services to other countries.
“Because this is about national reputation – which, of course, is more important for Switzerland than the profits of one company – they are going to take action very quickly to ensure that their reputation is protected,” Gregory predicted.
The Austrian Wiener Zeitungexternal link newspaper pointed out the “neutral mediator role would be very difficult to maintain” if the Swiss intelligence service “hadn’t just covered up the German and American bugging activities, but had also listened in”.
The scandal “reminds the Swiss of an image they have been trying hard to rid themselves of; that they will do anything for the right price” – wrote Imogen Foulkes in an article for the BBCexternal link.
Foulkes, who also contributes to swissinfo.ch, pointed out that the CIA used Crypto “precisely because Switzerland’s reputation for neutrality and quality would attract buyers in governments around the world”.
Moreover, the Crypto affair is reminiscent of Swiss banks enabling tax evasion and holding money looted by dictators.
“All that is supposed to be in the past, but now another proud sector, Switzerland’s precision engineering, looks tawdry too,” wrote Foulkes.
How our readers are reacting
SWI swissinfo.ch readers are reacting with a mix of head-shaking and schadenfreude.
As a reader of our Japanese service commented, “The infrastructure and technology have already been established, so these will be sold again in other form and name”.
“I want to know what the direct role of the Swiss government in this scandal is, especially since Switzerland has always been the positive player in most peace negotiations worldwide, and in particular in the Middle East,” commented a reader of our Arabic-language service.
A reader of our English page said, “Swiss friends tell me the neutrality is a sham as long as Switzerland exports armaments”, and another quipped, “Swiss security, Swiss neutrality. LOL”.
“Switzerland is neither as neutral nor as impartial as it is claiming. What’s the point of being rich at the expense of sovereignty?” questioned an Arabic page reader.
You can contact the author of this article on Twitter: @SMisickaexternal link