174. Telegram From the Embassy in Austria to the Department of State0
2093. Pass Defense. People’s Party official informed Embassy in confidence Defense Minister Schleinzer has received invitation visit Soviet Union but plans delay acceptance on grounds preoccupation with forthcoming elections. Embassy aware possibility such invitation since last fall when ARMA recommended US invitation to Schleinzer in order permit him avoid Soviet offer.
In light fact proposed US-Austrian defense loan possibility rather accurately reported local Communist press, matter will no doubt be raised not only during Schleinzer visit but also during Gorbach visit Moscow end this month.
Aside from equipment (now largely unusable) acquired from Soviets just after peace treaty, Austrians have since followed consistent policy making only token purchases from East bloc. At time visit several years ago, Soviet Defense Minister Malinovsky urged Austria request Soviet equipment. No action taken on this offer but it can be anticipated similar and perhaps more specific offer would now be made to Gorbach as countermeasure to present negotiations with US. Soviets will presumably make point Austrian reliance US as principal military supplier [Page 375] is not consistent neutrality, and will probably (perhaps mainly through Czechs or Poles) repeat attractive credit proposals we know have been made in past. Having gotten nowhere with Raab government on matter, they will now try hard test Gorbach’s vulnerabilities.
We further confidentially informed by party official close to Gorbach that Chancellor uneasy about prompt utilization US defense credits if arranged, possibly because of forebodings about pressure Soviets will apply during Moscow visit. Perhaps source was simply forewarning us that our credit proposal would have to be sufficiently favorable to avoid easy rejection by Chancellor on purely financial grounds but in any case developments suggest some urgency in trying reach basic agreement with GOA soon as possible.
On other hand, Schleinzer told me at reception June 6 he not unhappy about his reports from Washington on status negotiations, and he felt progress being made.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 763.56/6–862. Confidential.↩