We should question neutrality, even as rational debates become more difficult.
Everyone knows what a Mozart ball* tastes like, and pictures of Lipizzaner horses with their not quite natural movements are very familiar. So it’s unclear why Wolfgang Schüssel made reference to this triage of Mozart ball, Lipizzaner horse and neutrality. Because neutrality has become a myth without real foundations, which everyone imagines differently. Whether it should just be done away with, as the New Austria and Liberal Forum’s candidate for the EU elections, Claudia Gamon, advocates, should at least be discussed with a level head.
A brief historical digression: The Austrian State Treaty of May 15, 1955 does not mention neutrality, and the Austrian Declaration of Neutrality was not ratified by the National Council until Oct. 26, 1955, but there is a clear relationship between them. Joseph Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, also would not have agreed to Austrian independence if the government had not committed itself to eternal neutrality modeled after the Swiss. And by the way, vice-chancellor of the Socialist Party of Austria, Adolf Schärf, was skeptical until the end; he wanted to ensure that Austria would not enter into a military alliance. Prime Minister Julius Raab from the Austrian People’s Party, in contrast, pushed for a quick resolution to the talks in Moscow in mid-April 1955 because he wanted “to go into the upcoming elections as the prime minister of the Austrian State Treaty,” as Bruno Kreisky wrote in his memoirs.
Austria has much experience from the Cold War era with neutrality, which was not the same as neutralism. Every government emphasized that it felt obligated to the Western system of values. There was thus no guarantee of lasting peace. One can’t forget the background conversation with German Prime Minister Helmut Kohl in 1987, when Germans and the French were rehearsing for mutual defense against Russian tanks along the Danube. When the Austrian correspondent asked why the advance by NATO troops into Austrian territory was used as a training scenario, Kohl responded gruffly, “You know who guarantees your freedom, and it’s definitely not your military.”
Cyberwar instead of Tank Battles
A tank battle in the Danube Valley seems unthinkable now, in any case. Cyberattacks on European institutions, in contrast, are already a reality. How can we defend ourselves against them? The answer is in our hands. We don’t need any military bases in Austria, which are forbidden by law, but we need to work with NATO beyond existing agreements, particularly when Donald Trump keeps questioning the western alliance and European defense becomes more and more necessary in the context of the EU.
But the entire government—or even better, all parties—need to advocate for a truly integrated Europe. The Freedom Party of Austria doesn’t want that; it wants a strongly nationalist state. They will always mistrust each other. But neutrality doesn’t help with that, either.
*Editor’s note: A Mozart ball consists of pistachio marzipan and nougat covered in chocolate.