Following the initiation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Austria abandoned its policy of being neutral during warfare and decided to embrace the one-sided narrative and recurrent falsehoods of the US and Europe. By doing so, Vienna deviated from its historic path which was marked by non-aggression and respecting other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The decision to stand with a comedic failure named Volodymyr Zelensky culminated in catastrophic repercussions for the Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer. He never realised that establishing a military and economic partnership with Ukraine will result in unprecedented disasters.
In fact, TFI Global explained that backing Ukraine nearly cost Nehammer his political career. His support around Austria declined significantly, according to the morning consult’s approval rating, Nehammer’s approval rating plummeted to a mere 32% and about 61% Austrians were disillusioned with his governance. Similarly, his party, the OVP, was approved by just 22% of the people.
Leaving behind the principle of neutrality had disastrous consequences on Austria. Nehammer was under the illusion that assisting Kyiv is equivalent to doing a noble cause. As a matter of fact, Nehammer was so blinded in his devotion to the lost cause of Zelensky that he left no opportunity in vilifying Russia. The Austrian chancellor even went to the extent of accusing Vladimir Putin of perpetrating war crimes in Ukraine.
In a further show of loyalty to his masters Biden, Macron and Leyen, Nehammer had also announced that Austria’s defence expenditure would be doubled i.e. increasing it from 0.7% to 1.5% of the GDP.
However, the people of Austria never wanted their country to partner with the West, a few polls showed that around 75% of the people disapproved of NATO’s agenda.
Austria’s changed foreign policy stance was big news given the fact that earlier despite the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Vienna had good relations with Russia.
However, just like other European countries, which are catching up with repercussions of backing Ukraine, Austria too is slowly realising that escaping from the toxic shadow of dominance of the EU is indispensable for a successful foreign policy. It has seen how Biden, Leyen and Macron turned Ukraine into their disastrous geopolitical experiment. And how these malicious leaders are pushing other peaceful and non-aggressive nations into a conflict with Russia.
Therefore, Austria is gradually taking decisions and steps which reflect an anti-EU and pro-Russian stance. It is clearly evident through these initiatives that Vienna is moving closer to Moscow and is undoing the blunders it had made earlier. It is no longer complying with the authoritative diktats of the West and is adopting measures which are favourable to the arch enemy of the US and Europe i.e. Vladimir Putin.
So what are these decisions?
Steps taken by Austria which will wean itself off EU’s hegemony
Due to the fact that Gazprom is once again providing the full quantity of gas that was contracted, while deliveries from Germany and Italy are declining, Russian gas imports into Austria are approaching market shares last seen before World War II.
Few nations relied on Russian gas as much as Austria, which received 80% of its domestic supply from the east before the Ukraine War. This was largely because of the gas agreements Vienna made with the Soviet Union beginning in the 1960s in return for Austria’s continuing neutrality and non-alignment.
The CFO at Austrian energy major, OMV, noted, “We are temporarily back at 100% [gas deliveries from Gazprom] at the moment, but have also seen values at 30% and below in the past.”
In fact, the figures from December 2022 already show the return of Russian gas to Austria.
Read more: Austria regrets conflict with Russia
Russian gas accounted for 71% of the total that month, even though overall gas imports were lower than in previous years, according to figures from ENTSOG and the Austrian regulator, E-Control.
Apart from buying gas from Russia, Austria also forged a diplomatic relationship with Russia.
On 13th February, Austria granted visas to Russian representatives for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) meeting which is going to be held in Vienna on February 23 and 24. Fifteen of the Russian delegates who have been given visas to be a part of the discussions are sanctioned by the EU which accused them of fuelling the Ukraine war.
In response, ambassadors and other delegates from twenty Western nations at the OSCE criticised Austria for this decision. In a letter co-signed by 81 OSCE delegates, from Canada, France, UK and Ukraine have asked Austria to bar the Russian delegation from entering the country and taking part in the meeting.
However, the Austrian government rejected the unreasonable demands of these delegates, who are serving their masters in Washington and Brussels. In fact, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Schallenberg, has emphasised that it will continue a partnership with Moscow.
The OSCE is a regional intergovernmental organisation which focuses on subjects like human rights, arms control, free press and democracy, its headquarters are in Vienna.
Following its decision to grant visas to Russian representatives, Austria took another step which is favourable to Russia.
On 14th February, Austria’s Defence Minister, Klaudia Tanner, said that Austria will not instruct Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate Leopard 2 combat tanks in a written statement to public broadcaster Ö1.
Many nations declared they would provide the German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine when Germany provided the necessary approval. Significantly, Austria has chosen to restrict itself to humanitarian help, hence it is not included in this.
Tanner further emphasised that it is the “sovereign decision of each state to support Ukraine within the framework of its laws”.
Austria is also forging deep ties with Russia’s allies, one of them being Turkmenistan.
On 17th February, Turkmenistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashid Meredov, held a meeting with the Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, Alexander Schallenberg. During the high-level discussions, both sides emphasised partnership between Austria and Turkmenistan in the areas of industrial sector, renewable power, transportation and other key domains.
Meredov stressed cooperation between Austria and Turkmenistan in the international organisations such as the UN and OSCE.
Focusing on bilateral commerce and financial ties between Austria and Turkmenistan, Meredov proposed measures to strengthen partnership. Recently, the eleventh assembly of the Joint Austrian-Turkmen Economic Commission was held in Ashgabat, which is the capital of Turkmenistan. On the occasion, a delegation of Austrian enterprise circles visited Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan is a strategic partner of Russia. Therefore, Austria consolidating its relationship with Ashgabat indicates a landmark step in the geopolitical arena.
In this backdrop, Austria also took a stance which deviated from its peers in the European Union.
On 20th February, Austria, along with Finland, opposed the EU’s new joint debt ahead of the Munich Security Conference in the backdrop of rising calls to increase EU expenditure. European nations agreed to a €750 billion NextGenerationEU package in response to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Austria and Finland have taken the position that spending should stop there.
The push for joint EU debt to match the US Inflation Reduction Act comes from France and Italy and has been supported by the European Commission. The Austrian chancellor Nehammer argued that depending on the existing joint debt from 2020 would have to be enough, noting that of the €800 billion only €400 billion had so far been spent.
Read more: ‘We still depend HEAVILY on Russia’, Austria debunks EU’s lies
Therefore, these decisions taken by Austria clearly indicate that its earlier foreign policy and diplomatic strategy, which drove the country into recurrent catastrophes, has experienced an unprecedented demise. Austria is moving away from the dangerous clutches of the US and Europe and is choosing a direction which will take it closer to Russia.
It remains to be seen whether Moscow establishes a closer partnership with Austria in future.
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