Neutrality is an important term in international warfare. A neutral country does not take sides with belligerents during times of war. In contrast to many countries which are currently at war, many neutral countries managed to remain so even during World War II. The general guidelines to neutrality were outlined in the Hague Convention of 1907, Articles V and XIII. While there are several intricacies to what neutral countries must do to retain their neutrality, the guidelines can be essentially be summed up as: Neutral countries must remain impartial and neither assist nor attack either side, and the belligerents—countries that are actively participating in the war—must respect this stance, lest they forfeit any troops, prisoners, or supplies that enter a neutral country's territory. However, not every country that declares itself neutral follows the Hague guidelines.
While most countries declare their neutrality one war at a time, other countries are permanently neutral by either constitutional decree or as part of a previous treaty or peace agreement. In fact, many permanently neutral nations have no military at all. Neutral countries that do maintain a military usually have the right, according to international law, to set aside their neutrality and join a conflict if they so choose. The United States did so when it entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Neutral countries differ from “non-belligerent” countries in that the latter does not fight directly, but may offer non-combative support to one side or the other—for example, by supplying a certain belligerent with food and ammunition or allowing passage through territory that is off-limits to opposing forces.
Neutral Countries 2022:
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Formerly Neutral Countries:
In addition to the above, several nations have attempted to remain neutral, but ultimately been drawn into conflict—particularly World War I and World War II—despite their neutral intentions: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Belgium, Bhutan, Cambodia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Tibet, Tonga, Turkey, the United States, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia.
Profiles of neutral countries:
Switzerland and Finland
Perhaps the best-known permanently neutral country, Switzerland has been neutral since 1815, including during World War II. Today, Switzerland maintains a sizable military to deter aggression, holding to a policy of “armed neutrality,” but forbids foreign deployment of its forces, with one exception: The Swiss Guard, which protects the pope and much of Vatican City.
Finland gained its independence from Russia in 1917. It signed a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union in 1948, which kicked off its history of neutrality. This friendship treaty was rendered “null and void” by the collapse of the Soviet Union; however, Finland still maintains friendly relations with Russia despite being a part of the European Union.
Ireland and Japan
Ireland’s neutrality is arguably questionable, given that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, not a neutral country. Although Ireland is not obligated to aid England in a time of war, the countries of the EU would protect Ireland in a conflict with Russia or another imperialist state. Japan’s constitution states its neutrality, reading “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” Japan has a Self Defense Force that helps the country rebuild from disasters such as the 2010 tsunami.
Liechtenstein and Sweden
Tiny Liechtenstein is located between Austria and Switzerland, two other neutral countries, and has not had a standing military of its own since 1868. The country remained neutral in World War II and continues to do so today. Sweden declared itself a neutral state in 1834. During World War II, Sweden's neutral status was controversial, as the country both allowed Nazi troops to cross its borders to Finland and sheltered people who fled from Nazi persecution. In 2016, Sweden allowed NATO forces to use its land for military operations.
Turkmenistan and Vatican City
Turkmenistan has been neutral since December 12, 1995, a date celebrated every year with fireworks and concerts. Its neutrality came as a result of a United Nations resolution that guaranteed its status. Vatican City was recognized as an independent and sovereign state in the Lateran Treaty in 1929. In exchange for Italian President Benito Mussolini signing the treaty—which granted Vatican City's independence—the city-state (which is located entirely inside of Rome, Italy) agreed to remain neutral in all international matters.