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 Austria in April 1945, he wrote a letter to Stalin in which he said that he felt called upon "to assume the task of the liberation of Austria from Fascism." The prevailing opinion in the West--not surprisingly--was that such a government could be only a puppet régime subservient to the Russians. (Among the members of the provisional government were Adolf Schaerf, now President of Austria, Leopold Figl, the former Chancellor and present Foreign Minister, as well as a few Communists.)

To begin with, the government functioned only in the Russian zone. However, Renner and his colleagues soon renewed their contacts with political leaders in the Western zones. Their somewhat haphazard coalition was speedily transformed into a government of the whole of Austria. Taking into account the limited mandate handed down to the provisional government by the Russian high command, this was no small feat. Perhaps the Russians thought that nothing would deflect events from their preordained course--least of all the antics of a shadow government destined for quick oblivion.

Regardless of Western opinion, the Austrians could not afford to procrastinate. A government in the Western zone, established by the Western allies, might have frozen the demarcation line and made the country's division permanent. Knowing what has since happened in some other parts of the world, one must credit Renner with remarkable astuteness and foresight.

Renner's immediate task was to invest the government with greater authority, and to get recognition from the West. Quite logically, he sought first to secure a firm mandate from the Austrian people; he called the nation to the polls in the fall of the same year. As a result, Austria regained its political profile. The Austrian People's Party and the Socialist Party established themselves as the twin pillars of Austrian democracy; the Communists were reduced to 5.42 percent of the vote.

This configuration has remained essentially unchanged. As it happened, Austria's rock-bound political stability, based firmly upon the general elections of 1945, was the essential prerequisite for the State Treaty, which we won almost exactly ten years later. At the time when Renner was pressing for elections he showed a single-mindedness of purpose that frightened some of our friends abroad, who argued that the Soviet Union would never allow free elections to take place. But fortunately, the Russians had reports from their Austrian friends which promised a Communist landslide.


Though this is not a history of the first 13 years of the Second Austrian Republic, certain aspects of it ought to be stressed.

There was a time when the cost of living went up, unemployment grew and food was severely rationed. Things came to a head in October 1950. The Communists thought their hour had struck: their home base was the Russian zone, their staging area the Russian-run industries. Their master plan called for wildcat strikes, spreading suddenly throughout the country, disorganizing key industries, communications and supply; demonstrators were to clash with the police; finally, the Communist forces would rally for a determined frontal assault against the security organs of the state. It must not be forgotten that the Soviet army had the obligation under the quadri-partite occupation statute to restore order.

Under these circumstances, the Communists thought they could not miss: the scaled-down Austrian police, honeycombed (in the Russian zone) with Communist cells, would be quickly thrown into disarray and, having lost control of the situation, would be superseded by the occupation forces. It was as simple as that. Their aim--to turn eastern Austria into a "popular democracy" oriented toward East Germany--seemed within reach.

The main thrust was aimed at the labor movement. Austrian labor rose quickly to the challenge: the unions called on the workers to stay on their jobs; they carried the fight right into the Communists' privileged sanctuary, the Soviet-administered plants. Workers drove a wedge between the Communists and the police; clashes were avoided; the police, restrained yet firm, handled themselves exceptionally well--thanks in no small measure to the fact that a top Socialist was at the head of the Interior Ministry and a former worker was chief of the Viennese police.

At the same time, the Socialist leaders implored the Western allies to keep their troops out of the picture. On no account must there be bloodshed between Western troops and Austrian workers. The attempted Communist putsch was to remain an entirely Austrian affair, with the Government in sole charge of security measures and with the workers manning the first line of defense.

There were, of course, quite formidable odds. To the Communists, this was a ready-made "revolutionary situation" straight out of their textbooks--a run-down economy; poor food supplies; a weak security force, with Communists in some key positions; two Communist governments, their troops armed to the teeth, a few dozen miles from the trouble centers.

As it happened, the Communists never got beyond the initial stage. I am not recalling the event simply out of pride but with a purpose. There exists a widespread notion that democracy, by definition as it were, cannot hold its own against a harsh, determined foe, that it is too delicate an organism to survive the constant pressures of grimly competitive coexistence. I submit the Austrian record in rebuttal.


