Allied-occupied Austria - Detente

Detente

Further information: Khrushchev Thaw

The end of the Korean War and the death of Joseph Stalin defused the standoff in Austria, and the country was rapidly, but not completely, demilitarized. After the Soviet Union had relieved Austria of the need to pay for the cost of their reduced army of 40,000 men, the British and French followed suit and reduced their forces to a token presence. Finally, the Soviets replaced their military governor with a civilian ambassador. The former border between Eastern and Western Austria became a mere demarcation line.

Chancellor Julius Raab, elected in April 1953, removed pro-Western foreign minister Gruber and steered Austria to a more neutral policy. Raab carefully probed the Soviets about resuming the talks on Austrian independence, but until February 1955 it remained contingent on a solution to the larger German problem. The Western strategy of rearming West Germany, formulated in the Paris Agreement, was unacceptable to the Soviets. They responded with a counter-proposal for a pan-European security system that, they said, could speed up reunification of Germany, and again the West suspected foul play. Eisenhower, in particular, had "an utter lack of confidence in the reliability and integrity of the men in the Kremlin... the Kremlin is pre-empting the right to speak for the small nations of the world"

In January 1955, Soviet diplomats Andrey Gromyko, Vladimir Semenov and Georgy Pushkin secretly advised Vyacheslav Molotov to unlink Austrian and German issues, expecting that the new talks on Austria would delay ratification of the Paris Agreement. Molotov publicly announced the new Soviet initiative on 8 February. He put forward three conditions for Austrian independence: neutrality, no foreign military bases and guarantees against a new Anschluss.

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