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Switzerland's Security 2021: The Federal Intelligence Service publishes its latest situation report

Berne, 10.06.2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a lasting impact on national and international security policy. Switzerland’s security continues to be shaped in particular by the growing rivalry between major powers. The Federal Intelligence Service’s (FIS) abilities to anticipate, identify and assess in time threats and developments that are of strategic importance to Switzerland are crucial for taking preventive measures. The latest FIS situation report presents the main developments in intelligence over the past year.

Left- and right-wing violent extremists try to use society’s potential for protest to their own ends. In particular in times of protracted or worsening crises, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, the potential for protest can increase. Besides attempts by known violent extremist circles to instrumentalise situations like these, there is a threat of growing or violent protest even without their involvement.

The pressure to digitalise which has been reinforced by the protective measures against the pandemic has increased vulnerability to cyber attacks, especially via supply chains. The numerous companies in Switzerland which provide equipment and services for the operators of critical infrastructure in this country and abroad are attractive targets for state-sponsored actors.

Major powers aspire to influence

Under President Biden, the USA will seek to revitalize its global system of alliances and will also return to engaging in multilateral diplomacy and to the defense of democracy. The strategic rivalry with China will remain in the focus of national security policy. Within NATO, the USA will continue to strive for fair burden sharing and support from its allies and partners in its dealings with China, especially in the area of cutting-edge technology. In the conflict with Iran, the new administration is prioritising diplomacy.

The Chinese government will continue to follow its strategic plan to become the strongest global power by the middle of the century. China’s rise to major world power status now appears to be all but certain. Rather than seeking integration through the adoption of international standards and rules, the Communist Party is increasingly presenting the Chinese model of government as an alternative to liberal democracy.

Russia’s focus on the internal development of the Putin system will not restrict its room for manoeuvre in terms of foreign and security policy. Russia is successfully deploying its limited resources abroad, at relatively low cost, in order to consolidate its own sphere of influence. On its western border, it aims to regain the influence lost to NATO and the EU after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia and Turkey both follow a confrontational policy toward Europe, although there are also considerable conflicts of interest between them. In tandem, both states could strengthen their positions vis-a-vis Europe and further their influence in the Mediterranean region.

Significant increase in cyber espionage

Espionage remains an ever-present challenge. Digitalisation and interconnectedness have made a sharp increase in espionage in cyberspace possible. The targets of foreign espionage have not changed, and Geneva is still a prime target because of the international organisations and the large number of diplomatic missions based there. Foreign intelligence services pose a direct threat to certain target groups in Switzerland and may also be involved in influence operations against Swiss interests.

Ongoing risk of terrorist attacks with little logistical effort

The terrorist threat in Switzerland remains at a heightened level. It is mainly determined mined by jihadist actors. The attacks in 2020 in Switzerland and in the neighbouring countries of France, Germany and Austria confirm this assessment.

Attacks involving little organisational or logistical outlay, carried out by lone perpetrators acting autonomously, remain the most likely threat. Attacks are likely to be carried out primarily against so-called soft targets such as groups of people, poorly secured buildings and public transport facilities. Increasingly, the perpetrators show signs of radicalisation and violent tendencies combined with personal crises or psychological problems.

Further information

Address for further inquiries

Isabelle Graber
FIS Head of Communications
+41 58 462 76 98
isabelle.graber@fis.admin.ch

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