Austria’s Foreign Minister: Russia will remain crucial for Europe

Austria’s Foreign Minister: Russia will remain crucial for Europe

The Western Connect Magazine - Austria's Foreign Minister Russia will remain crucial for Europe
Alexander Schallenberg defends Austria’s relationship with Russia and Raiffeisen Bank International.

Vienna, Austria – Austria’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Schallenberg, has defended the country’s close relationship with Russia, saying that Russia will always remain important for Europe. Schallenberg criticized those who believe Europe can decouple from Russia, calling it delusional.

Schallenberg also defended Raiffeisen Bank International, Austria’s second-biggest bank, which has come under scrutiny for its business dealings in Russia. The US sanctions authority launched an inquiry about Raiffeisen’s dealings in Russia earlier this year. Investors have criticized the bank’s participation in a Russian scheme to grant loan payment holidays to troops fighting in Ukraine.

Despite this criticism, Schallenberg pointed out that many Western firms do business in Russia and that Austria still imports Russian gas. However, it is seeking to reduce this over the coming years.

Schallenberg’s comments come when Austria seeks to balance its close relationship with Russia with its membership in the Western alliance that has imposed sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine. Austria has positioned itself as a bridge between East and West, and its capital of Vienna has become a magnet for Russian money.

While some Austrian officials hope for a quick conclusion to the war in Ukraine and a return to more normal relations with Russia, Schallenberg emphasized that any loosening of ties with Russia “can’t happen overnight.”

“Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky remain part of European culture, whether we like it or not,” Schellenberg said. “It will continue to be our biggest neighbor. It will stay the second largest nuclear power in the world.”

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