American-Austrian Tensions: US Diplomats Gripe over Vienna's Limited World View
American diplomats in the Austrian capital expressed "frustration," extreme disappointment and concern about the country's politicians. Cables obtained by SPIEGEL indicate deep dissatisfaction in Washington about the limited interest Austria's chancellor and foreign minister have apparently had for foreign policy.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann (second from left) and his wife and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Catherine Ashton at the Vienna Opera Ball: No interest in foreign policy?
Around 1,700 of the reports written by the US Embassy in Vienna, which were provided to SPIEGEL, indicate that the relationship between the United States and Austria was tense in recent years. In the cables, the US diplomats repeat several times that they were "frustrated," "extremely disappointed" or "concerned" about their Austrian counterparts.
In addition to offering negative assessments of Austrian politicians, the cables reveal a number of issues that contributed to tensions, including Austria's refusal to accept any prisoners released from the Guantanamo detention camp and the business relations between a few Austrian companies and Iran and North Korea. The cables repeatedly mention the state-owned energy company OMV, firearms manufacturer Steyr-Mannlicher and the Raiffeisen Banking Group.
In 2006, two representatives of Raiffeisen Bank were asked to explain to the US Embassy their role as trustees for a natural gas deal with the Russian-Ukrainian joint venture RosUkrEnergo. According to the report, the two managers said that "Russian and Ukrainian leaders were fully involved Putin and Yushchenko know everything about (the) RUE" gas deal. The US ambassador criticizes the Austrians' role in the deal, saying: "It was hard not to suspect that the Trusteeship was simply a fig leaf to cover an unsavory arrangement."
On the whole, the US diplomats conclude that in their host country there is a "gap between Austria's self-proclaimed vision of itself in the world, and its increasingly limited performance."
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