Austria Draws the Balance

Courtesy Reuters

THE big-power conflict is supposed to leave practically no room for small states to manœuvre and advance their own concepts of international policy. The example of Austria does not entirely confirm this proposition. In 1945, we had a government with limited authority over a small territory; a tinier and leakier ship of state could hardly be imagined. Yet it managed to steer clear of the powerful currents that might have carried it beyond the horizon of history, and safely reached the beckoning port of independence.

Generally speaking, however, it is of course quite true that all nations--and the smaller ones much more than others--find themselves buffeted and harried by conditions created outside their own sphere. In this era sheer bigness appears to hold the key to a nation's survival, and woe to him who has little weight to throw around. Still, whether big or small, all must make decisions; even the smallest cannot wholly escape responsibility for the decisions that are theirs, and theirs alone. Indeed, small countries must not abdicate this responsibility if their raison d'état is not to be questioned. While they must attempt to accommodate themselves to facts beyond their control, they will, if they exercise the prerogatives of sovereignty, derive strength and comfort from a political practice allied to principle, rooted in tradition and hardened by historical experience. Thus, even in the obscure realm of Realpolitik, they cannot divorce themselves from the motivating force of free government, which will in turn sustain them in their trials.


Such is the background against which I shall try to describe Austria's efforts after the war to achieve freedom. The story is important because at moments when we had to arrive at certain solutions, in a period of great stress, the reasons why we acted as we did were not always clear to people in the West.

When the Social Democrat, Karl Renner, then 75 years old, decided to form a provisional government immediately after the Russians had marched into

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