The Austrian State Treaty negotiations
Tobin, Ruth Helen
Rath, R. John
Master of Arts
The signing of the Austrian State Treaty on May 15, 1955, concluded ten years of arduous negotiations among the Allied Powers. These negotiations illustrate the difficulties involved in dealing with the Soviet Union at the conference table. This study describes Allied efforts between 1945 and 1955 to persuade the Soviets to grant Austria its independence. In Chapter I Austrian political, economic, and social developments between 1918 and 1955 are reviewed to present the historical background of the negotiations. After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, the First Austrian Republic struggled to establish itself as a viable independent state, only to be obliterated by the crushing machinery of the Third Reich. After liberation in 19^5, the legally constituted Austrian government worked with the occupying powers to put the shattered republic back on its feet. During ten years of Allied occupation the Austrian people resisted Soviet pressures and were steadfast in their determination to see their country free from foreign occupation. Chapter II deals with the course of the Allied negotiations from the first wartime pledges to Austria to 1950. In the Moscow Declaration of 1943 the Allied Powers agreed that Austria should be liberated from German domination and reestablished as a free and independent state. With this promise the Austrians expected to be granted their independence soon after the war. All early efforts made during numerous high-level conferences to bring the Soviets to agree to an Austrian State Treaty failed, however, and negotiations broke down completely in 1950. Chapter III is devoted to the years of stalemate between 1950 and 1953 and the resumption of negotiations at the Berlin Conference of Foreign Ministers early in 1954. The war in Korea and Stalin's sudden death in 1953 seemed to have little effect on the Austrian treaty negotiations. During this period the Western Allies tried by means of an exhaustive exchange of notes with the Soviet government to reopen negotiations on the Austrian question. When the new Soviet regime finally decided to send a delegation to the Berlin Conference, they refused to sign an Austrian treaty until a settlement on Germany had been reached. Chapter IV climaxes the negotiations with the sudden Soviet decision to conclude an Austrian treaty in 1955. The Soviets ostensibly decided to improve their post-Stalin image by granting Austria her independence. An Austrian delegation returned from Moscow with a Soviet promise to sign the treaty immediately and with very favorable terms on issues that had blocked settlement for ten years. The foreign ministers of the four occupying powers of Austria met in Vienna on May 15, 1955, to sign a treaty which recognized Austria as an independent state. The Austrian State Treaty was the first post-war European problem that the Soviets were willing to negotiate to a conclusion acceptable to the West.