Austria Boosts its Defense Budget

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: October 9, 2022; 23:12 ♦ (Vindobona)

As many European countries increase their defense budgets in the wake of the war in Ukraine, Austria is no exception. The Austrian army will receive more money in the coming years, a total of 16 billion euros until 2026, the federal government of Austria announced.

Press conference on the budget with Chancellor Karl Nehammer (l.), Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner (m.) and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (r.). / Picture: © Bundesheer /Carina KARLOVITS

The Austrian Armed Forces are to receive more money in 2023, from 2.7 billion to 3.38 billion euros, the Austrian government announced. The goal, according to which the army budget accounts for 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product GDP, is to be reached by 2027. In the next four years, a total of 16 billion euros will thus flow into national defense. This means that Austria's armed forces will receive more money than in the past, but significantly less than promised.

The Army has a long wish and purchase list, as a large investment backlog has built up in recent years due to shortage budgeting. The "Bundesheer 2032 Buildup Plan" is intended to fulfill this wish list of the armed forces. According to the government, this ten-year plan serves to strengthen the Bundeswehr in the core area of national military defense. New capabilities will be created to "survive on the battlefield of the future," as the Ministry of Defense explains.

The money is to be invested in equipment for soldiers, mobility, the tank fleet and air defense. For example, the Eurofighters are to be equipped with night vision devices, electronic self-protection and medium-range guided weapons. In addition, a National Defense Financing Act is also planned, which is intended to secure the financing of the army for the next ten years.

Government calls "military national defense is the need of the hour"

Defense ministers have been fighting for a higher defense budget for decades. These wishes are now to be fulfilled, Chancellor Karl Nehammer declared. "Even before the times of the Ukraine war, there was a broad social consensus that military national defense is an important core element of security policy," Chancellor Karl Nehammer stressed at a press conference held with Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner at the Federal Ministry of National Defense.

According to the government, the Austrian Armed Forces made a significant contribution to supporting critical infrastructure in the fight against the pandemic. Minister Tanner has been advocating for a higher defense budget since she took office so that the security of this country is strengthened. "Together with our coalition partner, we have decided that we will increase the defense budget by 5.3 billion euros over the next 4 years," said Austrian Prime Minister Nehammer.

"Today, more than ever, it is becoming apparent that military national defense is the need of the hour", Chancellor Nehammer explained. According to the government, there is also a need for resilience and a stance within a democratic society to ward off war propaganda and make it clear "that democracy is our highest good."

That it took the war in Ukraine first and media attention for the government to do more seems to make this issue very much the government's next media act. Also, the resilience of Austria concerning the sanctions against Russia was addressed in terms of national defense.

"Dependencies and supply chain failures are threat scenarios that have become visible alongside the military threat in recent months," the Chancellor explained in conclusion, thanking Defense Minister Tanner and Finance Minister Brunner.

Whether these dependencies and supply chain failures could have been prevented before remained an open question.

Criticism of the Army's renegotiated budget

According to the Austrian Newspaper Kleine Zeitung, military expert Franz-Stefan Gady explained his views on this new budget in the Austrian Radio Talkshow "Ö1-Morgenjournal". Gady sees the scale of the investment as a "welcome step in the right direction" and only the beginning of a "long, long road, where it's not just about financial resources but also structural reforms."

Nevertheless, according to Kleine Zeitung, Gady believes that Austria is not capable of defending itself in the event of a war against another state. "The old concept of Austrian security and defense policy is still relevant," says the military expert. Conventional threats, i.e. threats from other states, are virtually outsourced to NATO, and Austria takes care of hybrid threats, such as systemic terrorism and protecting critical infrastructure, he says.

According to Kleine Zeitung, Gady explained, "But the Austrian Armed Forces are not geared to conventional warfare, even with the additional financial resources. There is not enough money for classic conventional national defense and there will not be enough money over the next decades even with the new package." There has been a deliberate acceptance of partial risk here, he said. "There is no great conventional threat against Austrian soil shortly. But it is a risk and you have to communicate that clearly to the citizens that we are not capable of defending territorially Austria in case of war against another state."

Federal Chancellery of Austria

BMLV Austrian Ministry of Defense