As the Chancellor so aptly put it, our country is militarily neutral, but by no means in its values or its relationship to international law. Any other interpretation of “neutrality” would also be utter nonsense, as it would completely deprive us of any ability to act on an international level. Actors who call for a policy of global apathy as an ideal for our country cannot be taken seriously.
Although of course the question arises as to whether a state surrounded by NATO members can still be militarily neutral at all, or is it just free-riding in terms of security policy? But that’s a different construction site.
Irrespective of this, we are part of this European Union of our own free will and yes, we feel committed to the western community of values, democracy and peace. Therefore, there is not the slightest doubt that Austria is firmly on the side of the Ukrainians in this war and must do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the population.
A look at the great civil society initiatives and the willingness of Austrians to donate is really encouraging and also fills me with great pride in our people.
Wherever you look, people are helping, even with private vehicles, transports of aid are being organized and those seeking protection – women, children, the elderly – are being brought to safety.
For more and more people, just sitting and hoping for the best is simply not enough. They want to do something, to make their small contribution in a world that, via live ticker and telegram update, delivers the war to us in the living room or on our mobile phones, so to speak, first row.
No, being neutral, not feeling anything when children are being bombed, when wild hordes are devastating villages and towns, that’s no longer possible.
So it’s no wonder that the Federal Chancellor’s visit to the scenes of Russian war crimes in Ukraine was overwhelmingly well received.
The man is doing something! At least a little, because Austria is not allowed to deliver the weapons so urgently requested by President Selenskyj due to its neutrality. And Nehammer didn’t have the required gas embargo against Russia in his luggage either.
With a dependency of almost 80%, our blessed Alpine Republic depends on the Russian gas tap like an addict on a needle. Even if we wanted to (which I’m assuming now) we won’t get away from it anytime soon. So domestic billions will continue to flow to Moscow and thus inevitably feed Putin’s war machine.
We are standing, if we will, before the ruins of a complete failure of energy policy over the last 50 years. Instead of compensating for a lack of national resources by investing in renewables, the focus has been on imports and, instead of diversification, on cheap Russian pipeline gas. It hurts to realize that you are on the short end of the stick or at the wrong end of the gas tap.
Seen in this way, the slating of Nehammer’s trip to Moscow is not really understandable in this dimension. I mean, we’re locked into upright contracts, sending money to Russia on a daily basis, so why not use the channels that already exist to say face-to-face and “in no uncertain terms” what needs to be said. That Austria, in agreement with its European partners, is demanding a quick end to the war, that the sanctions will remain in place until then and that no war crime will go unpunished. We don’t know whether it actually happened like this or something like that behind closed doors. At least I hope so.
In any case, the mission seemed granted a small success. In the report of the meeting, the Kremlin-affiliated daily “Kommersant” quoted a broadcast from the Chancellery in unusual detail. Among them: What “immeasurable suffering” the “Russian war of aggression” means for the Ukrainian people. Published in a Russia that virtually criminalizes the use of the term “war” and shies away from any responsibility for civilian casualties.
Measured against some expectations and even more so against some hopes, that may seem negligible. But in any case it is more than a twiddling of the thumbs in the Federal Chancellery could have achieved. Also: Let’s not make ourselves smaller than we are. Measured by GDP, the Russian bear is more of a bear, and measured by the salaries that are paid to members of the government in this country, we are a world power. As a citizen, you can probably ask for some initiative.