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Austria’s Strategic Objectives for Foreign Missions of her Armed Forces


Since the end of the Cold War, Austria’s threat scenario has changed profoundly, which led to a readjustment of the security policy concept not only for Austria but also for Europe as a whole. Since the danger of a conflict between the Alliances has been eliminated, European integration is seen as the essential factor for the strengthening of European security.

In passing legislation on the "Security and Defence Doctrine” (12 December 2001) the significance of conventional threats has been down-graded, whereas the new phenomena of subversive-subconventional, terrorist and criminal threats have been emphasized.

The key element for Austria’s deployment of the Austrian Armed Forces outside her borders is the will to contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability, and to guarantee security.

It must be noted that the intention of armed forces to engage in international missions depends on the one hand on the security-politico environment present and on the other on how much threatened people feel, and on their sense of solidarity. As a consequence, fields of tension will result that have an essential bearing on international missions of the forces.


(See: Austria’s Security-politico Concept, Draft, Vienna, August 2005) The basis of Austria’s security policy is the "Security and Defence Doctrine” (SDD) adopted by the National Council on 1 December 2001. The implementation of Austria’s security policy rests on the systematic interplay of various policy areas on the basis of an overall strategy and the relevant elements thereof. SDD is based on the basic ethical values of the Republic of Austria as expressed in the Austrian Constitution, the common interests in security of Austria and the European Union, and the strategic objectives of Austria’s security policy. Austria’s security policy is based upon vital national security interests and the security-politico interests of the European Union.

The security-politico interests of the European Union (EU-Treaty, Article 11, para 1) comprise - the safeguarding of common basic ethical values, - the common basic interests, - the independence and invulnerability of the Union in keeping with the principles laid down in the Charter of the United Nations, - the strengthening of the security of the Union in all its forms, - the maintenance of peace and the strengthening of international security according to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, - the encouragement of international cooperation, - the development and strengthening of democracy and the rule of law, and - the respect of human rights and the basic freedoms.

There is interdependence between the national security-politico interests of the member states and the overall interests of European Union. Therefore, Austria has set her politico-strategic objectives on the basic ethical values and her vital national interests, but bearing in mind the security interests of the European Union.

The Security and Defence Doctrine provides for refining Comprehensive Defence by developing a comprehensive security system that takes into account the new risks and threats, and is based on adapted legislation. Therefore, Comprehensive Defence as a key element remains active - as stipulated in Article 9a of the Austrian Constitution - but has been refined to a new concept of a comprehensive security system on the basis of the present overall strategy and the relevant elements derived from it.

This concept of a comprehensive security system can also be found in the European Security Strategy (ESS) adopted by the European Council in December 2003, and therefore is also part and parcel of the European security policy. Accordingly, SDD and ESS are the political guidelines of the Austrian security policy. The comprehensive security system is founded on the principles of comprehensive security, preventive security, and European solidarity.

For Austria’s strategic objectives in a European context the following documents are relevant: - The EU-Treaty, which opens the perspective of a common defence policy that at some future time may lead to common defence; - The Treaty of Amsterdam, in which a step-by-step implementation of a common defence policy is stated as an objective, in which the institutional relations between EU and WEU are strengthened, and in which the so-called Petersberg Tasks for the handling of crises are adopted into the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The Petersberg Tasks provide also for combat operations for the handling of crises, including peace enforcement; - The Treaty of Nice, in which the development of the European Security and Defence Police is envisaged, especially with regard to an efficient decision making process for the political and strategic control of crisis response operations.

On Austria’s national level the following documents apply: - Article 9a of the Austrian Constitution on Comprehensive Defence (military, psychological, civil, and economic defence); - Article 23f of the Austrian Constitution on Austria’s participation in a Common Foreign and Security Policy; - The Constitutional Foreign Service Act of 1965, as amended in 1998; - The Neutrality Act of 26 October 1955.

Foreign Service Options of the Austrian Armed Forces

(See: AAF 2010, The Implementation, Vienna, June 2005) In the frameworks of the Armed Forces Reform Commission and the Armed Forces Management Project 2010 the following planning options for foreign service have been taken into consideration, derived from the security-politico guidelines and an analysis of possible missions of the Forces: - As a rule, the indefinite deployment of two battalions, augmented by proportionate command and control, combat support, and combat service support elements in a "Stabilization and Reconstruction Operation" (SR), which is defined as low to medium intensity, is to be guaranteed also in two separate mission areas.

- As a rule, the deployment of a "Framework Brigade” with at least two combat units including the required command and control, combat support, and combat service support elements is to be planned in a higher threat scenario such as "Conflict Prevention/ Preventive Deployment” (CP/PD), also in a new mission area. Of course, the deployment of the brigade can also take place in the scenario SR, e.g. as augmentation of an already existing mission area.

