Article Tools

Chancellor Kurz in Washington, D.C. - Trump Demands Higher Military Expenditures

Published: February 21, 2019; 20:48 · (Vindobona)

US President Donald Trump and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz met in the White House for a working meeting. The trade relations, the demand for higher military expenditures for Austria, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and the Serbia-Kosovo conflict were addressed.

With a reference to Austrian neutrality, Austria prefers to invest in education, research, development and internal security, instead in military spending. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Dragan Tatic

As the first Austrian head of government in 13 years, Sebastian Kurz met with US President Donald Trump at the Oval Office.

Sebastian Kurz described the meeting as quite controversial, and it addressed topics on which opinions differed.

"Donald Trump has a fundamentally positive attitude towards Austria and some countries of the European Union. Protectionism in particular causes us great concern," said the Federal Chancellor.

Not least because for Austria, as an export-oriented country, the USA is the second most important trading partner after Germany.

He had therefore made it clear to the US President that any form of questioning trade relations would trigger uncertainties that would be extremely damaging to the economy.

"If there were even customs duties, this would trigger a negative spiral that would cost jobs in Europe. That is what we want to prevent. The Federal Chancellor explained to US President Trump that car tariffs would affect not only Germany but also Austria.

According to Sebastian Kurz, Trump is still open to a trade agreement with the EU, but wants to build up pressure through his threats. But "decisions in the White House are made very quickly".

US President for higher military spending

Kurz mentioned military spending as the second major issue besides trade relations, where the USA sees itself at a disadvantage compared to Europe.

The US president is of the opinion that all countries should increase military spending.

With a reference to Austrian neutrality, the Federal Chancellor had "made it very clear that we respect his attitudes, but we argued that we prefer to invest in education, research, development and internal security".

Although Austria spends less on defence than other states, it "makes an oversized effort" as far as "foreign deployment" is concerned, the Chancellor referred to the foreign deployments of the Federal Armed Forces. He also pointed out that Austria made its own budget decisions.

Another topic of discussion was the German-Russian pipeline project Nord Stream 2, which was rejected by the USA.

Austria had a very clear "position" on this "because we need security of supply". "We stand by this project. In addition, the interests of Ukraine must be taken into account. In principle one is open for deliveries of US liquefied gas, but the price for it is "currently not more competitive". "In this respect, the gas from Austria will continue to come mainly from Russia," said the Federal Chancellor.

The Federal Chancellor also spoke to the US President about the faltering dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, in which Austria would like a greater commitment on the part of the USA.

In Kosovo, the USA had "a very strong position, which it could use positively". Austria sees the dialogue between Presidents Aleksandar Vučić (Serbia) and Hashim Thaçi (Kosovo) as very positive and would also support the very delicate exchange of territory.

"If both states agree on something, we Europeans should not stand in the way and neither should the Americans," said the Federal Chancellor.

Kurz und Trump also spoke about Russia, the Middle East conflict and North Korea.

"Not addressed" by Trump was the question of the withdrawal of Austrian IS fighters held in Syria, according to Kurz, who affirmed that security was the order of the day and that these were only "very, very few cases".