USA- Cancel Austrian State Treaty
High time for Austria to join NATO
Austria is celebrating 23 years of EU membership and serves as EU Presidency from 1. July for 6 months but sadly is still not member of NATO. Why?
Because the USA backed Cold War Treaty of 1955 is still valid today and the USA is securing Austria. Austria is now embedded in NATO Europe. Only Switzerland to the west is neutral as well. But Austria is not Switzerland. Austria was never neutral until 1955.
Austrian Neutrality was a Soviet blackmail deal of 1955, made possible by the USA securing Neutral Austria and testing Soviet post Stalin détente. The USA did not want a second divided Berlin crisis city to care. Vienna is more to the East and even harder to supply than Berlin in a crisis. And the Soviet Union had so much of Austria liberated in 1945 and occupied from 1946 – it was hard to divide and supply like Germany. And it mattered less.
So the USA agreed on the Unity for Neutrality Deal for Austria. That is what the State Treaty 1955 is in essence. Adenauer refused a similar Soviet proposal and joined NATO instead in the same decisive 1955. The Hungarians saw their former imperial capital free from Soviet Power and rose the next year, the Soviet crushed them hard in 1956 and that was it with détente experiment. Austria was lucky back than, the USA communicated clear to the Soviet that Austria will be secured. And so it was until 1991. Then Austria was invited to join EU in 1993 and we joined in 1995.
But why has Austria not joined NATO with the rest of the Central Europe in 1999? Because after 1955 the myth of Neutral Austrian identity mixed with strong Anti-American Sentiments and the self declared mission of serving as bridge between West and East has developed and it is dominating the public still today. That we were allowed to join EU before NATO was a tragic mistake explained by the haste of reorganized Post-Cold War Europe. This should never happen again. And then the traditional Anti-American consensus in Austrian Social and Christian Democrats felt vindicated by the NATO liberation of Kosovo in 1999 and then the major eruption of Anti Americanism in Austria during the Iraq war and so Austria continued its illusion of the bridge between East and West, then fostered by the opportunities available with an assertive Russia and the commodity bonanza of the 2nd Putin term from 2004.
Austria secured to the day by the USA like all Europe is under US nuclear umbrella. The USA backing the Austrian State Treaty 1955 and so Austria despite not member of NATO is secure, surrounded by NATO Members and in Partnership for Peace.
Austria spends a remarkable 0,67% on defense. Austria takes all the advantages of such US security for granted.
That is the Austrian bargain, American backed security almost for free, European prosperity for granted, and everything from Russia with love, no compliance or morality required.
Austria is receiving the highest FDI from Russia per capita in EU, is the hub of Russian gas trading, the preferred winter ski destination of Russian elite and the list of prominent Oligarch with good Alpine Chalets is impressive.
And the Austrian State controlled 35% OMV is part of North Stream 2 consortium and a lucrative Siberian gas field was traded in with some Norwegian asset during EU sanctions no question raised and Austria welcome Putin now second time after the scandalous June 2014 red carpet welcome during the peak of Donbas War and the equally dubious endorsement visit of the European political star as youngest European PM just before the March 2018 Russian elections.
Well, Austria does not matter too much and it is a great nation, net contributor to EU budget and has the right to its own foreign policy? Yes, but why all this backed by USA, UK, France via the Austrian State Treaty?
Austria was smart enough not to let Russia inherit the Soviet Union role as co –signatory of the Treaty because we in reality are a Western country and never wanted to be dominated by the Soviets. The occupation was terrible, many abductions to Siberia without any process and all movable assets were taken as well. But the Austrian consensus is to be smart and get what is on offer for free and what is available is welcome as well. Smart but is this a serious approach for foreign policy? Finland and Sweden are as well Neutral EU members but both spend much more on security, and have separate treaties with NATO just now concluded. And yes there is Cyprus, still divided and Mini Malta and the case of Ireland as neutral EU member. And given how complicated EU-NATO relations are often just because 6 smaller EU members are not in NATO please why are the NATO members not kindly inviting the 6 countries and no the cold war is no longer a valid excuses nor post colonial assertiveness or other historic reasons there might have been valid some decades are ago but that is long time ago.
It is now time for Austria to join NATO and stop being the odd man out in a Central Europe- now fully integrated in EU and NATO with even now young Montenegro member since 2017 and Albania since 2009! Even Ukraine works with all efforts to achieve NATO membership hopefully soon. Ukraine having been part of the Soviet Union now requesting membership of NATO and Austria is still not there? Clearly, Austria could not join as long as that Soviet Union was next door and claiming to guarantee Austrian neutrality with tanks just 60 miles east of Vienna but that power is gone and the NATO Eastern border much further east and why can we not finalize our Western integration? Austrians have a right for full Western integration.
But they most likely will not touch the principal particularity of Austria in the western European context – still no being member of NATO – simple because nobody asks them to join and the State Treaty is in power anyhow, thanks you USA.
Austria should be invited and encouraged to join as part of a wider debate of NATO reform and why should there a neutral belt from Sweden to Serbia complicate European defense and logistics in time of crisis? Some might remember the lack of cooperation of Austrian in 2003 when we were kindly asked by the USA to use our airspace useful to fly from NATO Germany to NATO Turkey but than not being allowed by Neutral Austria grandstanding for peace in the World.
The USA is advocating that the European NATO partners are not spending enough but how about the European neutrals consuming security but not even up to membership – and spending much less than 2% in the case of Austria spending a modest 0,673 in 2016 on defense.
Austria as well is serving as negative role model for all the wrong reason and all the wrong actors east of Austria. Some Austrians leaders are on record promoting neutrality in Ukraine and Serbia and so encouraging the wrong side of politics in these key pivotal countries with the illusion of Austrian neutrality as a attractive offer for front line states balancing east and west in best Tito tradition and in reality being part of a larger neutralization strategy from the cold war and defrosted recently to undermine Western unity.
Please USA, cancel that treaty and invite Austria to join NATO. If it than Austria decides to a Finish model of armed neutrality with real defense spending so be it. If Austria than decides to observe in Russian backed CSTO well that would be interesting as a EU and PESCO member. But continue with the cold war 1955 architecture just like that and allowing the Austrian to behave like currently just because of Sound of Music and some great Alpine lakes and a great Opera performance please this is not enough when we face hostile Russia in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria.
Gunther Fehlinger, Austrian- lives in Ukraine and is the chairman of Europeans for Tax Reform. He also coordinates the Austrian Committee for European Ukraine and the Action Group for Regional Economic and European Integration of the southern Balkans and advocating NATO enlargement in CEE and SEE since 1994