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Summary: The Development of Military Strategic Concepts of the Austrian Armed Forces from 1955 to 2005

Horst Pleiner

Since 1955 the development of the security political and military strategic concept has proceeded in several phases, in the course of which planning has often been overtaken - before a concept was finished - by the development of the security political situation. Thus, considerable problems have appeared concerning the intellectual content of "permanent neutrality” already since 1955, which, according to a resolution passed by the national council, was supposed to be perpetuated and "defended” with all possible means. It has often been lamented that from the very beginning a "scissors between mission and available means” has existed, so we have to face the question whether concepts, procedures and means have actually corresponded with the orders situation, and if the demand for nature and the scale of strength and means have been aligned to the small state’s efficiency. "Defence” as an objective has never been considered an undisputed chief maxim shared by both politics and the Armed Forces.

Since the communist coup attempt of 1950 at the latest, all considerations have given special emphasis to an "orientation towards the West”; according to these, the Armed Forces were to be put into action on the border at first, were to start fighting in case of need, and then to retreat applying delaying tactics. Before the beginnings of a first consolidation along these guidelines could be achieved, the Armed Forces were tried and tested during the crisis in Hungary in October 1956, and they passed the test.

In 1957 the drawing up of a national defence plan began, according to which the basic military efforts were transferred to the alpine basic or central area, for the purpose of "preserving a part of Austria as big as possible” or "preserving sovereignty”. In 1964 the establishment of a "comprehensive national defence” (ULV) was agreed upon, consisting of the four fields military, economical, civil and mental national defence. In the course of the crisis of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the Austrian government refrained from declaring a "crisis” and confined itself to determining half-heartedly that a "critical state” had occurred. Thus there was no occasion neither to take effect in the sense of ULV nor at least to test the measures involved on a wider basis.

Parallel to the development of the military conception, the national defence plan was developed in the 1970ies, which was finished in 1983 and published in 1985, and which became the foundation for all measures to be taken in order to arrive at the political-strategic goals of the neutral Republic of Austria concerning its opposing threats, though it did not go into "neutrality policy” strenuously. In the course of the treatment of the overall threat, the resolute alignment of operational planning on warding off led to considerable internal and public criticism in the 1980ies. In the end, about 1989/1990, the radical change of the strategic situation made both the national defence plan and the ideas of the military-strategic conception obsolete. Non-military dangers and risks were pointed out to be new factors, and the necessity of enhanced multinational cooperation was emphasized. Dangers caused by conflicts in the neighbourhood called for a deployment in order to protect the border, and, if required, for defence near the border and for counteracting concentration, which was soon to be proved correct by the deployment of the Armed Forces in the course of the events in former Yugoslavia.

The reform commission of the Armed Forces has gone on from these observations and, on the one hand, has emphasized the necessary alignment on participation in international missions of international organisations and the European security and defence policy, whereas, on the other hand, it has reduced inland missions to carrying out those connected with safeguarding sovereignty as well as with protection and assistance. As has already happened many times before in the course of 50 years of history and development of the Armed Forces’ conception, the discussion of organisation and term of service has been given priority, thus overcoming the problems only partly which - as a "scissors between mission and means” - have always opposed acceptance and confidence in the capabilities of the Armed Forces.



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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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