An authoritative pronouncement on Austrian neutrality was first made at the Berlin conference of 1954, when the stand taken by our delegation pointed clearly in that direction. "It is the desire of the Austrian people," the delegation statement said, "to live in peace and friendship with all nations." It emphasized that Austria had "no intention to join any military alignment. Austria desires to make the principles of the United Nations Charter her own and to become a worthy member of that great family of nations."

This statement was greeted with muted enthusiasm in Western quarters. Some detected an attempt on Austria's part to appease and mollify the Russians. It soon became clear, however, that on the basic question of independence Austria was not prepared to yield an inch. When Molotov proposed "to delay the complete withdrawal of the troops of the four powers until the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany," he was rebuffed by the Austrians.

The Berlin conference came to a dead end. As I wrote at that time:

We do not want our country to become divided into two military districts, each dominated by one of the big powers. Therefore, the only state treaty acceptable to us is one that guarantees that all foreign troops leave. We do believe, however, that to give us such a treaty would require neither great sacrifices nor substantial concessions from the big powers; that on the contrary, they might as a result benefit from a lessening of international tensions, and from the resurgence of hope and confidence among peoples everywhere, far beyond our borders.

In 1955 the Austrian Government was invited to send a delegation to Moscow for another series of discussions on the terms of a state treaty. By now, the Russians had changed their minds. Mr. Molotov no longer attempted to tie the departure of troops from Austria to a treaty with Germany. He was adamant, however, on a firm guarantee against another Anschluss, which, per se, had long since ceased to be an issue either in Austria or in Germany.

There were, however, military implications in the Russian attitude: Russia would be satisfied only with a declaration of neutrality on Austria's part. This the Austrian delegation was quite prepared to render. Austrian neutrality was defined as follows:

The Austrian Government, having already declared at the Conference that it will not accede to any military pact nor permit military bases to be established on its territory, will render a declaration containing a definite international commitment to Permanent Neutrality as practised by Switzerland.

Again there were some who reacted with pained surprise to the quick and seemingly effortless conclusion of the State Treaty. It appeared to them that we had acted hastily, that, once released from the plaster cast in which the four powers had held it, Austria would promptly lose its balance again. They argued that Austria's stability had been assured by the two big boys glowering at each other over the country's divided body.

To venture out into the open without having sought shelter with one of the blocs seemed fraught with grave consequences. Whatever the merit of this argument, it had the flaw of presupposing a choice which in fact did not exist. At the very best, we could choose between neutrality and the status quo. At no time could we choose between neutrality and alignment with a bloc. And in fact what did the status quo amount to? Was it not itself a form of passive neutralization--neutralization by occupation? Under the circumstances, what alternative was open to a nation which longed to be master once again of its own destiny?


What did the State Treaty bring us? Above all, the withdrawal of foreign troops. Their presence had made Austria one of the focal points of the cold war, with the threat of permanent division never far removed; they were a source of constant high tension, an irritant always ready to break out in a rash and inflame a wider area.

How has neutrality affected Austria's international policies? In the Moscow talks the Austrian delegation had laid great stress on the preamble of the draft treaty, in which the Allies had declared that they would support an Austrian application for admission to the United Nations. The Soviets, on their part, had held up Switzerland as an example for Austria to follow--and Switzerland, of course, is not a member of the United Nations. Did this mean, we had asked the Russian delegates, that the Soviet Union would insist upon having the relevant paragraph changed? The answer was no.

When Austria became a member of the United Nations on December 14, 1955, there once again were misgivings in certain quarters; and, indeed, the pitfalls were obvious. Austria, one argument went, might be wise to shun the spotlight of the international arena, where, despite much vain posturing and empty bombast, nations are called upon to stand up and be counted. Why not keep at a modest distance and wait until things had settled down?

We gave the matter much thought, knowing full well that membership in the United Nations would determine Austria's international posture for a long time to come. We also knew, however, that in addition to incurring some irksome obligations we would derive international recognition from membership. Such recognition implied a measure of security which we could not have found elsewhere. This was perhaps the decisive consideration.

There are several neutral countries in Europe, and the form their neutrality takes differs considerably. In contrast with Switzerland, Sweden does not have any constitutional commitment to neutrality and its status is not guaranteed by other powers. It simply is determined to follow in time of peace a policy that should logically result in a neutral position in time of war. Indeed, when Swedes describe their status they prefer the term non-alignment to neutrality.

