BERLIN — Switzerland plans to take part in a Europe-wide air defense project initiated in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, officials said Tuesday.

The Alpine country is the second neutral nation after Austria to signal its intention to join the European Sky Shield Initiative launched by Germany last year.

Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd and her Austrian counterpart will sign a memorandum of understanding at a meeting Friday in Bern with Germany’s Boris Pistorius.

The European Sky Shield Initiative, or ESSI, was proposed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in August 2022 as a means of bundling the continent’s efforts to defend against possible aircraft or missile attacks. It will complement existing air defense systems established by NATO; Austria and Switzerland are not members of the alliance.

The two countries have made clear that joining the initiative won’t entail any participation in international military conflicts.

So far 17 other nations, including Germany, Britain and Sweden, have signed up. France has criticized the project because key elements — the Israeli Arrow 3 system and the U.S. Patriot system — originate outside Europe.

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