How did countries afford to stay neutral in wars, primarily WW1 and WW2?


In WW2 the likes of Spain, Portugal and Switzerland remained neutral, how could these countries stay neutral?

What stopped the Axis powers from invading these countries to add to their countries?

In: 278

In WW1, for the countries you mentioned had to either get through France in the case of Spain and Portugal or were not worth the troops in case of Switzerland.
In WW2, neither of the 3 countries were worth the effort. They didn’t declare war on Germany and Germany main goal was to take land to have their own farms because Hitler believed that once the agrarian countries will develop their industry they will not sell their food to countries like Germany that don’t produce enough food to feed their population. That why they went after the Soviet Union and not other countries, because the soviets had a lot more land.

Afford in what way? If it is a money question then joining the war will cost you a lot more than staying out.

The reason that Germany and other axis powers did not invade them is that is would be counterproductive. A bit simplified is that Germany/Italy had UK/US on one side and the Soviet Union on the other.

Capturing Spain, Portugal and Switzerland do not result in you controlling any strategy important geographical location, the exception is the ability to capture Gibraltar from the British. But what is does is extend what you to defend along the Atlantic coast. You also need to use troops to counquer the countries and occupier them. If you occupied them their factories will risk getting bombed by the allies but as neutral they can operate without that threat

You do get access to their workforce but what do you get from that? The countries did trade with the axis during the war. The Swiss did export arms Germany and Italy from 1940 -1944 when they stopped because of pressure from the allies. That way you can use the money to get stuff you want from a workforce that is a lot more willing to do good work compared to if you occupied them.

Spain and Portugal did export important wolfram to Germany during the war until 1944, Spain stopped with the Allies and created an oil embargo against Spain. This show that Spain was reliant on the allies during the war. The allies continued to train with Spain as a way to keep them out of the war.

Germany would have liked to have Spain join the war. Franco’s regime was a variant of Fascism and they did align with Gemany. Their dependence on trade with the allies is a major part of why they did not join the war. What they for sure would have liked to do is to capture Gibraltar or let German troops do that from Spain. Having Spain join the war is quite different from invading Spain. You do not get access to extra manpower instead for having to use manpower to control them

So Spain, Portugal and Switzerland did trade with Germany and Italy. When the trade stop Italy was out of the axis and a part of the allies. Germany did not have the military capacity to invade them. That Germany could not invade them is one of the reasons they stopped the trade.

Germany valued the neutrality of the Netherlands In World War I because it allowed access to international trade (the British limited Dutch imports, but the Dutch could cut back on their own consumption and sell to Germany at high prices). Swiss neutrality also had value (and the costs of invasion would be high), and the same went for Sweden in both wars. Both were neutral, pro-German until late in World War II, so sold iron ore, armaments, optics and so on. Portugal was out of reach. Spain was aligned with Germany and Italy ideologically, but demanded a price Germany could not pay to enter the war on Germany’s side (guaranteed deliveries of food, oil and armaments and a slice of French North Africa).

So the belligerents and the neutrals made their calculations in each case – the costs of invasion and occupation against the value of neutral production. In Iceland’s case the Allies occupied it despite neutrality, fearing a German move and needing bases to cover the Atlantic convoy routes.

Spain and Switzerland, while nominally neutral, supported Germany, so Hitler had no reason to invade. They were also protected by mountain ranges that would have made it more of a challenge to invade. And as long as they weren’t providing significant resources, the Allies had no reason to spend manpower and resources invading

Nothing was stopping them, other than the practicalities and aims of attacking them. Belgium and the Netherlands were neutral countries too, but obviously were invaded and occupied very early in WW2.

The US was officially neutral until Pearl Harbour, but provided support, Portugal also provided support to the allies and whilst officially neutral, had forces fighting alongside the allies. Spain had forces fighting within the Axis powers too.

Neutrality is just part of the political game a country plays, trying to protect its own interests.