- The deployment of a brigade requires the provision of the necessary forces within thirty days, is limited to a period of one year, and can be repeated only every four years; - In addition, during the deployment of a brigade, an already existing deployment of a combat unit in a Stabilization Operation in another mission area must be continued. This means that the simultaneous deployment of three structured combat units over a period of one year must be provided for.

- Beyond the deployments mentioned above, the flexible extension to an additional small unit for traditional peacekeeping, consisting largely of reserve elements, is to be ensured.

- Over and above, planning provides also for the deployment of specialized company size units within five days for up to three months. These deployments may become necessary on the spur of the moment, e. g. for participating in evacuation operations or for providing international disaster relief, if need be in a rotation circle.

Of course, apart from international missions, the Army must also accomplish the necessary domestic jobs by at least 10,000 stay-behind troops. These jobs comprise permanent airspace surveillance, protection of Austria’s sovereignty, assistance in police matters, and disaster relief.

Strategic Interests

(See: Foreign Deployment Concept, Vienna, August 2005) Security-politico decisions for Austria’s military participation in international crisis management will depend on: - Meeting constitutional requirements; - Institutional priorities; - Agreement with Austria’s interests; - Existence of an international politico-strategic overall concept for conflict resolution; - Austria’s geographic priorities; - Defence-politico considerations.

Meeting constitutional requirements

Any foreign service of the Austrian Armed Forces can be carried out only when it is in keeping with the stipulations of the Foreign Service Act and other national and international rules, in particular with Article 23f of the Austrian Constitution, and the Charter of the United Nations.

Institutional priorities

European Union

For Austria as a member of the EU, the European Security and Defence Policy has the highest institutional priority for the development of her own security policy.

United Nations

The United Nations, which Austria joined in 1956, is the ultimate instrument of global security policy and the keeper of world peace. Derived from it is the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), entrenched in the United Nations as a Regional Organization. It is the traditional pillar of confidence and security building measures, including arms control, preventive diplomacy, preservation of human rights, and building of democratic structures.


NATO/Partnership for Peace is the most important organization for trans-Atlantic cooperation and security. It offers an appropriate setting for operations that cannot be covered by the European Security and Defence Policy.

Agreement with Austria’s interests

Austria’s interests include in particular - the protection of Austrian citizens in a crisis area, - the existence of Austrian assets or investments worthy of protecting, - foreign policy interests, such as demonstrating international solidarity, and - Austrian economic interests in a crisis area including safeguarding Austria’s chances for a participation in reconstruction programmes.

Existence of an international politico-strategic overall concept for conflict resolution

Also the existence of an overall concept as mentioned above is of prime importance when estimating the situation. In particular, the concept should include - a clear mandate that can realistically be implemented, - clear and achievable objectives, including the definition of a politically desired final state and a time frame, - the realistic chances of success in the light of the national interests of all partners, - adequate international burden sharing, and - an exit strategy.

Geographic priorities

Austria’s geographic priorities result from her security political, foreign political, Europe political, and economy political considerations. At present, Austria’s geographic priorities are: - South-East Europe (West Balkans); - The immediate outer belt of the EU: Near and Middle East (with rising importance the Middle East), East Europe (including the states off the European borders, including the Caucasus area), and North and Central Africa; - The more distant outer belt of the EU: Central Asia and the remaining areas of the African Continent.

For the European Common Foreign and Security Policy, possible operations in South-East Europe and in Africa carry particular importance. In the framework of humanitarian assistance and of search-and-rescue operations Austria’s expertise in this area can be very well brought to bear. However, such operations must be carefully considered in terms of achievable success, political use, and required resources.

Defence-politico considerations

Derived from security-politico considerations and interests, decisions whether or not to make military forces available will depend on - the possibility to take part within the framework of international cooperation, - guidelines derived from political objectives and the political use, - a threat and risk analysis, including the assessment of possible repercussions on national security and the assessment of negative effects resulting from non-participation, - the defence-politico use compared with other commitments, - the state of the development of the Forces including arms planning and timeframe for the realization of current projects, - the availability of the necessary resources in terms of personnel, funds, legal provisions, and training of the troops, especially of the Force standards in relation to the military-strategic options to act, - effects on the current and foreseeable overall military-strategic situation, - the availability of exit scenarios (national, time limits, need to respect exit scenarios of other institutions), - the rules of engagement to be expected, and - public opinion acceptance beyond political use.

The security-politico and military-strategic decision making processes result in determining the political will towards the commitment of the state to engage in foreign crisis management.

