Lonely and commonly still On the military strategy of the neutral national state in new Europe: Austria's example

Horst Pleiner/Andreas W. Stupka


The paper at hand examines the development of Austrian security policy since the end of the occupation by the four allies 1955 up to today’s era of growing together of the continent under the protection of the European Union. The paper deals with the general security-political set-up in Europe during this period and explains the term strategy in its first chapter. The second chapter deals with Austria’s special situation as a neutral country during the era of the Cold War. The third chapter investigates Austria’s strategic approaches during the period of upheaval, its approach towards NATO, and its entry into the European Union as a neutral nation. The fourth chapter offers an assessment of a possible military strategic alignment of the European Union and its member states, which aim to establish common defence in the foreseeable future. In order to do this, a change in nation-state strategic thinking is required - it is the intention of the paper to point out this very fact. During the era of the Cold War strategic thinking in Austria had trodden a path which only slowly led to practicable security-political concept, and which culminated with the so-called “territorial defence” of the 80ies. Before that, due to the experiences made in the course of the preceding wars and the era of occupation, the efficient establishment of armed forces which was the duty of a nation pledged to permanent neutrality had proceeded rather hesitantly. Applying a clever diplomatic strategy by establishing Vienna as a UN location and carrying out UN peace missions, politics tried to gain a special position of Austria in the world, thus getting appropriate protection for the country. In view of the alleged futility of a defensive battle against the superior allied armies, the military component of national defence was considered to be of secondary importance. With the military strategic concept of “territorial defence” this attitude changed fundamentally. With this military strategic concept on the one hand, and the diplomatic-military track with intensive involvement in the efforts towards peace of the United Nations on the other hand, the neutral small state Austria had developed a comprehensive national defence which now gave chances of survival to the country, even in case of a clash of the super-powers. Austria’s entry into the European Union as a neutral country demands contributions of solidarity from Austria, as the Union is geared towards common defence. In the national states immediate national defence is to be organised, which could fall back on the concept of “territorial defence”, thus being able to guarantee both the security of the individual nations and of the entire Union in a militia-kind structured form.