Monday, November 28, 2022

Christian Ortner: Let’s finally grow up!

Christian Ortner: Let’s finally grow up!

Russia’s attack on a peaceful neighbor should have consequences for Austria, says exxpress columnist Christian Ortner: the republic’s accession to NATO and billions for the federal army.

editorial staff
7 March 2022 06:00

Germany, which has been at loggerheads financially with its own national defense for decades, is suddenly spending 100 billion euros to make its Bundeswehr at least halfway fit for an emergency. After all, that’s 100,000 times one million euros, a pretty chunk of money even for prosperous Germany.

Switzerland, on the other hand, not dissimilar to Austria geographically and in terms of its neutrality, voted in a referendum for the purchase of 35 ultra-modern F-35 fighter jets at a cost of a whopping 6 billion Swiss francs. Non-aligned Finland, in turn, bought 64 copies of the same American fighter jet.

Our way of life is massively threatened

All of this is not happening for fun and frolics, or because the top military need new toys, but out of a rather uncomfortable realization: the realization that war in Europe has once again become a terribly real possibility. And states have exactly two options for reacting to this: either become so strong militarily that it becomes too expensive to attack them – or ultimately negligently jeopardize their own state existence.

Of course, this also applies to Austria. But the country’s political elites – more or less across all parties – have largely closed themselves to this idea to this day.

An attitude that is probably popular with voters, but shows a deep irresponsibility. Anyone who, after the incredible Russian attack on Ukraine (and the feared annexation of Taiwan by China), does not understand that ultimately all of Europe and its way of life are under threat, as it has not been since 1945, has really not understood anything and therefore actually has not no place in high offices and functions.

Neutrality is life-threatening

Finally, with the attack on Ukraine, the notion that neutrality and non-alignment are any guarantors of security and peace also tipped over.

On the contrary: only those who are part of the most powerful defense alliance in the world, NATO, can feel reasonably safe today.

Although hypothetical historical research is notoriously frowned upon, one can say with a high degree of probability that if Ukraine had joined NATO ten years ago or so, the Russians would not have dared attack it. That would have saved the Ukrainian people a lot of suffering.

Billions are due now

I am firmly convinced that Austria should draw a few conclusions from all of this quickly, without hesitation and consistently.

First: join the North Atlantic Pact as soon as possible. This is done very quickly and brings the Republic a significantly higher level of military security.

Second, and quite related to this: to equip the federal army in a way that is appropriate for the army of a prosperous, medium-sized country in the EU in view of the new threat from the east. If you take Germany as a benchmark, that meant about 10 billion once; in view of the completely exhausted state of the federal army, however, 15 billion are more realistic. In addition, there would be an annual military budget of at least 2% of economic output, i.e. around 8 billion per year instead of the current just under 3 billion.

Six billion would be spent on that alone if three dozen modern fighter jets were purchased, like Switzerland. And not primarily to fight the air battle on Lake Neusiedl – but to be able to make a significant contribution to the defense of Europe in the Baltic States, in Poland, Romania or Bulgaria; just like the other Europeans are already doing today.

If you now shake your head and reply that this is an unbelievably large amount of money, then I have to reply: yes, you are right. But in the face of the entirely new world situation, there is no decent and honest alternative to it; muddling through as before is not an option for a community that even wants to take itself seriously in any way.

And then you have to put that in perspective: just a few weeks ago, the government had no problems blowing billions on nonsense a la vaccination fleet.

Nevertheless, and this must also be made clear: if the state spends significantly more on national defense in the future, it will have to save elsewhere – on social benefits, on subsidies, on its own civil servants, on pensions and many other expenses. We will have to learn again to practice renunciation.

Because if we don’t learn this and refuse to leave our usual comfort zone for a few years, it can happen that we lose more than comfort: our freedom.

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