An Afghanistan veteran explains the Ukraine war to the Swiss population.
The camera slowly moves towards the man in the “fighter”. Then the angular, tanned face is the focus: “Dear viewers, my name is Stefano Trojani.” The mouth twists slightly because the vowels need air, the accent is Italian. “I’m the deputy chief of the military intelligence service,” adds the Ticino. This is important. Because very few know Trojani, let alone know what it actually does. And finally is the video addressed to the whole population.
Kosovo, Afghanistan, Georgia, AAD 10
After a good six months of war in the Ukraine, the Swiss army wants to get its knowledge out of the barracks and its offices and onto the people. One was confronted with numerous questions, says army spokesman Stefan Hofer. That’s why they came up with the idea of ”presenting these questions simply and clearly for our citizens” in a video series. Information “first hand” and “as close as possible to reality”, says Trojani in the introduction. And he knows what he’s talking about.
As a young career officer, the 56-year-old commanded Swisscoy, the Swiss company in Kosovo. In the noughties, he belonged to an advance detachment that was supposed to create favorable conditions for an army deployment in Afghanistan, but was later called off by the Federal Council. He was in Georgia as a UN observer. Trojani worked with Army Reconnaissance Detachment 10 (AAD 10), the elite force so secretive it’s not entirely clear what he was doing. One thing is certain: the people of Ticino don’t just know the war from hearsay. Now he wants to show what the fighting in Ukraine means for Switzerland.
The communication offensive is not without risk. It is unusual for someone from the intelligence service to address the public, Trojani admits to the camera. Of course, the grenadier knows that the army is also vulnerable in the media dimension as soon as you expose yourself. The first reactions were positive, says army spokesman Hofer. Occasionally there was feedback that the subject matter was not sufficiently explored. “However, this is not our goal, otherwise we will miss our target group.” The video was clicked on YouTube more than 25,000 times within two days.
Trojani reviews the course of the war so far in broad outline. He outlines the interaction of the associations, the importance of logistics. He emphasizes the importance of the Air Force and new technologies, an implicit plea for the purchase of the new F-35 fleet. He focuses on the terrain in the contested Donbass region in order to then compare it with the topography of Switzerland. The Alps, the Jura mountains, the many rivers that an enemy would have to cross in the infrastructure-critical Mittelland – Trojani sometimes acts like a meteorologist comparing two high-pressure areas. And it makes you queasy when you get involved in the scenarios that are part of everyday life for general staff officers and hopefully will never happen.
Trojani is not impressed by this. Apparently he trusts in the defense will of the Swiss army in association with the population. More or less directly, he draws a parallel to the creative resistance in Ukraine, where with little training and the right material, the aggressor is hit hard. “Training, in use, to simply destroy a tank – and then they come back,” he says, for example about the use of anti-tank weapons in “total defense”, where citizens become fighters.
A total of nine episodes are planned, three each in the different national languages, always with subtitles. The videos are a DDPS production and are shot in Magglingen in the television studio of the Federal Office for Sport (Baspo). The first episode is filmed in a one-take, without editing and dynamics.
The army is still giving away the potential of the series, the form has room for improvement. A slightly shorter film adaptation, different shots and harsh cuts would bring significantly more conciseness. Otherwise everything is there: Trojani has a camera presence, literally makes “bella figura”, knows what he is talking about. And the message is clear. With Trojani, the army brings spiritual national defense into the YouTube age. The experienced military man has the potential to become a cult figure. Many will also smile at him. Trojani will be able to live with that. He has experienced other attacks before.