What exactly do ambassadors do? For example, what does the Swedish ambassador to Switzerland do? Both countries are neutral, so he doesn’t have to prevent a war from breaking out between the two nations.

As the official representative of his country, he presents his country’s views on a wide range of issues to his host country’s government. This can include such issues as mutual trade, or perspectives on treaties, military interventions, trade agreements, etc. that his country is exercising in other counties allied with or hostile to his host country. He also watches out for the interests of citizens of his own country who happen to be journeying in or living in the host country.

In the situation you named, it is quite possible that the (Swedish) Bofors company and the (Swiss) Oerlikon company are each trying to sell weapons to the same third country and if one or the other company claimed that their competitor was using unfair (or illegal under international law) trade practices, the ambassador would probably get involved in an attempt to resolve the issue.

There are countries where there is so little mutual interaction that no embassy is established. In those cases, the country may establish an office of lesser stature than an embassy (a “mission”) or it may choose to designate the embassy of a third country as their intermediary on the off chance that a situation actually arises.

Back during the cold war, there was an Ambassador of Lituania in the U.S. It was not offical and the person who held the title was not paid. However, they maintained the pretense so that nobody forgot that they were once a nation. I believe they even flew their flag, somewhere in Washington, D.C.

[ul]:stuck_out_tongue: [sup]Russia was not impressed, to say the least.[/sup][/ul]

Isn’t it expensive to send people to other countries, even if they’re not paid? Lithuania didn’t exactly have unlimited funds.

It doesn’t cost that much to make a flag and put up a sign. Just pick someone who lived in Washington DC and who was Lituanian.

Heck, you could probably set up an embassy for Grand Fenwick in the U.S. Of course, unless the State Department recognized you, it wouldn’t mean anything.

Not only that, but ambassadors are also the sort of CEO of the embassy. They don’t just do high level foreign relations and trade work. They have to make sure that the visas are getting done, set up meetings between governments, monitor news activity in the country and work to try and correct misinformation in the media about the government’s stance on various issues, etc. Granted they have underlings to do most of this stuff, but they are ultimately responsible.

To expand on this, the U.S. typically does this with nations with which we have no formal ties. For example, Poland has consular authority for U.S. citizens in Iraq, and Sweden for U.S. citizens in North Korea. So you would go to the embassy of those nations instead of a U.S. embassy. Always check the consular information sheet of the countries you go to before travelling.