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The Advocate and Its Wealthy Client: Britain and Switzerland in the Early Cold War

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2013
<mark>Journal</mark>The International History Review
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)184-204
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date19/11/12
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In the immediate post-war period and during the early cold war, Britain regularly defended Switzerland's interests against the two emerging superpowers: the Soviet Union and especially the United States. This advocacy was not, however, altruistically motivated. In light of their experiences during the Second World War, British policy-makers could still see the benefits of a neutral Switzerland. But more importantly, the relatively wealthy Swiss were willing to pay for British support and a neutral Switzerland implied other financial, political, and strategic advantages. When there were no such advantages, London abstained from defending Berne. In the case of the negotiations leading to Switzerland's informal participation in the Western strategic embargo against the Eastern Bloc, Whitehall did not stand up to defend Swiss neutrality against US might. Yet this article demonstrates that even if the British had been willing to help the Swiss in their dealings with the Americans, they would have lacked the power to prevent Washington from imposing its will. Britain's power continued to decline after the war, and advocacy for Switzerland could only be successful if the Swiss position was acceptable to the United States.