Swiss neutrality, on the other hand, is a firmly established concept of international law. The powers which have given it recognition have also undertaken a commitment to guarantee the inviolability of Swiss territory. However, the Swiss themselves have never invited outside intervention or any sort of unilateral action by a foreign power in defense of their neutrality. This was clearly stated by the Swiss Parliament during World War I: "Switzerland reserves to itself the right to decide whether, and under what terms, the aid of foreign powers might be called upon."

Clearly, the principle of Austrian neutrality bears a strong constitutional resemblance to that of Switzerland, whereas Austrian practice--membership in the United Nations being a case in point--is not far removed from that of Sweden. One may suppose that Austria will develop its own variant somewhere between the Swedish and the Swiss. There are historical and geographical differences as well as similarities between Austria and these countries, and they will account for the differences in approach.

The general subject of course lends itself to any number of interpretations. Not even Swiss authorities on international law agree wholly on the precise relationship between neutrality and United Nations membership. In the case of Austria, there was one interpretation according to which membership would be "strictly speaking, incompatible with permanent neutrality;" another advanced more flexible views, arguing that the Charter recognizes neutrality by implication. The latter noted that Article 43, Paragraph 3, governing the participation of member states in sanctions, provides that agreements are to be negotiated between the Security Council and members but implies that in certain circumstances a state may exclude itself. Attention was also drawn to Article 48, Paragraph 1, stating that either all members or certain members may be called upon to act for the maintenance of international peace and security, as the Security Council may determine. Here again the implication is that neutral states can be excluded from participating in sanctions. This, incidentally, is also the opinion given by Professor A. Verdross, a leading Austrian expert in international law. He pointed to the fact that at the time Austria was admitted to the United Nations, Austrian neutrality had already received almost universal recognition, and that in consequence members are practically obligated to respect this status in case sanctions are invoked.

Actually, it is not accurate to speak of neutrality in peacetime, because what the term really means is non-participation in war. An attitude of indifference toward the ideological struggle has more properly been called neutralism (as opposed to neutrality). But this should not be taken to mean that neutrality does not impose any obligations whatever upon a country in peacetime. Such obligations can be summarized as follows:

1. A neutral country cannot join a military alliance in time of peace because in so doing it would destroy its ability to remain neutral in time of war.

2. Similarly, a neutral country must bar foreign military bases from its territory, since they would diminish its freedom of action --or, rather, non-action--in time of war.

3. A neutral country must not accept any obligations--political, economic or other--which would tend to impa[ILLEGIBLE WORDS]its neutrality in wartime.

The Swiss concept is that a neutral state should attempt to gain a position of trust with both potential adversaries; its attitude to any international conflict must be determined by this basic rôle. How the foregoing rules are to be interpreted, however, rests with the neutral country, since all such matters are part of its sovereign right.

In order to avoid such a situation, the Austrian Government has repeatedly stressed that neutrality, as far as Austria is concerned, is exclusively a matter of its own determination in accord with its own foreign and, of course, military policies. The Neutrality Law was interpreted by Chancellor Raab, on behalf of the Government, as follows:

This law does not diminish the basic freedoms of the citizen. Neutrality commits the state, but not the individual. The spiritual and political freedom of the individual, especially the freedom of press and the freedom of opinion, remains inviolate. Neither does the law imply a commitment to ideological neutrality. Military neutrality (such as undertaken by Austria) does not contain obligations of any sort in the economic or cultural field.


Immediately after the conclusion of the State Treaty, Austria took the necessary measures to ensure that the Allied troops would leave no "military vacuum" when they withdrew. Here Austria followed the example of Sweden and Switzerland, both of which hold to the view that military non-alignment necessarily involves the creation of a certain military potential commensurate with the country's strategic position, but not, of course, exceeding its economic resources. Austria has no illusions on this matter. Needless to say, a country with 7,000,000 people and a G.N.P. of $4.6 billion can never create a formidable military establishment. However, such measures as Austria did take have proved beyond doubt that it is a country that means to defend its territory. The simple fact of being legally in the right has never in history saved any country from having its neutrality violated by another country which was determined on that course. At no time have we been in any doubt that Austrian neutrality is only a function of an international equilibrium, and that it would be in grave danger whenever this equilibrium was disturbed. It follows, then, that Austrian foreign policy must always aim to help maintain the balance of power by contributing in all ways possible toward lessening international tensions.

