863.00/11–1049: Telegram

The United States High Commissioner for Austria ( Keyes ) to the Department of the Army


P 4300. From PAGC signed Keyes for JCS and State.

Subject is follow-up comments on our P 3971, dated 8 [2] November, 49,1 regarding French memorandum on Austrian neutrality.

2. The Austrian Government in official pronouncements has been fairly discreet during the past four years regarding post occupational foreign policy commitments. This, of course, is understandable to a certain extent since any expressions of bias one way or the other would [Page 1289] not only be ineffectual but certain to provoke retaliatory measures and increase the difficulties of occupation. I feel confident that we can continue to rely upon Austria’s pro-Western orientation without the necessity of exacting formal pledges while still occupied.

3. From a review of past indications, the recent declarations by President Renner and other governmental officials do not represent a change of policy on this question. The most significant past statements regarding foreign policy attitudes follow:

Foreign Minister Gruber, in the Foreign Affairs Quarterly January 47: “Unconditional Support of the UN Will be the Basic Principle of Austrian Policy. Austria regards this universal system as the sole guarantee of her existence as a state. Strength for the new order in this part of Europe will not come from alliances between Austria and neighboring states.”
Again in same publication April 48: “The economic collaboration of Austria with one particular area alone would be bound to lead her quickly to complete dependence on that area. If such a state of affairs lasted for any length of time, a series of evils might ensue which only another war could remedy.”
In a speech by Gruber 30 June 48: “No foreign policy can represent itself as being stronger than the actual internal forces of a country can justify. This is particularly true of our position today. That position is characterized by the fact that it is not we who are conducting our foreign policy with the great powers, but rather they who are conducting internal policies in Austria. Austria cannot afford a policy by which it might prejudice its own interests in order to be of assistance to one big power whether it be in the East or the West. Therefore, we proclaim the principle of non-interference as a fundamental principle of our foreign policy.”

4. While practical politics require public endorsement of neutrality, the actual conduct of Austria’s foreign policy has been decidedly pro-Western. Even occasional short statements by Austrian Governmental leaders acknowledge Austria’s sympathies and ties with the objectives of the Western nations although these may be somewhat conditioned by the necessity for continuing economic assistance. The difference between Swiss and Austrian neutrality lies in its practice and practicability. Austrian neutrality is only a peacetime necessity directed towards averting world conflict, without any real hope of its preservation once hostilities begin. This principle has been popularized since 1945 by characterizing Austria as a bridge between East and West. Austrian statesmen no doubt regard the first result of another war as complete destruction of their country.

5. Quite aside from Austria’s geographical vulnerability, her economists regard the resumption of East-West trade as necessary for future prosperity. Eastern Europe is the traditional market for Austrian industrial production and the source of food and raw materials. [Page 1290] Consequently, Austrian economists and influential industrialists are reluctant to see trade relations prejudiced by Austrian military association with powers hostile to its eastern neighbors.

6. [Here follow comments on the military defensibility of various areas of Austria and on possible efforts to seek support by the Western Powers.]

7. President Kenner’s statement emphasizes the dominant psychological characteristic of Central European countries namely, fear. In the face of an overwhelming hostile power, the reaction tends toward compromise rather than resistance unless backed by effective guarantees of assistance. Although Austria’s will to resist remains an untested factor, it will depend to a great extent upon the degree of assurances given by the Western Powers to come to Austria’s aid. Communism has proven to be intensely disliked by the Austrian population, but also intensely feared. Although alignment with the objectives of the Western countries will undoubtedly continue to influence and even dominate Austrian foreign and economic activities during the post occupational period, concrete resistance against the East will unquestionably depend upon the ability of the organized Western democracies to prove that they are strong, and that they are ready to act in European defense.

Erhardt has seen, concurs in substance and has shown me Department number 1384 of November 5.2

  1. Not printed, but see footnote 1 to telegram 1384, supra.
  2. Ante, p. 1288.