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Austria

 
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Austria

NEUTRALITY AND THE ARMED FORCES

Under the State Treaty of 1955, a number of restrictions were imposed that affected the buildup of the Bundesheer. Under Article 13 of the treaty, Austria was prohibited from possessing "any self-propelled or guided missiles or guns with a range of more than thirty kilometers." On October 26, 1955, the government passed a law in which Austria declared of its own free will its permanent neutrality. The law further specified that "Austria will never in the future accede to any military alliances nor permit the establishment of military bases by foreign states on her territory." The Austrian government asserted that it alone was competent to define Austrian neutrality.

Austria has interpreted its posture as a neutral state in Europe in somewhat the same terms as Switzerland. It has deliberately adopted a more active policy of involvement in international peacekeeping and humanitarian matters, in particular those it could perform in conjunction with other members of the UN or at the behest of the UN. In 1960 the army sent a medical team to the Congo (present-day Zaire) and has provided other medical units, military police, and observers to Cyprus and other areas in the Middle East since 1964. By the early 1990s, some 30,000 Austrians had served in UN missions. As of 1993, one battalion of 350 troops was deployed with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) patrolling the buffer zone between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish forces. Another battalion of 450 troops was on the Golan Heights in Syria as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Seven observers were with the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM), and seventeen observers were attached to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in Cambodia.

Austria did not participate directly in the UN-backed action in 1991 to drive the Iraqi invasion forces out of Kuwait. It did, however, provide financial assistance to states suffering from dislocation caused by the invasion. In addition, the United States was granted expanded overflight authority for troops and supplies in connection with Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. This action, a departure from Austria's former posture of strict neutrality, was interpreted as a gesture to help demonstrate that Austria's neutral status need not be a barrier to future membership in the European Union (EU--see Glossary). In the same vein, Austria announced that it would grant NATO permission to use its airspace for airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft as "an expression of solidarity within the framework of pan-European security."

With the exception of the prohibition on guided missile systems, restrictions in the State Treaty on the acquisition of particular weapons have not inhibited Austria's defense buildup. Austria refrained for many years from the purchase of modern antiaircraft and antitank guided missiles in spite of the fact that such weapons have been accepted as essential elements of defense in all modern armies. Short-range weapons of this type had not been developed when the treaty was concluded. Nevertheless, in 1988 when Austria sought a reinterpretation of Article 13 by the other signatories to justify purchasing such weapons, its attempt was not successful.

In 1989, however, Austrian authorities reached a decision to acquire surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and antitank missiles on the understanding that they were intended solely for defensive purposes. The changed security situation in Europe made it possible for Austria to take such a step without fear of provoking countries that belonged to the Warsaw Pact. As of 1993, Austria was accepting delivery of BILL (Bofors, Infantry, Light and Lethal) antitank missiles from Sweden and was also planning to purchase larger antitank missiles from France or the United States. Its Draken interceptor aircraft will be armed with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and its ground-based antiaircraft missile defense will be equipped with French Mistral missiles.

Data as of December 1993

Austria - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • National Security


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