Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov begins a two-day visit to Vienna today.
Lavrov is scheduled to hold talks with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, as well as attending a meeting at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Austria is one of Russia’s key partners in Europe. Kurz’s center-right People’s Party (FPO) has strengthened ties with the Kremlin since its election gains in 2017, pushing Vienna closer to Moscow both economically and politically. Over 1,500 Austrian companies conduct business in Russia, with about $6 billion of accumulated investments.
Russia and Austria’s on-going strategic partnership has inflamed Western anxiety about Putin’s influence over weakening Western democracies.
Expect Lavrov to discuss strengthening trade and economic cooperation between the two states. The near completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is likely to be discussed, as Austria has helped finance the controversial project. Further, Russia’s recent St Petersburg International Economic Forum saw Kurz attend as the only EU leader, citing the necessity to work together with Moscow to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the global economic crisis. Kurz will likely discuss Austria’s hard line position on immigration given the recent Afghanistan crisis.
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