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Summary: "Although the hat does not burn, the jacket glows already!”

Andreas Steiger

When on 21st August 1968 the troops of the Warsaw Treaty invaded the CSSR the Austrian Armed Forces were not unprepared. Hardly a month before the measures necessary for observing the border had been established in the order code-named "Primary Rocks”. According to this, in order to protect the northern border the Austrian Armed Forces were in particular supposed to occupy the border crossing points and to observe the terrain between by means of patrols. On 25th July 1968 already, however, the minister of defence Prader put the "Primary Rocks” instructions into perspective by ordering Austrian Armed Forces to keep away from the border at a distance of 30 km.

In contrast to the Austrian Armed Forces, politicians were surprised by the military intervention in the CSSR. Having been recalled from their holidays, the members of the Federal Government approved of enforcing the garrisons in the north of the river Danube, intending to ease the situation with this kind of voluntary restraint, as the Soviet ambassador had confirmed that Moscow did not have any intentions on Austria in the course of the intervention.

Reservists of the border guard, who had arrived at their collecting points independently, waited for the soldiers of the task brigades in vain and had to withdraw without having achieved anything, because politicians decided against an activation of the border guard. This decision resulted in negative effects on the image of the Austrian Armed Forces among the population, who rightly felt abandoned in a crisis.

The decision to keep the Austrian Armed Forces at a distance of 30 km from the border indeed involved the risk of northern Lower Austria becoming a fighting zone, if Czechoslovakian soldiers had ignored the Communist Party chair’s appeal not to fight back invading troops.

The CSSR crisis met an army which was prepared to protect the border, and because of political guidelines was not allowed to fulfil this task which had already been embodied in the Defence Act. In addition to that, the Austrian Armed Forces were blamed for keeping away from the border, which increased the necessity of a reform considerably.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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