February 15, 2022

Austria Escaped Crisis by Declaring Neutrality. Ukraine Could Follow that Lead.

Salzburg, Austria. Credit: Theo Crazzolara/Flickr

Tom Shea and Kateryna Pavlova write for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This article was originally published on 7 February 2022.

At the end of World War II, Austria was occupied by France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union. It might have remained divided like Germany. Instead, Austria and the four powers agreed to Austrian neutrality in 1955, which has proved remarkably successful. Today, Vienna hosts well-respected international organizations like the United Nations and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The city was deemed the “most livable” for 10 years running on a survey that compared world cities on political, social and economic climate, medical care, education, and infrastructure conditions.

As Russia bears down on Ukraine, Austria’s experience warrants examination. Could Ukraine follow Austria’s lead to resolve the current crisis? To be sure, the circumstances of post-World War II Austria differ from the current moment. In 1955, Austrians were defeated, disarmed, and desperate to recover. By then, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States possessed nuclear weapons, and Cold War tensions were palpable. Today, Ukraine is besieged by Russia but strengthened by support from Western military powers. Ukrainian citizens are desperately preparing—for what? No one knows, given the uncertain course of the current crisis.

To read the complete article, please go to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists