If the reports about Germany’s hidden hand in the Austro-Russian spy scandal are true, then it would indicate that Berlin is jealous of Vienna’s growing relations with Moscow and seeks to sabotage them in order to remain Russia’s premier partner in Central Europe.
Suspicious Timing For Suspicious Claims
Reports indicate that Germany tipped Austria off about a suspected Russian spy who’s supposedly been operating in their midst for decades, which if true would reveal a lot about why the espionage scandal suddenly broke out at this point in time and is becoming such a talked-about issue. The accusation being leveled against Moscow is that it allegedly had a retired colonel on its payroll since the 1990s who passed along confidential information about the country’s military capabilities and response to the Migrant Crisis. It’s impossible to know at the present moment whether these claims are accurate or not, but it’s rare for something like this to reach the Mainstream Media because such affairs are usually handled discretely between the two states’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep states”) unless there’s a political reason to make the arrest of a suspected spy public.
In this case, it appears as though this affair is being weaponized by Germany in order to undermine Austro-Russian relations, which were expected to intensify even further beyond their present closeness after the now-cancelled visit by the Central European state’s Foreign Minister to Moscow in early December to discuss creating the so-called “Sochi Dialogue” between the Austrian and Russian civil societies. The two nations retained excellent relations with one another over the past four and a half years despite the West’s anti-Russian sanctions, and elements of their leaderships are also on such trusting terms with one another that the Austrian Foreign Minister even invited President Putin to her wedding over the summer as the guest of honor. That’s why Russia is so disappointed that Austria immediately reacted to the accusations being made against it and even decided to make a public spectacle out of it.
The “Neo-Austro-Hungarian Empire”
Up until this point, Vienna’s motivation for remaining very close to Moscow was that its Eastern European partner is a major energy supplier to the country whose role is only expected to increase with the future expansion of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline to Central Europe, while Russia appreciated Austria’s consistent pragmatism in representing one of the few rational voices in a continent that’s increasingly become gripped by American-driven Russophobic hysteria. There was more to their relations than just that, however, since Austria is one of the geopolitically central members of the Polish-led “Three Seas Initiative” and also aims to establish a “sphere of influence” within it that roughly corresponds to part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (specifically Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia). Informed by centuries of diplomatic experience, Austria knew that its contemporary interests could best be served by “balancing” between Poland and Russia.
Russia, for its part, was all too eager to do whatever was needed to keep Austria as an ally, with the implicit understanding between these two countries being that Vienna could lead the “Neo-Austro-Hungarian Empire’s” future post-sanctions rapprochement with Russia that could potentially make this “Three Seas” sub-region one of the most important in Europe. This would be mutually beneficial for both of them and could allow Austria to regain some of its lost “imperial” aura through diplomatic means, something that’s becoming exceedingly important in today’s era of EuroRealist populism. For as grand as these plans may have sounded, however, they understandably made Germany very uncomfortable because the larger Germanic state regards its smaller landlocked “cousins” as “little brothers” who shouldn’t ever “outshine” their “older brothers”, which is exactly what they were planning to do through the diplomatic alliance between Russia and the “Neo-Austro-Hungarian Empire”.
Ruining Relations At The Last Minute
All that was needed to sustainably “seal the deal” between Russia and Austria was to successfully launch the “Sochi Dialogue” that would bring together their civil societies and create the basis for an everlasting strategic partnership between the two. Faced with the prospect that its EuroRealist ideological rivals in Austria might become more geostrategically (but not geo-economically) important to Russia than itself, EuroLiberal Germany desperately sought to sabotage their relations by engineering a highly publicized spy scandal that would make it politically impossible for the Austrian Foreign Minister to go forward with her planned visit to Moscow early next month. Wanting to proverbially kill two birds with one stone, leaking the information that it was behind all of this was also expected to disprove Trump’s infamous trolling remark earlier this summer that Germany is a “hostage” that’s “totally controlled” by Russia through Nord Stream II.
Bearing in mind the strategic rivalry between Germany and Austria over which of the two is Russia’s premier partner in Central Europe and remembering just how proud Berlin is of being behind this latest spy scandal that it even leaked claims of its complicity to the media, observers can easily put two and two together to arrive at the obvious conclusion that Germany engineered the latest spy scandal at this specific point in time precisely to sabotage Austro-Russian relations. It’s unimportant in this context whether the claims being leveled against Russia are true or not because it’s really the timing and preplanned publicity behind them that prove that they’re being weaponized for the aforementioned strategic purpose. That said, the Austro-Russian Strategic Partnership and the larger one between Vienna’s envisioned “Neo-Austro-Hungarian Empire” and Moscow aren’t irreparably ruined, but it’ll certainly take some time to repair them.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.