Austria is a centre of espionage in the EU

The following is likely to appear extremely unusual, and definitely ‘not related to Ukraine’. Please, be so kind and read before you think that way: as far as I am ready to say, it is very much related to enabling Putin on the international scene and thus also his war of extermination of Ukraine.

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper



Austria is a centre of espionage in the EU

Robert Carter для POLITICO

The essence of this story is that it was prompted by readers’ questions like: ‘Tom, and what do you say about this’….


For the start, about one minute of ‘googling’ could’ve explained the journos that authored the above-linked/discussed features (and editors responsible for publishing their stuff) - a lot. As an excellent example, see this feature by the BBC from back in 2018. With other words, Austria is, ‘traditionally’, a ‘centre of espionage’ in the EU.

For your easier orientation, the essence of the Austrian political landscape is easy to summarise:

-          1.) SPÖ: formerly the strongest party in this country (since 1945) was the ‘centre-left’ Socialist Party of Austria;

-          2.) ÖVP: usually the second strongest party in Austria is the ‘centre-conservative’ People’s Party of Austria; while,

-          3.) FPÖ: meanwhile the party attracting most of voters is the ‘liberal’ (European-style, not US style), Liberal Party of Austria (outside Austria, this party is best-known for its late leader Jörg Heider, who pursued (to express it diplomatically) ‘rather neo-Nazi-like ideology’, before squandering billions during the Hypo Alpe Adria scandal, which, conveniently, erupted after his death (arguably, the ÖVP was involved as well).

At the same time, Austria is also providing the National Security Agency of the USA (‘famous’ NSA) with two of its biggest intelligence bases in the Europe: the US Embassy in the 9th District of Vienna and the Internationales Zentrum Donaustadt (constructed right next to the ‘UN-City’: mind that Vienna is the third biggest UN-centre, after the New York City and Geneva).

….the third, the ‘NSA Villa’ in Pötzleinsdorf, seems to have lost in importance: the equipment there became obsolete…


As next, you need to mind that (and these are just few cases coming to my mind):  

-          Immediately after the Second World War, while Austria was occupied and distributed into four occupation zones, and the (First) Cold War erupted, the USA (i.e. the CIA) and France launched the organisation of a secret, well-trained, ‘Stay Behind’ organisation, meant to collect intelligence and run sabotage operations in the country if this would be overrun by the Soviets.

-          Back in the 1960s-1990s, one of most influential politicians in Austria was a journalist and then a mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, from the SPÖ. He was working for the Czechoslovak Secret Service for years.

-          In the 1960s and the 1970s, when the SPÖ was dominating the political scene, Austria became the first country in the ‘West’ to start importing the Soviet gas. The state-owned oil/gas corporation ÖMV (meanwhile OMV) was neck-deep involved and earned billions in this way (and is proud of that, too).  

(…what a surprise then, Austrian dependence on the Russian gas only increased since Putin’s all-out invasion on Ukraine…)

-          Even in the 1990s and 2000s, when Russia was in tatters and not running aggressive wars of extermination around the World, general rule in Vienna was that, if one wants to meet somebody (say: some kind of ‘sensitive’ contact, regardless if of business-, or security-related nature), best was to avoid doing that in the city. At least not in the 1st District (also ‘the City’: the historical centre of Vienna). Because (quote from somebody I can’t name) ‘the City is full of spies, and one could never say who was listening or monitoring’.

-          In 2015, when Putin was internationally isolated because of the invasion of the Crimea, it was the Austrian President Fischer (SPÖ) who invited him for a business visit to Vienna, thus helping Putin break out of the international isolation:

-          Fischer and the (ÖVP-dominated) Austrian Chamber of Industry then also organised a big meeting with top chieftains of the Austrian economy. And… oh man: were they all in good mod and making jokes:

At this point in time, it’s crucial to always keep another fact in mind: as one can easily read in Cathrine Belton’s excellent book Putin’s People: the organised crime and major businesses in Russia are all tightly controlled by Putin’s FSB. There is no exception from this rule (or if, then exceptions end like Navalny and few others). I.e. there is a tight cooperation between the politics, ‘(top) business’, organised crime, and intelligence.

What a surprise then,

-          in 2016, the FPÖ signed a ‘treaty’ (i.e. a pact) with Putin,

-          in 2018, Katrin Kneissl, Austrian Foreign Minister during the times the FPÖ was in coalition government with the ÖVP, invited Putin to her wedding, and

-          until today, the FPÖ is pursuing Putin-friendly politics on the international scene (while Kneissl, meanwhile divorced, is living ‘in exile’ in Russia…)

-          …also ‘living in exile’ in Russia is Jan Marsalek, one of two Austrian instigators of the Wirecard scandal; it’s a pure, distilled accident that Marsalek had FSB-connections…

-          ….just like it’s a pure accident that both the ÖVP and the FPÖ have been involved in dozens of other, major corruption scandals over the last 20 or so years…

-          …during which several officers of the Austrian Bundesheer (Austrian Army) have been arrested and are under investigation for spying for the Russians (here’s one example, the guy was working for the GRU for some 30 years…. BTW, if found guilty at all, they get sentences like ‘three years of prison’ etc.), while,

-          news about cases of foreigners working as agents for the FSB or GRU are not even reaching the ‘page 2’ of the Austrian newspapers…


Overall… and to answer the original question: it’s nothing new that Vienna is one of major hubs of the Russian intelligence activities in the EU. Or, if it is ‘news’, then only to journos (and newspaper-editors) who simply have no idea about all of this. On the contrary: this conglomerate of intelligence-business-politics is simply the core element of the Austrian domestic and foreign politics, where the fundamental rule is to go to bed with everybody who wants.  

all provided the other side pays enough, of course.

Another traditional aspect of the Austrian foreign politics is that the politics is doing everything in its powers to satisfy interests of the Austrian oligarchy. Free along the motto (to quote the former Director of the Austrian Chamber of Industry): ‘if we don’t do it, then the Americans or others are going to do it’,

Unsurprisingly, a former member of the Austrian government (and the ÖVP) observed in a chat with one of his buddies: ‘now you’re in government and thus a whore of the rich’.

Ah yes, and: in Austria, treachery and business fraud is no ‘dangerous-’, but a highly lucrative business. At most, it costs one a bit in terms of lawyers, two-three years of investigations, and - perhaps - as many in prison. Afterwards, one is enjoying the life.

… of course, all provided one is connected to the FSB, or the NSA, different banks (see RBI) or insurances, specific political parties, or some ‘other organisation of similar kind’.

The content is published with the permission of the author. First published here.​​​​

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