What do Americans think of Austria?
The strategy of the Americans in Austria
In a paper by the US Foreign Office, the US wants to push back Russia and China's influence in Vienna. Ambassador Traina denies that US services have stopped sharing certain information since the pro-Russian FPÖ came to power.
The US State Department laid out its strategy for Austria on 16 pages. Target number four, which mentions increasing Austria's role as a “reliable partner” in the security sector, caused a particular stir on Vienna's Ballhausplatz. Because in this passage not only doubts about the reliability of the Russia-friendly FPÖ become clear. It is also expressly mentioned that the USA is therefore reluctant to exchange intelligence information.
The fact that the right-wing populist party heads the Ministry of the Interior is both an opportunity and a challenge, according to the paper published on October 30th on the State Department's website. The Austrian Ministry of the Interior recognizes the value of working with the US authorities in the fight against terror, cybercrime and cross-border crime. "The pro-Russian stance of the FPÖ should at the same time lead to a pause, and it does so when it comes to sharing certain types of sensitive information."
US Ambassador Trevor Traina declined to the "Presse" and the "Kleine Zeitung" on the sidelines of a dinner that Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gave on the occasion of the anti-Semitism conference. Even more: He denied that Austria would be cut by the US intelligence services. The strategy paper was drawn up months ago, even before his arrival as ambassador, by the political section of the US mission in Vienna and is therefore out of date. “The US has no hesitation in sharing information with the Austrian federal government. All ministers have our full confidence, ”explained Traina. Just two weeks ago he accompanied FPÖ Interior Minister Herbert Kickl in Washington for a detailed discussion with US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. The two had agreed a follow-up appointment, said Traina. A meeting between Kickl and the US attorney general was planned in Washington, but Jeff Sessions had resigned the day before.
Alternative to "Russian dominance"
According to Traina, the US intelligence services work almost every day with the authorities in Vienna. Overall, however, the Austrians have been shown some skepticism recently. The Ministry of the Interior recently had to confirm that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) had "voluntarily" withdrawn from the Bern Club, an association of western domestic secret services, by October in order to counteract "reservations of confidence". The BVT affair and the FPÖ's affinity for Russia had certainly not helped to create trust.
According to research by the APA, the strategy paper of the US Foreign Office had initially taken up the Russian propaganda medium "Sputnik" with glee, namely with the title: "USA want Russia to stop dominating Austria." In fact, the Americans refer to this in their guidelines Russian dominance of the Austrian and regional gas market as a challenge. Therefore America will promote alternative gas delivery routes.
Overall, the USA has set itself the urgent goal of counteracting the "growing Russian and Chinese influence in Austria". The Austrians will also be "urged" to plead in the EU for an early admission of the Western Balkans and to participate even more than before in the military missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The Americans are satisfied with the “already heavy” US military transit traffic through and over Austria. However, they also want to increase cooperation in this regard.
And because Turkey blocks the participation of Austrian soldiers in programs of the NATO partnership for peace, the USA has a consolation ready for the armed forces: They offer the Austrian soldiers more joint training with the US army so that they "remain qualified" for peacekeeping operations in NATO missions.
The US State Department publishes "integrated country strategies" on countries around the globe on its homepage. The paper on Austria was published on October 30th. It was created by the US embassy in Vienna. However, before his arrival in the summer, US Ambassador Trevor Traina asserts. The charge was then Eugene Young, who is now active in Israel.
("Die Presse", print edition, November 22, 2018)
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