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The U.S. and the Making of the Austrian State Treaty (1946–1955)

The Foreign Ministers of the four occupying powers (Dulles/US, Macmillan/GB, Pinay/France, Molotov/USSR) and Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold Figl signed the Austrian State Treaty on May 15, 1955, in Vienna’s Belvedere Palace on a beautiful spring day and presented the document to a large public assembled in the palace gardens. Once the occupation soldiers had withdrawn from the country, the Austrian Parliament passed the neutrality law on October 26, 1955, restoring Austria’s full sovereignty and defining its Cold War international status. The new Soviet leadership under Khrushchev following Stalin’s death in 1953 insisted on Austrian neutrality during bilateral meetings with the Raab government in early April 1955 as the final condition for evacuating the country.

American diplomats, who had initiated the first treaty drafts in late 1945, consistently played a crucial role in negotiating the “Austrian Treaty” in some 400 meetings along with British, French and Soviet diplomats. The Council of Foreign Ministers of the four powers met in Moscow and London (1947), Paris (1949) and Berlin (1954) to work on the Austrian (and German) treaties. The Deputies of the Foreign Ministers met 260 times between 1947 and 1953 to work out the details of the 38 articles and 10 annexes of the treaty. A special Treaty Commission gathered in the summer of 1947 in 65 meetings to establish exact lists of “German assets” in Austria—the most vexing issue in the negotiations. Based on these lists, Austria paid $150 million to the Soviets out of current production to buy them out of Austria. Were it not for American Marshall Plan aid, the Austrian economy would not have been in good enough shape after 1955 to make these deliveries to Moscow. An Ambassadors Conference convened in Vienna in late April/early May 1955 to put the final touches on the treaty before it was signed and ratified.


Source: Günter Bischof. “Cold War Miracle: The Austrian Treaty at 50,” in: idem, Relationships/Beziehungsgeschichten: Austria and the United States in the Twentieth Century. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2014, 153–64.