Major General Rudolf Striedinger is considered the country’s new top military officer, and he will be appointed chief of staff by the Federal President by October. A “Krone” talk about a windfall, protective equipment and the militia.
Major General, in the last five years alone, we’ve sold half our artillery, retired an entire fleet of fighter jets, and you yourself used the term “army light” for the armed forces. Now everything is different because of the war in Ukraine.
The situation at the time referred to a time when there were different political and budgetary preconditions. A review is currently underway across Europe. We have always considered a conventional attack on Austria unlikely. But hybrid attacks, such as cyber attacks or terror, were always included in the threat profile.
Your predecessor told us in an interview that he did not foresee a war in Europe of the current intensity, but an armed conflict. Why has the military steadily shrunk?
That was certainly not the intent of the military. We have outlined the situation we are in, but there is a difference between a military assessment and political execution.
By the time you take office, there may still be a significant increase in resources for the military. Can you briefly indicate what you want to spend it on?
Quite about for three things. First, protective gear and better weapon effects for our troops. Second, we want to invest in the mobility of our soldiers, both protected and unprotected. And thirdly, the self-sufficiency of the federal army to guarantee our performance even in times of crisis.
Now Austria is not the only country willing to invest in its armed forces. Does the arms market currently offer that?
A certain amount of traffic congestion is undoubtedly to be expected. There are several ways to purchase weapons, I just say “government to government”, ie buy directly from a state, not from the manufacturer. And since we don’t just buy, European cooperation is one of our main interests in the purchase of weapons.
Who is currently in the air is the militia. On the one hand, it has to perform a large number of civilian relief tasks, keywords are Covid or border operations, and on the other hand, it has a classic military mission, that of national defence. Where do you see the command to the militia?
I admit that there are always two sides when the military has to offer a lot of help. On the one hand, we like to do this because it shows the population that we are there for them. On the other hand, it cost us a lot of energy. But we make a strong distinction: what is assistance, what is a military task, as recently during the “Eisenerz” exercise, where a rifle company also performed excellent military tasks.
Will the military in the future be able to control everything from tanks to drones? Or should we divide the intra-European tasks?
There is a very clear position on my part, namely: the legal framework for neutrality sees no possibility of division of labour. We can’t afford a partial national defense – we do and we don’t. We have to be able to do everything.
What does the future hold for GECKO? You will remain co-chair of the crisis management team.
So I discussed it with the Chancellor.
Is that good? When Corona breaks through again in the autumn and you become the top soldier in the country at the same time?
That’s right, my GECKO working hours usually start when I leave the Rossau barracks here. Evening sessions, weekends, that’s how it goes now. As for the fall, from a GECKO point of view, we have given all the basics.
Do you often go in the A-set or in the camouflage suit?
At GECKO I stand for the many thousands of soldiers who are deployed against the virus and that will not change.