The former commander of the armed forces, Günter Höfler, calls for an honest and serious debate on Austria’s security policy. With Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the security situation in Europe had changed.
This requires an analysis and discussion of the future formation of the Austrian armed forces and the security policy of the country, said Höfler in the APA interview.
Inform the general public
One cannot simply withdraw from this debate and do nothing at all. “This discussion is needed. The population must be informed about the advantages and disadvantages of neutrality as well as about the advantages and disadvantages of joining NATO. The outcome of the debate is open, neutrality can ultimately be retained, a NATO -joining or an alliance freedom stand.”
“We are largely isolated”
One thing is clear to Höfler: With Finland and Sweden applying for membership, Austria will in future be excluded from the key security policy decisions in Europe. 27 out of 23 EU countries will be future NATO members. “Of course we are largely isolated. The core of European security policy is shaped in NATO. Austria has to ask itself whether it wants to sit at the table and have a say in decisions or watch from outside.”
“No one” talks about the EU army
A European army, which is also repeatedly mentioned, is absolutely not an issue at EU level. “I was most recently head of the Austrian military representation in Brussels and I can say that nobody there talks about it.” That was only discussed in Austria. No parallel structures will be set up at EU level, that is an illusion. Austrian politics is called upon to inform the population honestly and seriously and not to leave them in the dark. “You also have to tell people what NATO really is, what the advantages and disadvantages of membership are. Then you can make a decision,” says Höfler.
The Finns and Swedes would have done just that. “They thought it through and analyzed the situation. And they decided that they would be best protected if they were part of NATO. The Austrians don’t want to hear that, but the big advantage of NATO is nuclear Umbrella. The Americans have it. Only the Americans can counter Russia with nuclear weapons. Without this umbrella from the USA, we in Europe are vulnerable to nuclear blackmail and are defenseless,” says Höfler in plain language.
Huge amount of catching up to do in the army
The condition of the reliable Austrian courtiers is such that there is a lot of catching up to do in almost all areas: “We have lost the skills, we have been saved badly. What we can build on is that we have women and men in the army who strive to do the best close out of everything.”
The retired general is annoyed by the behavior of Austrian politicians. “I used to say that we handled our security policy sloppily. Today I have to say: We handle our security policy carelessly.”
“The security policy situation in Europe has changed completely. In view of the current development, you cannot simply turn the discussion off. Responsible politics would carry out an analysis free of party and ideology, communicate the results transparently, clearly and honestly to the population and come to a decision “, says Höfler, who believes that Austrians might be receptive to change if they were informed honestly and transparently.
Höfler sees politics on the train
“It takes leadership. Politics must lead. That means not doing what everyone would like to do so that there is no fuss, but doing what is best for the country,” says Höfler. Security policy is too complex to be based on random surveys. Austria’s neutrality has been undermined in many areas since the country joined the EU. The people were not informed about what that means. Austria is obliged, for example, to assist other EU countries in this case. “If we rely on others, we must also be able to help ourselves. The question arises as to whether we want to be able to do this at all, whether I want to take myself seriously in terms of security policy or whether I want to meander through it.”