304. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Austrian Matters


  • Austria
    • Dr. Leopold Figl, Foreign Minister, Republic of Austria
    • Dr. Martin Fuchs, Secretary General of the Austrian Foreign Office
    • Dr. Wilfred Platzer, Ambassador, Embassy of Austria
  • United States
    • C. Burke Elbrick, Assistant Secretary—EUR
    • Turner C. Cameron, Jr.WE
    • Constance R. HarveyWE
    • Frederic L. ChapinWE
    • Mrs. Lejins, Interpreter—LS

1. The History of Cooperation Between Austria and the United States

Mr. Elbrick referred to the history of close cooperation between Austria and the United States since 1945 and said that the United States was very proud of this cooperation and we hoped it would continue. Notable events in that cooperation were the Austrian State Treaty, the economic assistance extended over a number of years which had contributed to Austria’s splendid recovery, and assistance to Austria in financing the heavy burden of refugees. Mr. Elbrick complimented the Foreign Minister on the very fine and laudable way in which Austria had handled the Hungarian refugees. The Foreign Minister replied that Austria was very grateful for American assistance and had always had very friendly relations with the United States.

2. Foreign Minister Figl’s Speech at the United Nations

Mr. Elbrick said he was very interested in the Foreign Minister’s statement concerning the readiness of Austria to contribute to a United Nations Peace Force.1 He had also noted the Minister’s comment to the Secretary that such a contribution would be consistent with Austria’s neutrality. The Minister replied that Austria wished to do its part and would contribute if called upon.

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3. Austrian Note on Overflights

Mr. Elbrick stated that we were happy to receive the Austrian note about daylight overflights in connection with the return of American forces from Lebanon.2 The Defense Department was studying the matter and we expected to reply very shortly. We hoped eventually to return to the procedure with regard to overflights which existed before mid-July.

After a discussion of the nature of the Austrian note on overflights, about which the Foreign Minister had not been informed, Minister Figl said that the agreement which existed before mid-July had proved its worth and had not alarmed the civilian population in Austria. He hoped that it might be possible to return to the system, provided there was a relaxation of tension in the Middle East and that the United States did not request any surprise overflights at short notice. The close friendship to which Mr. Elbrick had referred also required that an attempt be made to render a service. He would see the Minister of Defense immediately upon his return and would try to find a way to meet the American wishes.

Dr. Fuchs added that he hoped that there had been no misunderstanding of Austrian action with regard to overflights. The United States must know where Austrian sympathies lay. Austria’s military neutrality was very important and Austria had to be very careful to protest any violation. Austria had to protest at least three times a month about border incursions from the east.

4. Austrian Neutrality

Mr. Elbrick agreed that Austria’s military neutrality was very important. The Soviets were interested in broadening the concept to cover other areas. Mr. Elbrick had noted, for example, that Chancellor Raab had been misquoted in Moscow as saying that Austria’s neutrality was “unlimited” when actually he had said “unlimited in time”.

Dr. Fuchs quickly replied that the Chancellor had never made the remark attributed to him.

Minister Figl said that as a result of the confusion he had made several speeches abroad after his return from Moscow in which he clearly stated that Austria’s neutrality was “military neutrality”. On ideological matters, Austria was firmly on the side of the West.

Dr. Fuchs said that Austria used the same language when talking to the Russians. In Moscow, the Soviets had attempted to smuggle a paragraph into the Communiqué to the effect that the USSR was prepared to [Page 790] protect or guarantee Austria’s neutrality. The Austrian delegation had insisted that this paragraph be deleted. Ambassador Matthews had been fully informed about the matter.

Mr. Elbrick commented that the Soviets would make efforts to change Austria’s interpretation of its neutrality if they could. He knew how Minister Figl felt and Austrian neutrality could not be equated with that of Finland or any other country.

Minister Figl said that the Finish problem was a warning to be cautious. Austria would not allow anyone else to interpret its neutrality for it.

5. Belgrade Convention

Mr. Elbrick said that there was one matter he wished to raise. We were sorry that Austria had announced its intention to adhere to the Belgrade Danube Convention without consulting with us, as Austria had promised to do.

Minister Figl stressed the importance of the Danube to Austria and that it already had bilateral agreements with all the riparian states. Austria did not want to run the risk of having any one of these agreements denounced unilaterally. By being in the Commission, Austria could have a say and it would not be possible for the agreement to be denounced unilaterally. Moreover, the present competitive position of Austria in Danube river traffic was not very satisfactory.

On his way out, Secretary General Fuchs told Mr. Elbrick that the Foreign Office would keep in close touch with Ambassador Matthews and he could assure Mr. Elbrick “There will be no more surprises!”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 763.00/9–2658. Confidential. Drafted by Chapin. A briefing memorandum from Cameron to Elbrick, September 24, is ibid., 763.13/9–2458.
  2. For text of Figl’s speech before the U.N. General Assembly, September 23, 1958, in which he made this offer, see Official Records of the General Assembly, Thirteenth Session, 16 September–13 December 1958 and 20 February–13 March 1959, pp. 107–108.
  3. Text of the note, September 24, was transmitted as an enclosure to despatch 314, September 26. (Department of State, Central Files, 763.5411/9–2658)