Present Deployments

(See details in the contributions of this issue) The deployments going on at present reflect the picture laid down in the strategic objectives.


The bulk of the forces are deployed on the Balkans where Austria has not only historical ties but also is seen as an important player of the European Union. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia the international community has been trying to stabilize the region. Austria has taken part in various operations there since 1996.

Bosnia: In January 1996 the first troops were sent to Bosnia. In the framework of IFOR (Implementation Force), later SFOR (Stabilization Force), the Austrian soldiers at first operated a transport unit and later provided some staff members. In 2004 Austria decided to engage herself more deeply in Bosnia again. In June of that year an infantry company augmented by command-and-control, special operations, information, and logistics elements, was dispatched to the Sarajevo area. When in December 2004 the European Union assumed command of the mission in Bosnia, the Austrian contingent became part of EUFOR "ALTHEA”.

At present, about 280 Austrian soldiers are serving mainly in the Multinational Task Force North. Apart from staff elements, the Contingent comprises one recce company and a composite company consisting of communications, guard, and security elements.

Kosovo: Since July 1999 the Austrian Armed Forces have taken part in the NATO-led "Kosovo Force” (KFOR), at the beginning only with staff elements, but since September 1999 also with an infantry battalion of 500 troops, equipped with armoured personnel carriers Pandur within the framework of the German Brigade. After the first reorganization of the Force in November 2002, command over the battalion passed to the Multinational Brigade South-West, a cooperation of Germany and Italy. At present, about Austrian 530 soldiers, together with soldiers from Switzerland and Germany, are deployed in Kosovo.

It is the objective of the operation to restore law and order in the mission area, to assist the international community regarding humanitarian aid, and to implement the stipulations contained in Security Council Resolution 1244 (UNSCR 1244, New York 1999) in order to settle the Kosovo conflict.

Likewise, the European Monitoring Mission (EUMM) is deployed on the Balkans, which on the basis of the Brioni Agreement serves the purpose of confidence building between the former parties to the conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo. At present, five Austrian soldiers are serving there.

In summary it can be said that at the moment roughly 800 Austrian soldiers are serving under the commands of EU and NATO on the Balkans in order to restore stability in the region.

Near and Middle East

Since 1974, at present 370 Austrian Blue Helmets, have been deployed in the region for the monitoring of the troop disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria. Together with troops of other nations, they man the "Area of Separation” (AOS) and control the "Area of Limitation” (AOL). Military Observers (MilObs) of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) assist UNDOF by providing surveillance of the troop reduction zones on both sides of the AOS. This long-term mission under the flag of the United Nations makes a valuable contribution towards stability in the region.


For the European Common Foreign and Security policy, Africa is particularly important in terms of future operations. Austria is taking part in operations commanded by the UN and the African Union (AU) there. In the Western Sahara the "Mision de las Naciones Unidas para el Referendum en el Sahara Occidental” (MINURSO) monitors the ceasefire agreement on the basis of the UN Resolutions 690 (1991) and 1359 (2001), in Ethiopia and Eritrea Austrians keep the peace in the framework of the "UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea” (UNMEE), at the Ivory Coast Austrians monitored the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Treaty in the framework of the "UN Mission in Côte d´Ivoire” (MINUCI) until 2004, and since the precarious development in Sudan started, Austrian staff members of SHIRBRIG (United Nations Standby Forces High Readiness Brigade) have reinforced both the "African Union Mission in Sudan” (AMIS II) for the observance of the ceasefire in the Darfur region, and the "UN Mission in Sudan” (UNMIS) for the implementation of the Peace Agreement including the observance of the ceasefire between Government Forces in the North and the Liberation Movement in the South.

Other Deployments

Afghanistan: In Afghanistan, essentially three important players are trying to restore peace, law, and order: - The main task of the US-commanded "Operation Enduring Freedom” is to combat international terrorism; - The "UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan” (UNAMA) coordinates and integrates all activities of the United Nations in Afghanistan. It also supports the endeavours for national reconciliation on the basis of the Bonn Agreement by working closely together with local authorities; - The "International Assistance Force” (ISAF), finally, supports the Afghan Transition Administration by maintaining security in Kabul and its neighbourhood. Since 2003 ISAF has extended its mission area to the whole of Afghanistan and therefore has been providing a safe environment both for the Afghan Transition Administration and for UN personnel.

Austria has taken part in the ISAF operation in platoon size for the maintenance of security in Kabul and its neighbourhood since 2002. In August 2005, a company-size unit was sent to the Kunduz area to augment the German contingent deployed there during the elections on 18 September. Some Austrian staff officers are serving with ISAF and UNAMA.

