‘Kurz is Ours’ – Why Austria’s New Leader is Good for Russia

October 17, 2017
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with Sebastian Kurz. Photo by AM Russland

Update: Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, emerged as the winner in snap parliamentary elections last weekend. He will be the youngest leader in the world.

The previous issue is here.

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‘Kurz is Ours’ – Why Austria’s New Leader is Good for Russia

Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s new chancellor, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/AP 

Experts interviewed by the news service RBC have concluded
that Austria’s new leader Sebastian Kurz, leader of the People’s Party could be
beneficial for Moscow.

Preliminary results show the People’s Party took 31.5% of
the votes in snap parliamentary
elections on October 15.

Vladimir Shveitser, head of the department of social and
political research at Moscow’s Institute for Europe says that a coalition of
conservatives in the People’s Party and nationalists in the far-right Freedom
Party seems a foregone conclusion, but negotiations on the allocation of posts could
take awhile.

His possible coalition partner, Heinz-Christian Strache,
head of the far-right Freedom Party, which finished second with 27.1% of the
vote, has visited Moscow a number of times and has been received in the State
Duma or lower house of parliament.

Die Press quoted
Strache in September 2017, “From the perspective of realistic policy,
Crimea is Russia. That must be accepted. Sanctions at the end of the day need
to be canceled.”

Austria is currently chair of the 52-member Organization of Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which has a Special Monitoring Mission in eastern
Ukraine. Kurz has visited the region several times and called for fulfillment
of the Minsk peace agreement. 

Last year, Kurz and his counterpart German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier proposed a step-by-step approach to remove sanctions from Russia.

But he has said “the
system of punishment should be exchange for a system of stimuli.”

Kurz would like to see a more flexible approach in dealing
with Russia and its allies.

“More understanding, more dialogue, more flexibility —
that is how the conditions look for new trusted relations between the East and
West,” he said in July.

According to RBC, Kurz’s coalition partner, the Freedom
Party is described as “one of the most pro-Russian minded parties in the
Europarliament” by the Hungarian think-tank Political Capital.

The Freedom Party narrowly lost to the Green Party in 2016, leading to a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment when Russia’s propaganda flagship RT got the headline wrong.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the International Committee
of the Federation Council or upper chamber of the Russian parliament, said an improvement
in the dialogue with Austria can be expected given the “sober”
positions of the right-wingers on Austria. 

See also: The world has its first millennial leader. And, of course, he is an anti-immigrant conservative.

Who is Sebastian Kurz, Europe’s youngest leader?

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick