740.00119 Control (Austria)/7–2546

The United States Political Adviser for Austria (Erhardt) to the Secretary of State

secret
No. 1508

Subject: Announcement by USFA on Danube Navigation

Sir: I have the honor to report an official release by USFA designed to offset the current campaign in the Soviet and Soviet controlled press.

As has been reported to the Department by this Mission and various others, the Soviet releases have sought to create the impression that the United States, by holding inactive in Austria and Bavaria the major part of the Danube fleet, is blocking the great and generous efforts of the Soviets to restore navigation and that in spite of the fact that commerce on the river is still very halting and inadequate in the lower reaches of the river and almost totally failing in Austria and Germany, the United States persists in holding back the needed vessels for the political purpose of forcing agreements which would open the way for imperialistic economic penetration by the Western capitalist states.

The truth is of course that the western elements of the Allied Commission in Austria, led by the American element, have made every effort since early autumn 1945 to work out a reasonable interim basis for resuming traffic, culminating in May 1946 in concrete American proposals for bilateral discussions (concurred in by the British and French) which the Soviets have ignored; that these efforts have been consistently thwarted by the Russians who even refused to discuss the matter on various pretexts and evasions; that river commerce in Austria was impossible until recently due to delays in clearing the wrecked bridge at Tulln; that these delays have been due in large part to Soviet inefficiency and refusal to cooperate with both the Austrian and American authorities concerned; that only about one-third of the original river fleet is in American hands and that if this now constitutes a majority it must be due to substantial removals to the Don and other Russian waters of the vessels the Russians found (which is known to be a fact); that while the Soviets have sought to establish services between their zone in Austria and Hungary, the effort has been so mishandled technically, diplomatically and in practical management that it has been a complete failure; that the genuine shipping entities, at least in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria, have strongly expressed themselves that practical commercial traffic on the river is possible only under international guarantees and controls: [Page 270]that Hungarian ship owners have asked us not to return their ships before Soviet occupation of Hungary is terminated; and finally that the complete Soviet economic domination of all the riparian states up to and including Hungary, and the current vesting by the Soviets of Austrian firms in Austria, together with the fact that they have kept the door closed tight to all non-riparian powers (including ourselves) on the river below Enns, Austria, results in the most complete unilaterial economic penetration that can be imagined. It is believed self evident that the current press campaign is doubly stimulated, first to shift the blame for substantial and mounting public resentment and for the failure of the much publicized Soviet effort to restore and manage river commerce, and second to be timed for the current discussions in Paris.

The enclosed USFA release71 appeared in the Wiener Kurier July 16 and was picked up by the Wiener Zeitung, Kleine Volksblatt, Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten, Salzburger Volkszeitung. It was also carried by the Amerikanischer Nachrichten Dienst (American News Service) and the British news review in English.

Respectfully yours,

John G. Erhardt
  1. Not found attached to file copy.