16. Telegram From the Office of the High Commissioner for Austria to the Department of State1

2174. I had long talk today with Kreisky in effort reorient his thinking as he has evidently had considerable influence on both [Page 23] Schaerf and Raab. He began by stating Austrians had been most disappointed at Berlin rejection Molotov’s proposed continuation discussion Austrian question by Ambassadors in Vienna. Austrians had understood from British and French and to some extent from us that in return for their taking strong line which we desired, some machinery would be set up to continue consideration of Austrian problem. He was therefore disturbed by fact that we now apparently at this late date were thinking in terms of exploratory talks, by Ambassadors’ conference, which we had rejected in Berlin. (I understand Raab is somewhat favorably inclined to handling matter in this way.) I said I could give him only my personal thoughts and assumptions but it seemed clear that Soviet rejection of Secretary’s offer at Berlin to sign treaty in form Russians had proposed, had clearly demonstrated they were not prepared for any real progress on treaty. Secretary Dulles had made clear that he believed progress on this and other matters could only be made against background of Western unity and strength. Unfortunately French had rejected EDC2 which had delayed matters but in view their ratification Paris Agreements3 time was now approaching when we might see whether further conference could be fruitful. With respect handling question Conference of Ambassadors in Vienna with Austrian participation, Secretary had made clear that his mind still open but that meeting of Foreign Ministers which would almost certainly involve discussion of Germany and China was now premature and that best way to achieve separate discussion of Austrian question which Austrians desired would be to have conference which would not be competent to go beyond consideration Austrian questions. Kreisky thought Soviets would press Austrians hard to agree to calling of conference and that any public statement we could make referring to possibility of conference would be helpful to them in resisting such pressures.

Kreisky indicated that at Moscow Austrians, in addition to probing Soviet proposals would probably discuss following questions without undertaking commitments.

They would state they could not accept merely a guarantee against Anschluss but would welcome a simple guarantee of their independence by four powers.
A Socialist idea was that they should indicate willingness guarantee not to return industrial properties classified as German assets to Germany and should at same time press Soviets give up their oil concessions or at least limit themselves to, for example, 60 percent of Austrian production with the oil fields themselves being turned back to Austrians.
Austrians might undertake to pass a basic law for defense of Republic, such as those already existing in Germany and Italy, which would prohibit organizations aimed at destroying integrity of state, wearing of uniforms, etc. This law would apply to Nazis and Communists alike.

Kreisky also told me he had proposed and Raab had agreed that Bischoff should openly keep Western Ambassadors in Moscow currently informed of Austrian discussions there.

With regard to first point, after giving Kreisky our official position on guarantees as stated by Secretary to Gruber,4 I went on to give him some personal views emphasizing them as such. I said I had been most disturbed by what appeared to be drift in Austrian thinking toward idea of neutralization. I said that if Austrians went to Moscow and conducted themselves on basis of thinking that it was quite clear they could obtain guarantee of Austrian territory from Western powers they might get themselves into situation where it was Western powers who would be blocking treaty. I pointed out that Russians appeared to be seeking commitment against military alliances in an extreme and binding form as well as guarantees against Anschluss, maintaining their foothold in Austria through possession of oil properties and DDSG as well as imposing on Austria a heavy debt for purchase of German assets. They apparently also had idea of excluding Austria from economic and political European organizations. All of these various questions were inter-related and it could be that they would be asking us to guarantee integrity of a country whose integrity was already gravely impaired by terms of treaty. This did not mean that we were not interested in maintenance of Austrian integrity against threat of Soviet Communism but pointed out that what Austrians seemed to have in mind was a formal guarantee which would run forever. It was difficult for anyone to foresee how political structure of Europe would develop particularly so long as future of Germany was undecided. To ask us to commit ourselves on question of guarantee at this time would be asking us to take step in what was almost complete darkness. I also said that I wished to make two remarks on question German assets. There seemed to me to be a great danger in opening up this question in connection with a discussion of guarantees since it implied that such guarantees might be coupled with detailed measures of implementation. If way were open for Soviet Union to pass upon Austrian economic actions, they would have little independence left. My second observation was that while US had carefully refrained from getting involved in Austrian internal questions, if by raising this matter Socialists should precipitate a coalition fight at very time they were endeavoring to present a [Page 25] united front in Moscow, this would be most unfortunate and dangerous. (One of principal reasons we have been unable make progress on German asset question has been inability of two Austrian parties to agree. Socialists would like to perpetuate nationalization and some People’s Party politicians would almost rather see them return to Germany than have this happen.)

Kreisky seemed impressed by these arguments but observed that German economic penetration was already a fact and one that worried Socialists greatly.

I also said to Kreisky that in my opinion basic Soviet motives in reopening Austrian question was not with Austrian objectives in mind but rather German problems. It might be that we could turn this to Austria’s advantage but we would have to proceed extremely carefully.

Kreisky said he had asked Gruber whether US policy was dominated by desire of our military to remain in Austria. (We understand a number of Austrians have had the idea.) He said his question had been motivated by information Austrians had received from Paris through non-American sources that US military were intensely preoccupied with question of maintaining their communications line through Austria.

He professed to be fully satisfied with explanations which Gruber and I gave him. In this connection I emphasized that we were far more interested, so far as Austria was concerned, in cold war than in a hot war particularly in these days of atomic bombs and modern communications.

Kreisky is probably most intelligent member of Austrian Govt concerned in foreign affairs and is completely pro-Western. He has been influenced however by his long service in Sweden (he has a Swedish wife) and he naturally has a strong interest in securing Austria’s independence and is naturally intrigued by possibility of protecting Austria from being squeezed to death in a great power struggle. He will of course inform Schaerf of gist of this conversation and I was perhaps indiscreet in going so far but it seemed most dangerous to me in view of his increasing influence to let him go to Moscow with serious misconceptions regarding our point of view. Incidentally Kreisky states Schaerf completely skeptical possibility anything constructive being accomplished in Moscow.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 663.001/3–3055. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Paris, and Moscow.
  2. For documentation on the French rejection of the European Defense Community (EDC) in August 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. v, Part 1, pp. 1052 ff.
  3. On March 27 the French Council of the Republic passed the Paris Agreements.
  4. See Document 12.
  5. On April 1 the Department of State cabled Thompson and expressed its complete agreement with what he had told Kreisky. (Telegram 2737 to Vienna; Department of State, Central Files, 663.001/3–2955)