Austria, strategy and hybrid conflicts

A contribution to the security-political discourse

Matthias Wasinger

This article deals with strategy in Austria. Although the author follows in content the definition of strategy according to Andreas W. Stupka, that is to say it being the “systematic preparation and coordinated application of all resources by the government and the use of all its options for safeguarding the security-political objectives against all threats”, all aspects according to Henry Mintzberg are picked up consequently. The last thing the author wants to do is draw a doctrinaire picture of a strategic conception by means of opponent definitions. On the contrary, the topical inventory in the strategic spectrum of the Republic of Austria is contrasted with the existing requirements. In order not to slip into the field of theory and incredibilities, topical incidents and events in the near past are worked off. Basically, the Republic of Austria considers itself a part of the Western world of values. As the dealing with hybrid conflicts is not seen as a chance, but on the contrary is understood as a threat and consequently connoted negatively, such an obvious and “devious proceeding” is basically not associated with partners, but with potential aggressors like China and Russia. The narrative of a security warrant for Austria is not dealt with in the representational article due to Austria’s neutral attitude. In truth, the security-political incidents of the last years have proven that after the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty the “end of all wars” has not occurred. Strengthened Russia with its claim of international acknowledgement as a nuclear great power, international terrorism as well as the selfishness of the national states have disproved the fiction of a peaceful future time and again.

By the biased annexation of Crimea at the latest, it has become obvious that in the 21st century still state frontiers are changed by force of arms, and that conventional weapon systems are deployed in the framework of armed conflicts on the European continent. Repeated (low-altitude) overflights by both Russian and American warplanes over maritime resources of the particular opposite side remind of the climaxes of the so-called Cold War as well. In the course of the conflict in Syria even a Russian warplane was engaged and finally shot down by an aerial warfare means of a NATO-state. Thus, war has obviously lost its relevance to the current situation. The conventional encounter between states, confederations and alliances as a possible end of hybrid attacks has to be considered to be unalterably topical. Hybrid threats obviously represent the topical and presumably future challenges for European as well as national architecture of security. In the course of the Neutrality Federal Constitutional Law, the Republic of Austria has decided to be willing to meet those threats independently until the beginning of the armed conflict. The relevance of these threats for Austria arises from the geographical position as a pivotal axis in the heart of Europe. Most likely Austria will not be defined as the solitary target of an attack, but presumably as a potential marching-through area or a soft target. The peculiarity of hybrid attacks implies that they are normally not detected, and the allocation of an adversary remains difficult or even impossible until the end. Attacks are made undercover, surprising and well-coordinated. Often the superficially detected does not represent the proper target of the attack. In the course of national existence protection, a strategy can serve as plan, feint, pattern of action, political guideline for positioning, and endpoint. All these, however, imply permanent verification of validity, credibility, clear control structures, discipline in implementation, a permanent target-performance comparison, as well as, above all, to be willing to perceive this at all. In this way one can appropriately confront the overall national threat by hybrid attacks. In theory, the Republic of Austria is prepared for such attacks, but in reality there is still considerable room for further development in the sense of the whole.