The 1955 State Treaty and Austrian Neutrality
A key objective of post-1945 Austrian governments was ending the Four Power occupation and preventing the permanent division of Austria. The Allies' greater preoccupation with Germany delayed formal treaty negotiations with Austria until January 1947. By then, however, the larger strategic issues of the Cold War overshadowed the negotiations. The Soviet Union dropped its support for Yugoslav territorial claims against Austria in 1948 when Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union, but new issues arose to block progress toward ending the occupation: the Berlin blockade of 1948; the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the division of Germany into two rival states in 1949; and the start of the Korean War in 1950.
Following Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death in March 1953, the Austrian government, headed by the newly elected chancellor, Julius Raab, sought to break the stalemate by proposing that Austria promise not to join any military bloc. The Indian ambassador to Moscow, acting as intermediary for the Austrians, went further and suggested permanent neutrality as the basis for a treaty. The Western Allies did not favor this proposal, and the Soviet Union continued to insist on the priority of a settlement in Germany.
In late 1954 and early 1955, however, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union feared that the other side was preparing to incorporate its respective occupation zones into its military bloc. In February the Soviet Union unexpectedly signaled its willingness to settle the Austrian question. In April a delegation composed of Raab, Figl, Adolf Schärf, and Bruno Kreisky went to Moscow. Four days of intense negotiations produced a draft treaty premised on permanent Austrian neutrality. The Western Allies only grudgingly accepted the draft for fear that it would be a model for German neutrality. They particularly objected to a proposed four-power guarantee of Austrian neutrality, believing that it would provide an opportunity for Soviet intervention in Austria. Under strong Western opposition, the Soviet Union dropped the proposal.
On May 15, 1955, the State Treaty was signed. The treaty forbade unification with Germany or restoration of the Habsburgs and provided safeguards for Austria's Croat and Slovene minorities. Austrian neutrality and a ban on foreign military bases in Austria were later incorporated into the Austrian constitution by the Law of October 26, 1955. The 40,000 Soviet troops in Austria were withdrawn by late September. The small number of Western troops that remained were withdrawn by late October.
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