"Austria was neutral, Austria is neutral, Austria will remain neutral." With this apodictic statement, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has now attempted to end a debate before it had really got going, especially in his own party ÖVP .

Sweden and Finland, which are also EU states but not NATO members, are very openly and concretely considering giving up the non-allied state.

In Austria there are only a few backbenchers and old-timers who have dared to give up the status of neutrality in view of the "change of times" after Russia's attack on (non-aligned) Ukraine.

Stephen Lowenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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The former ÖVP top politician Andreas Khol did this most clearly.

He was one of the strategic minds behind the first ÖVP-FPÖ government under Wolfgang Bowl, during which Austria's accession to NATO was briefly discussed, albeit without consequences.

Khol wrote in a guest article for the Grazer "Kleine Zeitung": "A neutral or non-aligned state remains alone when it is attacked." Austria should therefore join NATO or participate in a European army of the EU.

Khol is aware that three quarters of Austrians (according to surveys) still firmly support neutrality.

They need to be informed and persuaded.

"Deplorable condition" of the army

The incumbent member of the National Council, Friedrich Ofenauer, spokesman for the ÖVP on defense policy, was a little more cautious.

He was of the opinion that neutrality and its form had to be "seriously discussed".

The example of Ukraine shows what happens when the integrity of the national territory is not respected and a country is left to its own defense.

However, Ofenauer then turned to the question of his own readiness to defend himself, which represented the second side of the coin of neutrality.

The military national defense should be seen in harmony with the civilian, economic and "spiritual national defense", the latter in particular must "be breathed new life into".

Christian Ségur-Cabanac, who is President of the Society for Political-Strategic Studies, also points in a similar direction.

When asked by the FAZ, he referred to the constitutional requirement of neutrality, but also to the "deplorable condition" of the federal army.

Austria must "credibly convey that it is able to defend its territory on land and in the air".

But what if a third party disregards neutrality, if, for example, Russia fired a missile to demonstrate its strength, but not on NATO territory, but on neutral Austria?

Would the United States, France, or Britain then enter nuclear war without an obligation to provide assistance?

That is "also hypothetically an absurd scenario," says the retired general.

Nehammer himself had already stuck to the concept of neutrality for Austria in response to a corresponding question from this newspaper last week.

He pointed out that military neutrality was "forced upon" Austria after the Second World War "as a price for regaining freedom".

But it is now part of the “Austrian identity”.

Austria is ready to defend its constitution and neutrality.

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