At the time the State Treaty was being negotiated, the policy of containment, as applied to the Austrian problem, was essential. Now, however, what seems to me of paramount importance is an international understanding on disarmament and, following that, a military disengagement. This, I think, would provide the maximum of stability for Europe and, consequently, of security for Austria.

When a delegation of the Austrian Government visited Moscow in July 1958 the thing that was noted with the greatest interest abroad was the heartiness of the welcome received by its members. The reason did not lie exclusively in Russia's anxiety to maintain and develop good relations with Austria; clearly, the good fellowship displayed was also meant to demonstrate in a rather spectacular fashion how much the neutral status of a country can contribute toward improving its relations with the Soviet Union.

However, the widespread opinion that the Soviets accepted the State Treaty because they meant to create a model for a subsequent solution of the German problem seems quite erroneous. The difference in the relative importance of the two countries means that the two cases can never be equated. It would even be fair to say, perhaps, that a solution applicable to Austria is almost by definition inapplicable to the German problem.

Rather, it seems to me, Austria was intended to serve as a model for some of the smaller NATO countries. It was a time, be it recalled, when important military installations were to be erected on the territory of some of these countries; and the Soviet Union considered them a threat to its security. Moreover, the nature of the American relationship with the European NATO countries was changing. When NATO was created, the United States itself was not exposed to any direct military threat. Its offer to extend its powerful military shield--in a gesture of solidarity, as it were--over its allies could then be properly called generous. Since then, however, the American continent is no longer immune to direct military attack. On the contrary, the first blows in any future world conflict would probably be struck against the United States itself. In consequence, the American bases in Europe no longer serve merely in the defense of the Old Continent but of the New World as well. As a result, America's European allies have gained much greater direct importance for her, and in consequence have become more important in the eyes of the Soviet Union as well.

Still another reason for the renewed importance of Europe should be mentioned in this context. Stalin had practically written off Europe as hopelessly afflicted with capitalism. In his scheme of things the primary task of the European satellites was to provide a cordon sanitaire around Russia's western frontier. In this matter the Soviet Union seems to have made an agonizing reappraisal of its own. Communist China's mounting importance, especially inside the Communist bloc, has created a phenomenon often called "polycentric Communism." As a result, Europe as a whole has again become important for the Soviets. I noticed, for instance, that during the stay of our delegation in Moscow the Soviet leaders spoke again and again of Russia as being, after all, the "biggest country in Europe."

Russian motives apart, it was--and is--in Austria's interest to maintain good relations with all nations; and if for no other reason than this, Austria was not in a position to reject the hand of friendship so cordially extended. At the same time, the Austrian delegation of course took great pains to leave absolutely no doubt in the minds of its Russian hosts about its determination to keep the most scrupulous watch over the country's economic independence and political freedom. There have been rumors that some sort of pressure was put on the Austrian delegation; this is quite wrong. There were absolutely no strings attached to the economic concessions which Austria was granted. In any case, these concessions solely concerned reductions in the delivery quotas under the State Treaty.

The Russians appeared anxious to avoid any topic that might be disagreeable for our delegation to discuss. It was impossible, however, to avoid the subject of Austria's relation to Hungary. The Soviet spokesmen stressed that they would like Austria to have the same sort of normal relations with its eastern neighbors as it has with Russia. In the case of our relations with Czechoslovakia, we were able to say that they were comparatively free of friction. Relations with Hungary, on the other hand, we had to stress, had deteriorated considerably for reasons outside Austria's control. It had been Austria's duty to accept the Hungarian refugees who had sought asylum in October 1956, and this had impelled the Hungarian Government to assume a hostile attitude. In addition, of course, we also made a point of stressing the lack of security along the Austro-Hungarian border which, again, was attributable to measures taken on the Hungarian side.

The brief discussion on this theme was concluded with the Austrian Chancellor's expression of hope that there would be a gradual improvement in Austria's relations with its eastern neighbors. And indeed there is some indication that the Hungarian Government is trying to get back into the good graces of world opinion. Above all, it seems intent upon avoiding the recurring discussions on the Hungarian problem before the United Nations. And Moscow gives evidence of believing that the way for Budapest to improve its foreign relations leads through Vienna, and that relations with Austria should be improved as a first step towards a more general accommodation.

