Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Ambassador Alfred Puhan
PUHAN: This is the question of course that has been asked many times and only the Soviets know what the reason was. All kinds of theories have been advanced. The most likely one was that after ten years they had not been able to communize Eastern Austria. This was largely due to the work of that energetic Socialist Minister of Interior Oskar Helmer who prevented the police from beingprevented the Russians from infiltrating the police in Eastern Austria. While the Russians had troops, of course, in Vienna and in Eastern Austria we also were there in Vienna and Salzburg. And as you know that salient stuck right into what became the Soviet Empire, that is Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Another theory is that they decided, well, if we move out they'll have to move out too and that leaves Austria without the Americans, British, and French there.
There's also the theory, as you probably heard, that they were considering the idea of a neutral Germany and that the idea of Austria accepting neutrality might become a model for Germany. I tend to put less credence in that theory because the Russians probably knew and know today that a neutral Germany is sort of out of the question. It's not really feasible. Now, it's possible for Austria to be neutral. In fact, Austria profits from that, but I doubt if they would have thought that that would also work for Germany.
One more thing. You know that their interpretation of neutrality was somewhat different than oursneutral for us and against the other side. As it turned out they've learned the Austrians ideologically have always been on our side, but they have been very careful, like Finland, not to antagonize the Soviet Union.
So I think probably more likely than not the idea of getting us out of there, getting that salient out of the Soviet commonwealth there, was probably the dominant factor in accomplishing this. I might just say in 1980 the Austrian government invited me and my wife to come to Vienna to help them celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Austrian state treaty. I was a little nonplussed that they picked me and I asked why I was selected. There were other people who had higher rank than I did there. Thompson of course was dead but Jim Penefield is still very much around. And I was told that, well, when the academicians in Austria studied the files, the American files made available to them dealing with the making of the Austrian state treaty, they found my name repeatedly on cables. Well, that was because I was the drafting officer and of course the ambassador signed the cable.
So they decided that I was sort of a man who was on the inside, had the inside track. And in the discussions that followed with the Russians and British and French with Austrians... [End of Tape 1, Side 1]