The Undoing of Austrian Neutrality: “Staatsstreich”, A Brief Aside

My text addresses the abandonment of Austrian post world war II neutrality and how this process was started in the 1990ies. Only today it dawns on many citizens, that her status as a neutral country has been wrenched from Austria’s hands long time ago and that now she is standing side by side with a certain euroamerican war party – thanks to her treacherous politicians.

The previous history of neutrality can be looked up in chapters 2 and 10 of “Staatsstreich in Zeitlupe”, which are available here. For a short english language primer to this topic please have a look at James Jay Carafano, Waltzing into the Cold War, 2002. His epilogue “Flawed Triumph” (pp 193-199) sheds light on how Austrian political independence and military neutrality came to pass after Stalins death in 1953.

After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, and even prior to that, Austrians were told, that this concept was owed to a unique situation, an historical aberration if you will; and that they had to abandon their permanent, “everlasting” neutrality alltogether because the preconditions for it had become obsolete. And that the only rational response would be to join a western military alliance – an allegedly autochthonous european one (WEU)  or NATO itself.

Fast leap forward into today’s world and you can see, that the continent has been split into two parts once again: into a European Union, which acts as extension of NATO and non-european “western” interests on one side. And into the orthodox world beyond the continent’s San Andreas Fault on the other side.

Now we do find ourselves in a very different scenario to what had been anticipated 20 years ago. Today NATO operates on a world wide scale and its “out of area” engagement is very much the rule and not the exception (Afghanistan, Irak, Libya, Syria). Its classical casus foederis, for which the whole thing had been created in the first place, never has emerged: a military attack against one of NATO’s member states, endangering its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The break-up of Yugoslavia has turned out to be NATO’s only european hot war (so far), its actions being (partly) in contempt of international law. Only after 9/11, after the “attacks of Afghan Taliban and al Kaida on the US”, Article 5 of the NATO treaty was proclaimed, right up to this very day.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has proceeded to enlarge its rank and file and expanded eastwards, regardlesss of the promises that had been given to the last Soviet leaders.

In hindsight it stands to reason, that the division of the continent was not so much due to ideological reasons, but consequence of a cultural clash/mismatch. Unfortunately this clash is definitely not a thing of the past – and unfortunately Europe is not left on her own while trying to sort out problems with Russia.

My small excursus on neutrality was written well before the start of the Ukrainian crisis. So there is no mention of Vienna’s acts and omissions during the unfolding of the crisis.

But Austria’s role has been determined a long time ago, most importantly in 1995 – with the adoption of a new law, which laid the foundations for neutrality’s de facto abandonment. Without it Austria would not be able to take part in today’s sanctions against Russia (which can be regarded as an act of economic warfare).

The second factor developed with Austria’s role in the break up of the Yugoslav republic, which had shown a dual character from the beginning: firstly that of a genuine process, which ended in the fragmentation of Tito’s Yugoslavia (or rather: The successor of the State of Slovens, Croats and Serbs, a product of the First World War).

The other side of the coin was heavy foreign interference in this process, in which Austria seems to have played a paramount role. It culminated in the “beneficial bombing campaign” in Serbia in spring 1999, in which Vienna finally let drop her mask.  In the run-up to this war the Foreign minister and the Minister Defense favoured the shipping of soldiers and war material through Austria and an outright joining of NATO later on. Both ministries were led by conservatives.

Social democrats disagreed. They insisted on maintaining at least the appearences – which was a highly bigoted move. Not only had the Austrian chancellor okayed transshipments of weapons routinely. In parliament social democrats had also voted for the so called Petersberg tasks in the treaty of Amsterdam -  a clause, that allowed for the participation in “peace building measures” without UN consent (which would be debatable even if there were such a thing).

All not by accident. Throughout the years, social democrats have been closely involved in the hollowing out of the country’s unloved neutrality. Like their bourgeois counterparts they had been brought up in a dualistic political cosmology, a manichaeic world view, in which staying out of bloc confrontation was deemed to be immoral: “You’re either with us, or against us.”

In this theology Austria had denied solidarity to the forces of good in 1955 – if only out of necessity (it goes without saying, that the promise of neutrality was indispensable for Austria being granted her state treaty). Now, after the end of the Cold War, the country would have another opportunity to decide freely “to join the right side” (or so the narrative went).

“Neutralität im Termitenhaufen” will be available for download tuesday morning in “Volltext” – in a german language version.

Unabhängiger Journalist

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