Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner said that this country will withdraw its soldiers from the EUFOR “Althea” military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina if the UN Security Council does not extend its mandate, writes Austrian Der Standard.
As stated in Der Standard, an international conflict with Russia could have dramatic consequences for Austria and its army. They point out that there is a risk of ending Austria’s most important foreign mission, which is participation in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Der Standard explains that it is a UN mission and that Austria has been involved since 2004 despite its officially neutral status. Also, Austria has the largest contingent of soldiers, and has commanded the mission since 2009. The current commander-in-chief is Austrian Major General Anton Wessely.
They explain that, until now, the routine extension of the mandate, which happened at the beginning of November, was called into question because of the war in Ukraine.
As Der Standard has learned, the Austrian Ministry of Defense has already planned to abandon the Althea mission in case Russia blocks the extension of the mission in the Security Council. This summer, Minister Tanner’s office did a report on options in which all scenarios were presented.
Options include desertion, and military sources have confirmed that this option is theoretically and practically possible. Finally, the decision would be made by the Austrian government, as was the case with the withdrawal of peacekeeping troops from the Golan in 2013.
The government still hopes that the Kremlin will not block the extension of the mandate, but some suspect that Putin wants to create new unrest and divisions in the EU, which could easily be achieved by destabilizing the Balkans. Austrian media report that Putin could act on the invitation of the member of the Presidency, Milorad Dodik.
Another position, they state, is that Putin will not go that far because the military operation could continue even without a UN mandate, for example if the BiH Presidency requests NATO’s help despite the opposition of Milorad Dodik.
In the case that NATO is positioned without the consent of the UN Security Council, militarily neutral Austria would have a problem. Without the UN mandate, participation in the mission would be unthinkable, and the withdrawal of soldiers would be a realistic option, according to the Austrian Ministry of Defense, Der Standard learns.