Austrian and German forces work closely together in the operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Because of this close cooperation, Germany has become the strategic partner of Austria. An Austrian officer is serving in the German Operations Command in Potsdam, whereas as of December 2005 a German officer will help coordinate joint training and deployment projects at the Austrian International Operations Command.


Focus on the Balkans

Short-term: The general circumstance prevailing in the Austrian Armed Forces today, - providing for the continuation of the missions of UNDOF, EUFOR, and KFOR, - the material assets available, - the state of development of the personnel resources present, and also - taking into account possible search-and-rescue, disaster relief, and other operations to alleviate human suffering to be organized on the spur of the moment, leave very little elbow room for additional traditional peacekeeping or observer missions.

The prepared augmentation forces in company size are earmarked for unexpected turns at the Balkans missions, but may also be sent temporarily to other missions for about three months. Material readiness is provided for with some reservations. Regrouping of armoured vehicles and the formation of a fresh national reserve will have to be organized. Besides that, also evacuation operations jointly with international partners can be realized. Therefore, for fresh short-term operations of the medium or higher spectrum of Crisis Response Operations one company-size unit is available but its material readiness is somehow limited.

Rotating command of a Task Force of KFOR or EUFOR, taking turns with other troop-contributing nations, is estimated as feasible. As of December 2005 Austria will assume command of the "Multinational Task Force - North” (MNTF-N) in Bosnia, and once KFOR has re-organized into the task force structure Austria will be offered command of MNTF-S. However, the leadership role cannot be assumed continuously, some "breaks” will have to be allowed for.

Medium-term: Developments indicate that for the time being the European Union will remain involved mainly in the Balkans region. At the same time the interest of the USA will decrease because of other priorities. As of 2007 further forces reductions of the Balkans missions EUFOR and KFOR can be expected, which may entail also a reduction of the Austrian contribution, thus allowing for more elbow room.

The character of both the KFOR and EUFOR operations requires light and flexible forces, especially liaison & monitoring units, and readily available reserves. Once the brigade deployments on the Balkans have ended and the transition of EUROR and KFOR into "structural long-term missions” has been concluded, more assets for international missions will have to be created in order to make the room to move broader. Then a strategic reorientation in the field of international missions in close cooperation with the National Security Council will become necessary, and likewise a step-by-step adaptation of the deployment system after the year 2010. When one to two battalion-size units remain on the Balkans, capacities for other operations can be made available.

Austria’s participation in reserve forces for these two missions and also for ISAF in the form of Strategic Reserve Forces (SRF) or Operational Reserve Forces (ORF), possibly together with a partner nation, is under consideration. Therefore, parts of Austria’s contributions to the international crisis management may be geared towards European spheres of interest outside Europe.

Near and Middle East

Although the political "value” of long-term operations is noticeably decreasing, an end of the UN missions in Lebanon and on the Golan Heights is not foreseeable. At present, the withdrawal of the Austrian elements is not under consideration. Therefore, there is great likelihood that Austria will remain involved in these missions of the United Nations, in a region where securing the peace is crucial.


The large number of crises and the vital interest that the EU takes in Africa renders this region crucially important for her Common Foreign and Security Policy. Present developments show that both UN and EU-led operations are deemed possible in crisis areas. The increasing consolidation of the African Union (AU) and its obvious resolve to lead missions on the African continent demonstrate that this organization is quite willing to meet the challenges in a "homemade manner”. But still, the AU will not be able to go it alone but will depend on massive support of the UN and the EU.

Therefore, Austria will not be able to shirk the common responsibility of the EU, which means that missions in Africa for her will become more and more likely. This aspect is taken into account by the formation of Battlegroups in the EU.


The Austrian Armed Forces, by taking part in missions outside her territory, is making a contribution toward maintaining peace and stability, and guaranteeing security.

The will to send her forces to international missions is derived from the basic ethical values entrenched in the Constitution of the Republic of Austria, from the security interests of Austria and the EU, and from the strategic objectives of Austria’s security policy. The decisive factors for Austria’s participation in international crisis management are - meeting constitutional requirements, - institutional priorities, - agreement with Austria’s interests, - existence of an overall international politico-strategic concept for conflict resolution, and - geographic priorities.

Her present international missions reflect the picture laid down in Austria’s strategic objectives. The bulk of her forces are deployed on the Balkans, where Austria has historical ties but is also seen as an important player of the EU there.

The large number of trouble spots in Africa and the vital interest that Europe takes in this region are also of great importance for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU.

The Austrian Armed Forces keeps creating the necessary conditions in order to meet the future challenges, and to give the political leaders the freedom of action required.

___________________________________ __________________________________ By: Major General Mag. Christian Segur-Cabanac, Head, Joint Command and Control Staff

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