27.01.2023 14:41 (act. 27.01.2023 20:48)
The army would not be able to protect all of Austria in an emergency. ©APA/HERBERT PFARRHOFER
Five years ago, the risk report still included 25 threats to Austria, now there are 73 – including the war in Ukraine, the dangers of globalization and climate change and the pandemic.
“The world has undoubtedly become even more unstable.” Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP) said on Friday at the presentation of the 2023 security policy report in Vienna.
Brigadier Peter Vorhofer, who presented the risk picture in concrete terms, emphasized the danger of an attack on an EU member state and the danger from the air by planes, drones or rockets.
War in Ukraine “massively” increases risk of attack on EU country
The danger of an attack on an EU member state has been “massively increased” by the war in Ukraine – whether conventional or below the military threshold, Vorhofer stressed. “If the escalation continues, Austria will face another security challenge in the blink of an eye.” This would be the case if the attacked State activated the obligation to provide assistance under the EU Treaty. “Austria must think very, very quickly about solidarity and the duty to provide assistance.”
German defense expert Ulrike Franke of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) also sees more pressure on Austria. “The issue of neutrality will come up a lot more in the coming years,” she emphasized via video link from London. “Austria is under more pressure than Switzerland, it has to do with EU membership.” The war in Ukraine showed that Europe does not seem to be in a position to act in a self-determined and sovereign way, “but it still needs its big brother, the USA”. Europe must become more sovereign, regardless of who occupies the White House in Washington. The idea of a European defense union is being promoted, Austria must take a stand.
Austrian army unable to protect all of Austria
Brigadier Bruno Günter Hofbauer said very clearly about the armaments situation in Europe: “We are not prepared”. There is “no European defense planning”. Existing plans refer to “out of area” territory outside the EU. But also in Austria: “55,000 Austrian soldiers are not in a position to protect the entire federal territory”, explained Hofbauer. It is important to be in the right place at the right time with the help of technology.
Tanner said “there’s no getting around the fact that we have to catch up” so the army can do its job of protecting the population. In addition to hybrid threats, those of conventional warfare also gained importance. With the budget increase of 16 billion euros for four years, Austria can “make a lot of investments”.
Risk Report 2023 also includes globalization and climate change
Military expert Franz-Stefan Gady of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) emphasized that two approaches could be derived from the war in Ukraine. It is important for the armed forces to dominate the “combined arms battle”, that is, the interaction of all branches of arms. And the armed forces would also have to be able to regenerate in an emergency. Gady proposed enlisting “good people” as reservists and making militia drills mandatory. “Enhancing conventional deterrence is like an insurance policy.” According to Gady, this reduces the risk of war. The expert also urged not to overlook “the nuclear dimension” of the war in Ukraine.
The 262-page “Risk picture 2023” report is not just about aspects of defense policy. The dangers of globalization through mutual dependencies, climate change, pandemic or war against the European economy are also explained.
Blackout danger in Austria: Concrete plan approved
Gerhard Christiner, CEO of Austrian Power Grid AG, spoke about the risk of a blackout. He called for a concrete plan for Austria’s energy transition. Wind farms were built before there were power grids and approval processes took a long time. “If we continue to drive so recklessly, there is a risk of having a blackout at some point,” he warned.
The Advocate General of Raiffeisen’s Austrian Association, Erwin Hameseder, addressed the “dramatic” economic effects of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. Being dependent on multiple regimes means vulnerability. It is “the need of the moment that we move away from this dependence little by little”.