Karin Kneissl

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Karin Kneissl
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
ChancellorSebastian Kurz
Preceded bySebastian Kurz
Succeeded byAlexander Schallenberg
Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
In office
18 December 2017 – 31 December 2017
Preceded bySebastian Kurz
Succeeded byAngelino Alfano
Personal details
Born (1965-01-18) 18 January 1965 (age 59)
Vienna, Austria
Political partyIndependent
Wolfgang Meilinger
(m. 2018)
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
École nationale d'administration

Karin Kneissl (born 18 January 1965) is an Austrian diplomat, journalist, and politician, having served as Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2017 and 2019. Prior to assuming her government position, she was a lecturer.

Kneissl has advocated for closer relations with Russia and has a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Vienna, Kneissl spent part of her childhood in Amman, where her father worked as a pilot for King Hussein of Jordan and also was involved in developing Royal Jordanian Airlines.[2] In her youth and student days Kneissl also was active in Amnesty International and supported environmental and human rights organizations worldwide.[3][4]

Kneissl studied law and oriental languages at the University of Vienna between 1983 and 1987. After graduating, she studied International relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Jordan in Amman. Subsequently, she spent a year as a Fulbright fellow at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. In 1992 she graduated from the École nationale d'administration.

In addition to German, Kneissl has claimed to work in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. She also claims basic knowledge of Hebrew, Hungarian, and Italian.[5]

Diplomatic and political career[edit]

In 1990 she joined Austria's Foreign Office. From 1990 to 1998 she worked in the cabinet of ÖVP foreign minister Alois Mock, in the International Law Office, and was posted abroad in Paris and Madrid.[2]

She has claimed that she was among the co-founders of the Austrian section of Médecins Sans Frontières in 1992/93, however the claim has been denied by the organization which has no record of her involvement.[6]

She left the diplomatic service in the fall of 1998, and lived in Seibersdorf near Vienna,[2] where she was active between 2005 and 2010 as an independent local councilor on the list of ÖVP.[7][8] Kneissl also worked as a freelance journalist for German and English-language print media and as a political analyist for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. She authored several specialized and non-fiction books.[2]

As an expert in international law, history of the Middle East and the energy market, Kneissl taught at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, the European Business School in Rheingau and was a guest lecturer at the National Defense Academy, the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt and at universities in Lebanon, among them the francophone Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. For ten years, she worked at the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna.[2] In her public writings and appearances Kneissl has often sharply criticized the European Union and raised controversy with remarks on migration.[2] In July 2016, after the Brexit referendum, she criticized European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as "cynic of power", "rowdy" and "arrogant", who "behaves as a Brussels Caesar, who has made it his goal to break agreements, if it seems useful."[9]

A quote from her book "My Middle East" also caused controversy. She criticized Zionism, founded by Austro-Hungarian publicist Theodor Herzl, as a "blood and soil ideology" based on German nationalism in the 19th century.[2]

On the issue of refugees, migration, and integration she has been accused of perpetuating stereotypes. At the height of the 2015 European migrant crisis, Kneissl argued that most of them were economic migrants and that asylum seekers are "80 percent" young men between the ages of 20 and 30. In September 2015, she said on public television that one of the reasons for the revolts in the Arab world was "these many young men", "testosterone-controlled", "who no longer managed to get a wife today" because they have neither work nor their own home, and thus could not achieve "status as a man in a traditional society".[2] She also sharply criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel as "grossly negligent" for her selfies with refugees, and later described the EU-Turkey statement, 18 March 2016[10] as "nonsense".[2]

Such remarks led to criticism and caused doubts concerning her self-definition as a "conservative free-thinker", but also gained praise and sympathy from populist anti-migration party FPÖ, to whose events she was increasingly invited.[2] In 2016, FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache considered nominating Kneissl as presidential candidate, but eventually decided in favor of Norbert Hofer instead.[2]

After Hofer was defeated by Alexander van der Bellen, Kneissl criticised Van der Bellen on the occasion of the discussion about the headscarf-ban, doubting his intelligence, character and format[clarification needed]. "Not only Trump, others also provoke", she said, criticizing Van der Bellen and Pope Francis, who had compared refugee camps to concentration camps.[2]

Minister of Foreign Affairs[edit]

Kneissl with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, 25 January 2018
Kneissl with Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, 16 April 2018
Kneissl with Vladimir Putin, 18 August 2018
Kneissl with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 14 February 2019

Kneissl was nominated by FPÖ as a non-party member for the post of Foreign Minister of Austria in the government of Sebastian Kurz. Kneissl is the third woman to hold this function.[11] Her nomination might also be linked to the reservations expressed by head of state Van der Bellen concerning other FPÖ-endorsed candidates for the post.[2] Kneissl was praised by FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache as "a great personality, a female Kreisky perhaps in the future when it comes to mediation, acceptance and advertising for Austria abroad."[2]

In August 2018, she married entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger, 54, at a ceremony in the small town of Gamlitz, near the border with Slovenia. During the wedding, she danced with Vladimir Putin, who was in attendance, and subsequently performed a deep curtsey. Pictures of this gesture were widely published in Russian and international media, and sparked major outrage and criticism due to her perceived naivety.[12][13] On 3 June 2019, after a vote of no confidence ended the First Kurz government, she left political office.

