Austria’s top diplomat said his country would remain outside the NATO military bloc and keep its long-standing policy of neutrality after both Finland and Sweden applied to join the alliance.
Asked about the two Nordic states’ intention to join NATO ahead of a European Union meeting in Brussels on Monday, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that while he understands their reasons for applying, Austria would not follow suit.
“We Austrians are not members of NATO. I fully respect that Finland and Sweden are thinking about joining NATO, and this will probably take a path very quickly,” he said. “But that’s their decision and not ours; Austria will continue to be a neutral country.”
Austria is legally bound to neutrality under its constitution, which bars it from entering into military alliances or hosting foreign bases on its soil. Though Finland and Sweden lack similar legal provisions, both countries have traditionally kept policies of non-alignment, only rethinking that stance in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February.
Schallenberg went on to argue that Moscow had only “made NATO more relevant” with its invasion, citing Helsinki and Stockholm’s new-found desire to join, and that President Vladimir Putin’s strategy “has blown back into his face.”
On the sidelines of the EU meeting, the FM later said that while Vienna is not “politically neutral” toward Ukraine and supports sanctions on Moscow – as “there is no such thing as neutrality in a war of aggression” – his own country would remain non-aligned militarily, as it is in “a completely different geographical situation” and has “a completely different history.”