The complexity of the challenges facing the security authorities is increasing as the security environment becomes fragmented due to the growing number of relevant players.
According to FIS:
▪ Switzerland’s strategic environment is marked by unusually high levels of stress in Europe due to various crisis situations. These crises are long-term in nature, but they have all come to a head at around the same time: the political and economic crisis over European integration, a new conflict situation with Russia and the crisis situations in the Middle East, the impacts of which have been directly felt in Europe in the form of escalating migration movements and a heightened terror threat.
▪ For a number of years, Russia has opposed the expanded EU and NATO in Eastern Europe and has sought to consolidate its own sphere of influence on its borders. Ukraine is strategic territory and lies at the heart of this
ambition. Since the annexation of Crimea, force of arms has been used to prosecute the conflict; the armed conflict has left its mark on the Ukrainian economy and population. However, the country is also being weakened by internal power struggles. Russia’s influence can also be seen in Moldova, Belarus and Georgia. The conflict with Russia
will in all probability be a change in Switzerland’s strategic environment that will have lasting effects. Realistically possible security scenarios in Europe fall into two broad categories: in one of these, an understanding between East and West limits the conflicts along the edges of the emerging zones of interest at an early stage, and in the alternative
evolution, escalation gradually continues to spiral upward over the next few years.
▪ Syria is in many respects the epicentre of one of the crisis situations. The problems underlying the Arab Spring have not been brought any closer to a solution anywhere in the region (with the possible exception of Tunisia), and new crises have escalated (such as in Yemen). The tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have the potential to cause particularly far-reaching destabilisation of the region. But it is in Syria that the expansion of ‘Islamic State’ and signs of attrition of the regime have internationalised the conflict to a whole new level. Russia took the strategically significant decision to intervene on the side of the regime with its own armed forces.
This step and the attacks by ‘Islamic State’ in Paris have given fresh impetus to efforts by the Western powers to exert influence. However, despite intensified military operations, there is as yet no sign of a resolution of the Syrian civil war, let alone a sustainable political solution.
▪ The terrorist organisation ‘Islamic State’ occupies the leadership role in the jihadist movement. It took over this role from al-Qaeda, but the potential threat from the latter has not diminished as a result. The threat posed by jihadist terrorism has increased further in recent months, mainly due to the fact that ‘Islamic State’ is sending individuals to Europe on missions to plan or carry out attacks. Switzerland is part of the European threat area, and the threat level has also risen in this country.
▪ Migration movements toward Europe have escalated over the course of the last year.
Despite rising numbers, Switzerland has until now been less affected by this than other countries in Europe. Migration is not a security issue in itself, but individual aspects of migration certainly are. Notable among these are attempts by groups or individuals to reach Europe concealed within the mass flow of migrants in order to carry out terrorist attacks. The violent reactions of right-wing and left-wing extremists to developments in the area of migration and asylum also require close monitoring. The situation in Switzerland, unlike that in some countries in
Europe, has been largely calm. Nonetheless, the potential for violence is present in both right-wing and left-wing extremist circles.
▪ An agreement has been successfully reached with Iran in the shape of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, thus overcoming one of the challenges in the area of nonproliferation. This should prevent a nuclear-armed Iran for the next ten to fifteen years. However, the nonproliferation issue has not in any way diminished in importance as a result; further efforts in this area are required in relation to North Korea as well as Iran.
▪ Illegal intelligence is carried out in Switzerland, as elsewhere. The damage caused by the theft of information is just one of the resulting problems. The access which intelligence services obtain to persons, institutions or electronic systems can potentially be exploited not only in order to collect intelligence, but also for the purposes of manipulation or even sabotage. Information obtained by intelligence services can also be used for information operations, the importance of which is increasing. In the area of information security, the lessons that emerged from
the Snowden affair remain as valid as ever.