18 FEBRUARY 1949, Page 2

The Instructive Case of Austria

For those who had forgotten how Russians behave at the inter- national conferences for which they so insistently ask, the Lancaster House meetings of the Foreign Ministers' deputies concerning a treaty with Austria have provided a reminder. Mr. Zarubin, the Russian representative, has the Molotov touch. An article of the existing draft declares that the signatories will respect the territorial integrity of Austria and consult if her independence is threatened. Those who may have thought that nobody with good intentions towards Austria could possibly oppose such a clause had counted without the ingenuity of Mr. Zarubin. He opposed it on the ground that it was unnecessary. Another article says that the Austrian frontiers shall be those of January 1st, 1938. Mr. Zarubin opposed this on the ground that the Yugoslav claim for revision (which has already been discussed ad nauseam) should be heard all over again. It was suggested that in repatriating refugees, the Austrian Govern- ment should either act in accordance with a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly of February, 1946, on this subject or leave the whole thing to the I.R.O. Mr. Zarubin. rejected both suggestions. He also refused to agree that the Austrians, who are in any case permitted to import certain armaments from abroad, should be per- mitted to employ technicians who understand the working of these armaments. Again under the Potsdam Protocol no reparations may be exacted from Austria. But Mr. Zarubin wanted an exception made in favour of Yugoslavia. Finally it was suggested (as Mr. Bevin and others have suggested over and over again) that it would be easier to settle the Russians' own claim to former German assets in Austria, if they would only say just which assets they had in mind. Mr. Zarubin would not say. Yet this tomfoolery is instructive. It shows once more that there is no sense in such conferences. And it shows, incidentally, that the Soviet Government is so sure of bringing Yugoslavia to heel eventually that Mr. Zarubin is willing to sponsor the repetition of the most extravagant Yugoslav claims.