Neutral countries are those that do not take sides or enter into conflicts on behalf of other nations. Switzerland was famously neutral during World War II when it refused to engage in warfare on behalf of either the Axis or the Allies. But it was neutral long before WWII. Switzerland actually gained its neutral status in 1648, after it fought its final battle with France during the 30 Years War. According to History Today, the Treaty of Westphalia ended the war and started more than 500 years of Swiss neutrality.
But Switzerland isn't the only neutral country in the world. And while countries have gained and lost neutral status over the years, here are 10 that currently hold that status:
According to NATO, King Gustav XIV declared Sweden a neutral state in 1834. Their neutral status was controversial in WWII, though, when they allowed Nazi troops to cross their borders to get to Finland. However, they also sheltered people fleeing Nazi persecution. Today, the country is an affiliate of NATO. In 2016, they began allowing the organization to use Swedish land for military operations.
Malta became a neutral state in the 1980s. The Times Malta wrote an article in 2010 celebrating 30 years of neutrality. The article says neutrality "enriches both Malta as well as its status of neutrality ... [and] has undoubtedly passed the crucial test of time with flying colors." The island's position in the Mediterranean Sea puts it within reach of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. That led to governments vying to place a military base there. Malta's stance of neutrality prevented any single superpower from gaining a strategic military position on their island.
Mongolia holds an interesting position geographically. It's between two major world powers: China and Russia. That may be why the country started seeking permanent neutral status a few years ago. Japan Times wrote that "with a wealth of mineral resources set to transform its largely agrarian economy, Mongolia is moving to cement that even-handed status by adopting permanent neutrality as a safeguard against outside dominance." So far, the stance has kept too much outside influence from the internal workings of the country.
Japan's political neutrality comes from Article 9 of their constitution. It reads: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, 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." The government further guarantees neutrality in international conflicts by not maintaining military forces. The country does, however, have a powerful Self Defense Force. The force assists in matters like rebuilding after the 2010 tsunami.
Liechtenstein is the sixth smallest country in the world. Landlocked in Europe, you can find the tiny country sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. Both neighbors are also politically neutral. That may explain why the nation maintained neutral status in WWII and continues to do so today. The BBC writes that the constitutional monarchy is currently run by Prince Alois. He takes care of day-to-day matters while his father, Prince Hans-Adam, still remains the head of state.
Mexico is historically neutral in international conflicts, including the current troubles in Venezuela. But it isn't unknown for the country to jump into a political fray, so their neutrality is, at times, debatable. For example, they sided with the Allies in WWII. They also recently allowed refugees into the country during conflicts in South America. In 2007, El Universal wrote that Mexico discussed ending its status as a neutral country so it could cooperate with and aid the United Nations. To date, though, the nation remains officially neutral.
It's probably Finland's position on the globe that dictates the country's neutral stance in politics. The country sits between Sweden (another historically neutral country) and the superpower of Russia. Finland was once a part of Russia but gained its independence in 1917. They would later sign a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union in 1948, starting their history as a neutral nation. The BBC notes that the treaty was "null and void" after the collapse of the Soviet Union, though. And while the country is now a part of the European Union, it remains friendly with its Russian neighbors.
The home of the Pope and the Catholic Church, Vatican City formed thanks to the Lateran Treaty. In the treaty, Mussolini granted the land to the Vatican. In exchange, he asked the Papal state to remain politically neutral in international matters. The land grant made Vatican City the smallest country in the world. But the tiny country has largely stood by its promise to be neutral. Neutrality hasn't been without conflict, though. Many people question just how neutral the papal state has been in the past or should be in the future.
Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that doesn't maintain an active army. Their neutrality prevents superpowers from putting military bases on their island.
Ireland's neutrality is an interesting balance since part of the island is still governed by England. So while Ireland is neutral, technically Northern Ireland is not. This creates a conflict if England were ever under attack. The nation of Ireland is not obligated to come to the aid of England. But NATO says that it would protect Ireland in conflict. That's because Northern Ireland is a NATO ally, so the organization would have to step in on their behalf. If Ireland and Northern Ireland one day choose to reunite, that could change NATO's stance.