There are scenes that are memorable. This includes the modesty of then-Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The message in this picture: kneeling in front of the strong man in Moscow – Kneissl tenses.
It is emblematic of Austria’s official and unofficial policy towards Russia. When it comes to sanctions, Austria has been on the brakes at EU level in recent years. Putin appreciated that, and that is probably why he accepted the invitation to the wedding of the Foreign Minister nominated by the FPÖ in 2018.
That this image of the Knicks became known at all is thanks to the Russian state radio RT, which made a propaganda film: Putin and the Festival of Love in Styria – how touching! The screenshot with curtsey found its way to the public because the Austrian news agency APA at the time was only allowed to use one image and took a stand on the image of the dancing couple Putin-Kneissl. It is also symbolic.
Not a word from the former foreign minister about the war
Kneissl is a regular guest of this very state-owned television company, which Germany has revoked its broadcasting license and which is still being introduced into the Viennese television cable network. The 57-year-old Viennese sits on the board of the Russian oil company Rosneft and acts – war or not – as Putin’s propagandist; Always indicted on RT as a former foreign minister.
This week, she analyzed that Putin’s recognition of the separatist territories in Ukraine was a “completely normal process.” Kneissl posted his TV appearance on Thursday on his Twitter account: Not a word about the war, but understanding of Moscow’s “deep distrust” of the West, which does not have to worry about gas supplies. Russia has always seen itself “as a reliable supplier”, “it is not yet a dramatic situation”. Simply interrupting the negotiations “does not help either”. Her appeal: “Diplomacy is to keep talking in any case.”
You feel like you’re in the wrong movie. The feeling of being ashamed of others is reinforced by statements from other Austrians who understand Putin. As recently as this week, Christoph Leitl, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for many years and co-chair of an Austro-Russian forum to strengthen bilateral relations, spoke out against sanctions and became lyrical about the “genius political chess player” Putin.
Or the former chancellor Wolfgang Bowl (ÖVP), who does not want to give up his seat on the board of the oil company Lukoil – with the outrageous argument that the company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and not a state-owned company. .
It would be unthinkable if the FPÖ were still in the federal government
We know that Schüssel’s successor, Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ), does business in the East, but not exactly which – if in doubt, he can not even remember where the money comes from. In any case, former Chancellor Christian Kern (SPÖ), unlike Gerhard Schröder in Germany, drew consequences. Kern withdrew with regret, but nonetheless as a member of the Supervisory Board of the Russian State Railways, because it had become “part of wartime logistics”.
After all, the current turquoise green government supported the sanctions imposed at EU level, without a hitch or not. From the chancellor to the deputy chancellor to the foreign minister, there were clear statements against the aggressor Putin. Thanks to the Ibiza affair – it is inconceivable that the FPÖ would still be in government.
It is time for Austria to fundamentally redefine its relations with Russia. It is not only embarrassing, but also a disgrace that former politicians are being exploited by Putin and being paid for it. Because there is money that stinks.
This column also appears in Austria Newsletterwhich brings together the reporting on Austria in SZ. Sign up for free here.