863.00/6–1947: Airgram

The Chargé in Austria (Rankin) to the Secretary of State

secret

A–232. Vice Chancellor Schaerf, in a recent private interview, indicated that rather to his own surprise he considers that his party (The Austrian Socialist Party) now finds itself “in the American camp”. Reviewing the recent history of the Socialist Party, which in the beginning of the occupation had been rather pro-Russian, he said that he and the rest of the party leadership had come to the conclusion that of all the occupation powers the United States is the one most interested in Austria’s welfare as such. (See also despatch No. 3061 of May 12.)23

Although Schaerf’s British contacts (with exponents of the Labor Party) have always been of the best, he came to the conclusion that it would be wise not to become identified with any of the occupation powers but to try and find an “Austrian course” steering between the interests of all four powers. His outspoken criticisms have in the past frequently been directed also against U.S. policies, and he is deeply appreciative of the fact that such criticisms have not swerved us from our course of helping Austria. Schaerf made it plain that his “Austrian course” may in the future lead him again into conflict with some U.S. policies from time to time, but he wants us to know that his party believes the U.S. is more genuinely interested in the real independence of Austria than the other powers.

Regarding relations with Russia, Schaerf indicated that he fully endorsed President Renner’s position in regard to avoiding bilateral negotiations between Austria and Russia and indicated that he had had a hand in spiking the Russian proposal for a jointly-owned oil company at Zistersdorf, in October 1945. He believes that a complete breakdown of the present Vienna treaty negotiations24 would produce unfortunate internal political reactions, and thought that in the interests of keeping the discussions alive, the U.S. should be willing to accept the Russian basis for discussion with the proviso that [Page 1184]if the other subjects were not discussed in the same manner as the subject of oil, we should reserve the right to nullify whatever agreement was reached with regard to oil.

Comment

The above conversation took place on June 12, before the Treaty Commission reached apparent agreement on a procedure for discussing the main subjects in dispute. As regards Socialist relations with Great Britain, public opinion in Austria considers that the Socialist Party is most intimately associated with Great Britain, and that a similar relationship exists between the People’s Party and the U.S. Actually, American relations with the Socialists have become much more close and cordial during the last few months, until at present they are probably as good as British relations with the Socialists, or as U.S. relations with the People’s Party which, as the strongest single party, naturally has more leading exponents in official contact with American authorities in Vienna. The British, however, have made public gestures of support and encouragement for the Austrian Socialists. No such gestures or demonstrations have been made by the U.S., nor would they appear to be desirable at this time.

Rankin
  1. Not printed.
  2. For documentation regarding the participation by the United States in the work of the Austrian Treaty Commission in Vienna, May 12–October 11, 1947, see pp. 577 ff.