Europe without neutrals: NATO and Austria
On May 10 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels to sign an agreement on the opening of a NATO Liaison Office in Vienna.
The NATO chief thanked Austria for twenty-six years of military cooperation, beginning with Austria joining the Partnership for Peace program in 1995. In particular he expressed appreciation for the nation’s contribution to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, where its troops served with those of fifty-three other countries under NATO command. (Among the others were fellow European Union member states and NATO partners Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. In 2014 Finland and Sweden were elevated to the status of Enhanced Opportunities Partners. The two nations were in charge of Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province where their troops engaged in combat operations while under NATO command.)
Stoltenberg also acknowledged Austria’s contribution to NATO operations in Bosnia and in Kosovo, and discussed with its foreign minister the situation in the Western Balkans. He applauded Austria’s role in promoting increased cooperation – to the point of effective merger – between the EU and NATO.
The Austrian Armed Forces International Centre is an official Partnership for Peace Training and Education Centre which “promotes interoperability by providing training opportunities for Allies and other partner countries.”
Austria is also a member of the bloc’s Defence Education Enhancement Programme and of the Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process through which it has “declared an increasing number of forces and capabilities as potentially available for NATO-led operations.” For the past seven years it has participated in NATO’s Interoperability Platform with twenty-three other partners that are “active contributors to NATO’s operations.” It is also a participant in the NATO Trust Fund and its Science for Peace and Security Programme.
The agreement formalized today will effect the formal establishment of the NATO Liaison Office to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), based in Vienna, and other international organisations in the nation’s capital.
On its website NATO lists every country on the European continent (except for microstates Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Mario and Vatican City) as members or partners. The partners are subsumed under programs like the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Partnership for Peace, Individual Partnership Action Plans, Membership Action Plans, Partnership Interoperability Initiative, Enhanced Opportunities Partnerships, Annual National Programmes, the Adriatic Charter, etc., often more than one at a time.
There are no neutrals in Europe. There were in World War I. There were in World War II. But not now.