United States of America (U.S.), Relations with
- The Second Continental Congress in Great Britain’s rebellious North American colonies sent an ambassador to Vienna in 1778 to enlist aid from the Habsburgs in the War of Independence. Neither Empress Maria Theresa nor her heir apparent, the future Joseph II, were interested. Nor did their successors have much in the way of a foreign policy with the new United States of America throughout most of the 19th century. The first Habsburg consulate in the United States was opened in 1820 to deal with commercial questions. Trade was also the chief preoccupation of all the monarchy’s other consular operations throughout the country until the end of the American Civil War in 1865. After that, consuls from the Habsburg Empire devoted ever more time to servicing the needs of immigrants from the Dual Monarchy to the United States.Relations with the United States became far more complex for the Habsburg monarchy at the outbreak of World War I. The press office in the common Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the press bureaus of both the Austrian and Hungarian parts of the monarchy tracked the behavior of American ethnic communities with roots in the Habsburg lands that might be reinforcing sedition back home. By 1915, both Austria–Hungary and its German ally were known to be mobilizing East European industrial workers in the United States for strikes that would cripple America’s support of Great Britain and France. Once the United States entered the war on the Allied side in 1917, Habsburg foreign policy took even more account of attitudes in Washington. By the end of February 1918, Emperor Charles I, who had been trying to come to some kind of separate peace with the allies, informed the administration of Woodrow Wilson that he could accept Wilson’s Fourteen Points, with some reservations. After the Central Powers extracted the very harsh highly punitive treaty of Brest-Litovsk from the fledgling Soviet Union on 3 March 1918, Wilson’s patience with Austria–Hungary ran out. When Emperor Charles proposed full federalization of the dynasty’s empire on 16 October, the American president refused to listen. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Wilson vigorously pursued the dismemberment of the Habsburg Empire; he also opposed any form of Anschluss with Germany.The American banking house of Morgan and Company was among the participating institutions in a crucial loan to the Austrian First Republic arranged in 1922 by the League of Nations. Austro–American relations were, however, not a high priority in the foreign policy of either country. But even before World War II ended, Austrian spokesmen in Washington, among them Otto von Habsburg, the claimant to the long-gone thrones of his ancestors, were trying to negotiate favorable treatment for Austria. Formal diplomatic relations between Vienna and Washington got underway again in 1947. The United States was enormously helpful with emergency aid to Austria after the war. Indeed, such deliveries continued even after the Austrian State Treaty was in place in 1955.Austria’s acceptance of neutrality as stipulated by that agreement made the country somewhat less significant as a player in the Cold War. John Foster Dulles, the American secretary of state, agreed with Konrad Adenauer, the German chancellor, that the policy was “immoral.” President John F. Kennedy found the arrangement more useful, both as a model for state-building in other states of eastern Europe and as an alternate avenue to information about the Soviet Union that Austrians such as Foreign Minister Bruno Kreisky were willing to offer after 1959.Austrian neutrality could, however, frustrate American policy in both Europe and other parts of the world. In 1958, Austria objected to American violation of its airspace to supply troops in Lebanon. The United States both expressed its apologies and discontinued the practice. As federal chancellor, Kreisky supported a serious American military commitment in Europe, though he differed sharply on several important questions with the United States, its efforts to curb socialist movements in Central America among them. With war in Iraq under discussion in Washington in 2002, Austrians made it clear when polled that they would not participate in any joint European Union (EU) military force to support the venture, as some member states were considering. Within the EU, Austria joined Finland, Sweden, and Ireland in deploring the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, though Foreign Minister Benito Ferrero-Waldner (1948–) rescinded her initial declaration of Austrian neutrality, having decided that the regimes in Baghdad and Washington were not morally equivalent. In 2005, the decision of the U.S. under the presidency of George W. Bush to send only a relatively low-level representative, Senator Rudy Boschwitz from Minnesota, to the 50-year commemoration of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty was taken as an affront in Austria and a sign generally in Europe of the loss of Europe’s centrality in American foreign affairs.The United States has, however, moved even more aggressively with Austria on more sensitive issues of Austrian treatment of Jews and others who cooperated with the Nazi regime from 1938 to 1945. Washington prodded governments in Vienna to compensate victims of the Austrian National Socialist regime. Deputy Finance Secretary Stuart Eizenstat completed negotiations in 2000 for Austrian compensation for an estimated 150,000 people who did forced labor under Nazi rule.Payments out of a 3.7-billion-schillings (440 million euros) fund allocated for that purpose began at the end of the year. By 2002, about 50 percent of the money had been spent, with about 68,000 applications having been received. Eizenstat also won a similar pledge in 2001 for Austrian Jews specifically who suffered property losses at Nazi hands and who were still alive. In both cases, Austrian negotiators made clear that while these arrangements legally closed these issues, they did not terminate them morally.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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