740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 268
Briefing Book Paper1
top secret


Recognition of an Austrian Government Satisfactory to All Allied Governments

i. comment

The Soviet Government informed us on April 242 that it was agreeing to the establishment of a provisional Austrian Government under Karl Renner. On April 28 this Renner Government was set up in Vienna without further consultation with us. The Soviet Government’s dealing with the Renner Government without consulting us represents a unilateral action hardly to be reconciled with the principle of joint action on the part of the major Powers. The Soviet Government has defended itself by asserting that its method of administering an occupied area requires the existence of indigenous political authority. This reply is not entirely satisfactory in that Soviet troops were in occupation of only a part of Austria when the Renner Government was set up and the practical necessities of administration could have been met, as they are being met in Russian-occupied Germany, by local and regional organization.

At the same time the Soviet Government has not accorded the Renner Government a formal recognition and has not proposed or supported an extension of its authority into that part of Austria occupied by United States troops.

Whatever might be the regrettable nature of Soviet action, it appears beyond serious doubt that, in terms of the men themselves and in terms of representation of political forces, the Renner Government is as good a coalition as could be devised at the present time. It equally appears that the distribution of offices among the three Austrian parties is not a serious misrepresentation of current political forces although the allocation of the Interior portfolio to a Communist3 suggests a [Page 335] special advantage for the Communist group by virtue of the importance of that office. The portfolio of Public Instruction and Worship in the hands of a Communist may appear dubious from our point of view, but Ernst Fischer, the incumbent, is a post-1934 convert to Communism and a cultured man highly esteemed by persons of contrary political outlooks. The authority of the minister over religious affairs was not such in the pre-Anschluss days to allow him to do damage to church activities.

Generally Austrians at home and abroad, except Fascist and monarchist elements, have approved the Renner Government.

Our disagreement with the Soviet Government, therefore, can only be one concerning the Soviet method of action, not the character of the Renner Government as such. To refuse indefinitely to recognize it would lay us open to the charge of opposing an incontestably representative and democratic movement, a charge which would be all the more convincing because of certain unfortunate choices of Austrian personnel in areas under American occupation. The only practical course open to us is to proceed with recognition as soon as our desiderata with respect to zones of occupation and control machinery are met, provided reports from our own representatives then functioning in Vienna confirm our present impressions.

The British take a less favorable view of the Renner Cabinet than we do, and may insist that it is too far to the left to recognize without some changes.

The initial announcement of the Renner Government itself characterized the Cabinet a provisional one, envisaged Cabinet changes if necessary as new areas of Austria come under its jurisdiction, and called for its ultimate replacement by a government chosen through democratic elections.

ii. recommendation

It is recommended that this Government agree to give prompt consideration to the question of recognition of the Renner Government after the zones of occupation, including the sub-division of Vienna, are satisfactorily delineated and our troops have taken up their positions accordingly and after an agreement on inter-Allied control machinery has been concluded and put into effect.4 We should also stipulate that the Renner Government should prepare to hold elections as soon as possible, under the supervision of the Occupying Powers, for a constituent assembly.

  1. Annex 9 to the attachment to document No. 177.
  2. Communication not printed.
  3. Franz Honner.
  4. For the final agreement on zones of occupation, see Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1600; 61 Stat. (3) 2679. For the final agreement on control machinery in Austria, see document No. 282.