Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 203

No. 490
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Italian and Austrian Affairs (Freund)1

top secret
  • Participants: The Secretary
  • Minister Figl
  • Dr. Kreisky
  • Dr. Schoener
  • Mr. R.B. Freund
  • Mr. Lochner—Interpreter

Subject: Plans for Discussion on Austria at Four-Power Conference February 16, 1954

The Secretary said he had asked to see Dr. Figl to go over likely developments this afternoon. He said Mr. Bidault would be in the chair and would ask if Dr. Figl had anything to say. The Secretary supposed that Dr. Figl would speak about Article 33. Dr. Figl said he would and outlined his “rough draft” statement—main points of which are:

The Austrian Delegation came to Berlin with justified hopes of a treaty. Since the three Western Powers had conceded on the outstanding points of the present draft, agreement appeared to be unanimous. Austria is ready to take on the burdens of the treaty, provided all troops are withdrawn. Dr. Figl will then refer to his previous declaration of military neutrality and point out the inconsistency of Mr. Molotov in wanting to erect military bases on Austrian soil. Dr. Figl will say that if the Soviets think that this is necessary to prevent Anchluss, Austria categorically opposes its resumption. All the burdens of Article 35 will then be listed and once more, a solemn appeal made for alleviation. The Austrian Government has instructed him to refuse any changes in the “available” draft treaty. Austria requests its freedom for which it will take all the burdens in the draft, but no new ones.

The Secretary pointed out the importance of not weakening on the neutrality question unless there has been agreement on full troop withdrawal. He cited Soviet negotiating methods. If a concession is hinted at, it would be snatched up by the Soviets who will go on to new demands. Dr. Figl agreed. The Secretary reiterated as in his opening statement,2 U.S. willingness for Austria to remain neutral as it wishes. Dr. Kreisky intervened to say that Switzerland is more neutral than Austria should be, as Austria wishes to join the UN, Council of Europe, and other such organizations. The Secretary said that Article 4 bis may prove the most important bargaining point and should be saved for the end if it is to be taken up at all. Dr. Figl said he thought his statement was in line with that view, and that as negotiations develop we would have to see where we went later.

Dr. Kreisky said that if neutrality is a bargaining point in the end and if Molotov withdraws his troop proposal but insists on neutrality in binding form in the treaty, why in Mr. Dulles’ judgment, [Page 1133] should that not be accepted. There are other limits on Austrian sovereignty in the treaty, Dr. Kreisky said. The Secretary suggested that if that unlikely point is reached, Dr. Figl should ask for a recess to permit consultation with the three powers, in accordance with his instructions. He went on to point out the dangers and disadvantages for Austria in staying out of collective security arrangements and becoming a vacuum, stressing the importance of raising an Austrian Army. He noted that Austria could become an inviting invasion route to the South comparable to Belgium in 1914. He reiterated that the US would not wish to stand in the way of an Austrian policy in favor of military neutrality, but said that the cost to Austria would be heavier and that the Western Powers and, he supposed, the Austrian Government would not wish to leave a vacuum in Austria. Dr. Figl and Dr. Kreisky belittled the risks once Soviet forces are out of Austria and the Secretary pointed out the danger of Soviet military forces returning under the guise of techicians in the oil fields.

It was agreed that should the Soviets withdraw the troop proposal, Dr. Figl would ask for a recess until the next day, giving him time for consultation with the three powers and Vienna.

Dr. Kreisky speaking on behalf only of his own party in the coalition, considered the neutrality declaration just a device for obtaining a treaty, and expressed a wish to have the security of NATO if that were possible. He felt that it is not. The Secretary cited the present protection of NATO under the occupation and called attention to one disadvantage of the Soviet proposals. If, he said, the Western Powers could not keep sufficient forces in Austria they might not be effective in putting the NATO treaty into force in case of a Soviet attack, since a small number might be by-passed and no actual contact made. Dr. Figl said he understood the point.

The Secretary closed by thanking the Austrian representatives for coming to see him and expressed his bitter disappointment over the conference results. He said he had hoped that the Soviets would wish to bring one positive result out of the conference and that they might have chosen an Austrian treaty. Dr. Figl said he had had similar hopes.

  1. According to a paper dated Feb. 16, Secretary Dulles met with Figl at 12:30 “to stiffen him up before his 1:30 luncheon with Molotov.” This is the only reference to the time of this conversation. No record of the meeting between Molotov and Figl has been found in Department of State files.
  2. For Secretary Dulles’ opening statement, see Secto 24, Document 360.