Allied-occupied Austria - Cold War

Cold War

Further information: Cold War (1947–1953), Wiederbewaffnung

The British had been quietly arming Austrian gendarmes since 1945 and discussed creation of a proper military with Austrians in 1947. The Americans meanwhile feared that Vienna could be the scene of another Berlin Blockade. They set up and filled emergency food dumps, and prepared to airlift supplies to Vienna while the Austrian government created a backup base in Salzburg. The American command secretly trained the soldiers of underground Austrian military at a rate of two hundred men a week. The Gendarmerie knowingly hired Wehrmacht veterans and VdU members; the denazification of Austria's 537,000 registered Nazis had largely ended in 1948.

Austrian communists appealed to Stalin to partition their country along the German model, but in February 1948 Andrei Zhdanov vetoed the idea: Austria had more value as a bargaining chip than as another unstable client state. The continuing talks on Austrian independence stalled in 1948 but progressed to a "near breakthrough" in 1949: the Soviets lifted most of their objections, and the Americans suspected foul play. The Pentagon was convinced that the withdrawal of Western troops would leave the country open to Soviet invasion of the Czech model. Clark insisted that before their departure the United States must secretly train and arm the core of a future Austrian military. Serious secret training of the Austrian forces (the B-Gendarmerie) began in 1950 but soon stalled due to US defense budget cuts in 1951. Austrian gendarmes were trained primarily as an anti-coup police force, but they also studied Soviet combat practice and counted on cooperation with the Yugoslavs in case of an open Soviet invasion.

Although in the fall of 1950 the Western powers replaced their military representatives with civilian diplomats, strategic situation became gloomier than ever. The Korean War experience persuaded Washington that Austria may become "Europe's Korea" and sped up rearmament of the "secret ally". International tension was coincident with a severe internal economic and social crisis. The planned withdrawal of American food subsidies spelled a sharp drop in real wages for all Austrians. The government and the unions deadlocked in negotiations, and gave the Austrian communists the opportunity to organize the 1950 Austrian general strikes which became the gravest threat to Austria since the 1947 food riots. The communists stormed and took over ÖGB offices, disrupted railroad traffic but failed to recruit sufficient public support and had to admit defeat. The Soviets and the Western allies did not dare to actively intervene in the strikes. The strike intensified militarization of Western Austria, this time with active input from France and the CIA. Despite the strain of Korean War, by the end of 1952 the American "Stockpile A" (A for Austria) in France and Germany amassed 227 thousand tons of materiel earmarked for Austrian armed forces.

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