Later career[edit]

In 2020, Kneissl started to contribute opinion articles to Russian government outlet RT.[14] In March 2021, Kneissl, who had disclosed financial problems at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,[15] was reported to have been appointed by the Russian Government to the Board of Directors of the state gas company Rosneft.[16][17]

Shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 began, she dismissed intelligence reports, suggesting that the invasion was Western "war hysteria", blown up by the media. Kneissl resigned from the board of Rosneft in May 2022, after the invasion had begun. According to text messages she sent to a Washington Post reporter, she had emigrated from Austria because of "death threats."[18] She was reported to have rented a home in Russian town of Petrushovo [ru; ce] in 2022.[19]

On 5 September 2022, she appeared at Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia where she was interviewed by RIA and declared she immigrated to Lebanon.[20] In 2023, she described herself as a “political refugee.”[21]

In September 2023, Russian media reported that she had resettled along with her two ponies in Saint Petersburg, where she would head the Geopolitical Observatory for Russia’s Key Issues (GORKI), a research center at St. Petersburg State University that was established in March 2023 and tasked with advancing Russian foreign policy. Her horses reportedly passed through six countries and at one point, were transported by Russian military transport plane Ilyushin Il-76 from Syria[22] that had been sanctioned by the United States and Ukraine for transporting Wagner Group mercenaries.[23]


  • Der Grenzbegriff der Konfliktparteien im Nahen Osten. Dissertation, Universität Wien, 1991.
  • Hizbollah: Libanesische Widerstandsbewegung, islamische Terrorgruppe oder bloss eine politische Partei? Eine Untersuchung der schiitischen Massenbewegung Hizbollah im libanesischen und regionalen Kontext. Landesverteidigungsakademie, Wien 2002, ISBN 3-901328-69-6.
  • Der Energiepoker: Wie Erdöl und Erdgas die Weltwirtschaft beeinflussen. FinanzBuch, München 2006, ISBN 3-89879-187-4; 2., überarbeitete Auflage 2008, ISBN 978-3-89879-448-0.
  • Die Gewaltspirale: Warum Orient und Okzident nicht miteinander können. Ecowin, Salzburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-902404-39-8.
  • Testosteron Macht Politik. Braumüller, Wien 2012, ISBN 978-3-99100-068-6.
  • Die zersplitterte Welt: Was von der Globalisierung bleibt. Braumüller, Wien 2013, ISBN 978-3-99100-086-0.
  • Mein Naher Osten. Braumüller, Wien 2014, ISBN 978-3-99100-112-6.
  • Prinz Eugen: Vom Außenseiter zum Genie Europas. Belvedere, Wien 2014, ISBN 978-3-902805-58-4.
  • Wachablöse: Auf dem Weg in eine chinesische Weltordnung. Frank & Frei, 1 September 2017, ISBN 978-3950434842
  • Diplomatie Macht Geschichte: Die Kunst des Dialogs in unsicheren Zeiten. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim 2020, ISBN 978-3487086330
  • Die Mobilitätswende: und ihre Brisanz für Gesellschaft und Weltwirtschaft. Braumüller Verlag, Wien 2020, ISBN 978-3991003076


  1. ^ Chiappa, Claudia (16 August 2023). "Austria's Putin ally says Russia better for holidays than Seychelles, Maldives". Politico Europe. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Karin Kneissl : Nahost-Experten mit Hang zur Kontroverse wird Außenministerin". 16 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Konservativer Freigeist auf dem Sprung zurück ins Außenamt". 8 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Immer mehr Kritik an NGOs wegen Flüchtlingsrettung". krone.at. 16 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Karin Kneissl – Energy analyst, book author & lecturer" (PDF). Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  6. ^ profil.at: Karin Kneissls geschönter Lebenslauf, 9 January 2018.
  7. ^ über mich, Webseite von Karin Kneissl, retrieved 10 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Gemeindeorgane Marktgemeinde Seibersdorf". marktgemeinde-seibersdorf.at.
  9. ^ contribution to the Sunday edition of the "Kronen Zeitung"
  10. ^ "EU-Turkey statement, 18 March 2016 - Consilium".
  11. ^ STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H., "FPÖ-Ministerliste ist fix: Kickl wird Innenminister", Der Standard (in German), retrieved 15 December 2017
  12. ^ "Vladimir Putin attends Austrian foreign minister's wedding". BBC News. 18 August 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  13. ^ "A bow or a curtsey? Austrian minister's gesture to Putin sparks furor". Reuters. 21 August 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  14. ^ "Advocates of kremlin in Europe. Active politicians excuse Kremlin's violations of international law". Uacrisis.org. 4 June 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Kneissl erwartet als Rosneft-Aufsichtsrätin 500.000-Dollar-Gage". derstandard.at (in German). 4 March 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  16. ^ "Russische Regierung nominiert Karin Kneissl für Rosneft-Aufsichtsrat". kurier.at (in German). 3 March 2021. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Russia Nominates Ex-Austrian Foreign Minister Kneissl As Independent Rosneft Director". UrduPoint. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  18. ^ "After invasion of Ukraine, a reckoning on Russian influence in Austria". washingtonpost.com. 5 July 2022. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  19. ^ Chiappa, Claudia (16 August 2023). "Austria's Putin ally says Russia better for holidays than Seychelles, Maldives". Politico Europe. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  20. ^ Новости, Р. И. А. (5 September 2022). "Экс-глава МИД Австрии рассказала, почему переехала в Ливан, а не в Россию". РИА Новости (in Russian). Retrieved 5 September 2022.
  21. ^ "How Austria became Putin's Alpine Fortress". POLITICO. 5 June 2023. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  22. ^ "Austrian ex-minister Karin Kneissl moves to Russia with her ponies". BBC News. 13 September 2023. Retrieved 14 September 2023.
  23. ^ "Ex-Austrian Minister Who Waltzed With Putin Moves to St. Petersburg With Ponies". The Moscow Times. 12 September 2023.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Succeeded by