Austria and neutrality

Since Russia started the war on Ukraine more than a week ago but especially since the last weekend as the Russian embassy complained about our chancellor saying that the neutrality of Austria in the negotiations after WW2 were one of the conditions of the Soviet Union.

I guess the official Russia didn’t like that statement and is now indicating that Austria might not really be neutral. Austria is neutral when it comes to military operations. But as our foreign minister stated, we are not politically neutral when it comes to violations of international law.

In 1955 Austria declared its neutrality, not to join any military treaties nor allowing foreign powers to establish a military presence on its soil. The problem with that is that neutrality leaves you unprotected unless you have something that makes it unwise for aggressors to attack, either through military power or other means.

Switzerland has a strong military and acting as a bank for pretty much everyone who has money probably helps, too. Austria is the location of a major UN office since the 1980s and has acted as mediator for many international negotiations in the past. At the same time we have not invested all that much into our armed force. For 2022 Austrias army has a yearly budget of around 2.5 billion EUR. That’s about half of what our Swiss neighbors are spending each year.

Given the current situation I think we have more or less two options:

  1. Staying neutral
  2. Joining NATO and also helping with building up an EU army

In either scenario, we will need to invest more into our Bundesheer, not only financially but also when it comes to mindshare. Many perceive it as unnecessary or even “a joke” but our soldiers are doing an important job securing our borders and during natural disaster but also assist in international peace assignments. I think they can and should do more in this new world.

Austria is not the only country that has this discussion now with Finland and Sweden considering joining NATO. While I don’t think that’s going to be course that Austria will choose, it’s sad to see Putin forcing the world back into strong military unions 😔