9. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, September 23, 19551
- Austrian Matters
- Dr. Karl Gruber, Ambassador of Austria
- Dr. Ernst Lemberger, Counselor, Austrian Embassy
- Mr. Livingston T. Merchant, Assistant Secretary, European Affairs
- Mr. Edgar P. Allen—WE
Ambassador Gruber came in at his request this afternoon for the purpose of giving Mr. Merchant assurances with respect to the Soviet offer to provide military equipment for Austria. The views expressed by Dr. Gruber were, in substance, similar to those expressed to officers of WE on September 16 (see memorandum of September 20 from Mr. Tyler to Mr. Merchant).2
Dr.Gruber said that he had received no further reports from his government in regard to this matter since his conversation with us on September 16. He said, however, that he had had extensive conversations in Vienna in August with Chancellor Raab and Foreign Minister Figl and that he is 100 per cent convinced that Austria has no intention of being armed by the Soviets for two reasons: (1) the use of Soviet arms by Austria would create an impossible logistics problem and (2) Austria has no intention of endangering its present good relations with the West. He said that, in his opinion, the Soviets were faced with the alternative of either registering complaint concerning the furnishing of arms by the US or furnishing arms themselves and that faced with this alternative and with the fact that they had no legitimate basis under the treaty for protesting the furnishing of arms by the US, the Soviets logically decided to furnish some arms themselves. Ambassador Gruber does not believe that any equipment furnished by the Soviets will be modern or in very great quantity (he is aware of the list of Soviet arms given to General Arnold by General Liebitzky). He is convinced that it is in the best interests of us all that Austria accept the Soviet offer to furnish arms inasmuch as this will lay the groundwork for the US to furnish more equipment later without protest from the Soviets.
Mr.Merchant agreed that the Soviet action would remove any basis for Soviet complaint over the furnishing of US arms. He stressed the importance of Austria keeping us informed concerning the details of any equipment received from the Soviets in order that our Defense Department and the Congress if necessary may have the complete picture and in order that we may be in a position to determine Austria’s needs for equipment in addition to that already turned over to them by the US. Mr. Merchant pointed out the danger that the Soviet action may be “the camel’s nose under the tent” and that it could possibly lead to a Soviet request for a military mission in Austria. Gruber confirmed Mr. Merchant’s impression that [Page 20] Austria has not received any request along these lines from the Soviets.
In response to Mr. Merchant’s inquiry, Ambassador Gruber said that the condition of the USIA factories turned over to the Austrians by the Soviets is as a whole much better than was expected; that some of the factories are in fact in fairly good shape. Ambassador Gruber mentioned in this connection that the International Bank is sending a mission to Austria to look into the problem of investment needs for these USIA factories.
Ambassador Gruber referred to the fact that the Western Powers are currently studying Austrian draft legislation on neutrality and confirmed our impression that no formal action will be taken by Austria in this matter until after the deadline for the withdrawal of occupation forces, i.e., October 25.
Ambassador Gruber concluded the conversation by observing that there is no “new religion” in Austria; that Austria is just as Western-minded as ever and that its first objective has been to rid itself of the Eastern grip on its territory; that Austria must proceed very carefully, however, as long as it still has economic obligations under the treaty and it cannot afford to create any political mistrust on the part of the Soviets until these obligations have been liquidated. He added that Austria’s courage will be more evidently displayed as soon as it becomes politically feasible to do so.