According to government circles, the application was submitted jointly by the ÖVP, Greens, SPÖ and NEOS and accepted unanimously. It recommends that the government, in agreement with European and international partners, continue to seek dialogue with Russia and focus on a policy of de-escalation. Diplomatic efforts to date by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Trilateral Contact Group and the Normandy Format are welcomed.
It also calls for a revival of serious talks on arms control and disarmament and for closer ties between NATO and Russia.
“No Tolerance for Politics of Violence”
“Even though the National Security Council is clearly committed to Austrian military neutrality, a clear position must be taken in the event of massive violations of fundamental principles of international law, such as the prohibition of the use of force in the UNO statute. There must be no tolerance for a policy of violence,” the motion said. It did not mention whether the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline should also be used as a sanctions instrument.
The National Security Council was convened by the SPÖ. In a motion that was rejected by the committee, the Social Democrats called on the government on Friday to work emphatically to strengthen the role of the OSCE and to significantly increase Austria’s commitment within the framework of the OSCE mission in Ukraine. The public should be informed about the possible effects of a military escalation on Austria and measures to protect against cybercrime should be increased.
Sobotka: Gas sanctions as an option
Austria would support Western sanctions against Russia if the country invades Ukraine, even if they include the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) had previously told the Politico news portal during a visit to Berlin.
At the weekend, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) explicitly excluded the gas supply and in particular the “Nord Stream 2” pipeline, which is still awaiting the German operating license, in a “press” interview. As is well known, OMV is part of the pipeline consortium – and quite a few domestic companies have business connections to Russia.
USA: Russian forces sufficient for attack
The US government is convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has now assembled sufficient military forces for a possible attack on Ukraine. “While we do not believe that President Putin has made the final decision to use these forces against Ukraine,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.
“But he clearly has that ability now,” Austin continued. “And he has multiple options available to him, including capturing cities and major territories,” says Austin. But “provocative political actions” such as the recognition of breakaway areas are also conceivable.
US chief of staff warns of civilian casualties
Austin and Chief of Staff Mark Milley called on Putin to de-escalate. “We believe a diplomatic solution is the way to go here,” Milley said. Austin emphasized, “Conflict is not inevitable, there is still time and space for diplomacy.”
Milley warned of numerous civilian casualties in Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion. “Throughout Ukraine there are many people and very densely populated centers,” said Milley, citing the capital Kiev as an example. “And if war should break out on the scale that is possible, civilians will suffer tremendously.”
Should the assembled Russian forces attack Ukraine, it would “result in a significant number of casualties. And you can imagine what that would look like in dense urban areas, along streets and so on and so forth. It would be appalling, it would be awful.”
Putin and Macron spoke on the phone
Meanwhile, there was a phone call between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday. It was said afterwards that Putin had reiterated Moscow’s demands for binding guarantees for security in Europe. It was announced from Paris that Macron and Putin had reached an agreement on the need to de-escalate the Ukraine conflict.
Entry ban for EU representatives
However, Russia has imposed entry bans on several representatives of the European Union. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said it was a reaction to an “absurd” policy of “unilateral restrictions” from Brussels. The entry bans primarily affect representatives of some EU countries “who are personally responsible for the propagation of anti-Russian policies”.
“Guided by the principle of reciprocity and equality,” the Russian side decided to extend a list of representatives of EU member states and institutions who are banned from entering Russia, it said.