Austria's attitude towards the defeated Hungarian revolutionaries was based on humanitarian motives and nothing else. Austria believes it discharged its mission to the best of its ability and to the limit of its resources. At the Thirteenth General Assembly, Austria repeated an appeal to the Hungarian Government for an amnesty for those who took part in the fighting. Austria had suggested in the Twelfth General Assembly that such a request be included in the resolution on the Hungarian question, but for some inexplicable reason it had been unable to make its voice heard. It therefore repeated the appeal on its own initiative. The message which we tried to get across was that the Hungarian Government, if it wishes to return in good standing to the society of nations, must offer some tangible evidence of its deference to the principles of the United Nations Charter.


A matter of overshadowing importance today is the movement toward European economic integration. Two aspects occupy the center of the stage at present: one is the Common Market, the other is the Free Trade Area. The first is already on a firm organizational footing and realization of the program cannot now be very far off. The Free Trade Area, on the other hand, is still a subject of controversy. The importance of both to the Austrian economy is self-evident. The six countries of the Community absorb 50 percent of our foreign trade and account for 54 percent of our imports. The Free Trade Area would receive 66 percent of our exports and would supply 71.6 percent of our imports.

In case it should not be feasible to gear the unfolding Common Market to a simultaneous move toward a Free Trade Area, a new preferential tariff bloc will undoubtedly be created in Europe. Such a development cannot fail to result in discriminatory practices against the "outsiders," i.e. the eleven remaining member nations of the O.E.E.C. This might destroy the valuable achievements of the O.E.E.C., won in a tenacious uphill struggle--among them the elimination of bilateralism (in which the European Payments Union has been instrumental) and the liberalization of trade between Western and Central Europe. Of course, the proponents of the Common Market argue that there is no need to worry about the outsiders, as the Common Market will be glad to invite them in--on prearranged terms. This, however, begs the question, as it is quite obvious that several of the possible members will be unable to join for vital reasons of their own.

Let me cite one example. The draft statute of the Common Market would associate all members with the overseas territories and possessions of some; in making the necessary arrangements, the Community would be guided (according to a highly competent source) "solely by an enlightened concept of the general welfare of the populations of these territories." But, alas, one man's enlightened concept of a people's best interests is another's idea of merciless enslavement--as today's colonial and semi-colonial conflicts demonstrate. Thus this problem also becomes involved in the common enterprise.

According to its President, Walter Hallstein, the Common Market will be a distinct political entity, not a mere coordinating body. "There can be no doubt," he writes, "that, in the last analysis, the creation of a federated state, or a federation of states, is the ultimate aim of the philosophy underlying the Common Market idea." Pursued to its limits, then, the idea of an enlarged community appears as the precursor of a political alignment grouped around the hard core of the Six, already tied together by military bonds.

In view of these considerations, the Free Trade Area, which would not impose intolerable limitations upon the sovereignty of its 17 members, would be a more practical solution for neutral countries. It would provide a complementary framework, linking the Community of the Six--the insiders--with the outsiders on mutually acceptable terms.

I believe that neutrality and integration do not necessarily exclude each other. We should approach these problems empirically, determining in each case the precise area of integration in view, whether it be military, economic, cultural or political, and formulate our policies accordingly. In this connection we should not forget that a nation which withholds coöperation in a necessary venture in economic integration may suffer some degree of economic atrophy and in consequence, as recent history has shown, lose its independence.


The foregoing is no more than a thumbnail sketch of Austria's foreign affairs but it may have indicated that many things look somewhat different in the perspective of Vienna than they do from Washington, partly, no doubt, because Austria is a very small country, partly because we are "closer to things." Our predilection for short-term solutions may at times irritate the architects of grand strategy. We nevertheless hope they will understand and bear with us. We on our side realize that Washington must carry heavy responsibilities all over the world, and so we give American policy understanding in distant areas, Asia for instance, even though sometimes a little chill may creep down our spine.

The peoples of Central Europe have been the raw material of history, pushed hither and thither according to the whims of superior powers. An Austrian born at the turn of the century grew up in the Danubian monarchy, came of age in the First Republic and saw it sucked into the Third Reich in time to participate in its decline and fall. The Second Republic rose from the ashes, but it was for a time a focus for the conflicts of the big powers. For Austrians, then, the first concern is for peaceful solutions, even if they seem makeshift and even if they may prove temporary. It is not only the grand design that matters; the little steps on the path of progress count also.

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  • BRUNO KREISKY, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the Federal Chancellery, Vienna; member of the Austrian delegation to negotiate a treaty with the Soviet Union
  • More By Bruno Kreisky