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Hungary and the Crimea referendum

March 19th, 2014

Left-wing and conservative columnists agree that the West cannot stop Russia from annexing the breakaway peninsula. They note that having recognized Kosovo as an independent state the West cannot consistently defend the principle of territorial integrity.

In a rather gloomy piece in Cink, Albert Gazda fears that Russia’s involvement in Crimea marks the end of the years of peace. Gazda points out that Russia under Putin has regained its geopolitical standing, and has already become a more influential actor in the international arena than the late Soviet Union. Gazda deems it very likely that Moscow will increase its sphere of influence through military action and other means. If Putin fails, however, Russia will disintegrate. Either way, the post-cold war balance of power has been entirely destroyed, Gazda concludes.

Western powers are unlikely to prevent Crimea from joining Russia, Edit Inotai writes in Népszabadság. As the Western powers were quick to recognize and legitimize Kosovo’s independence, they cannot now credibly claim that the Crimean referendum violates the principle of territorial integrity, Inotai notes.

Writing in the same daily, Csaba Poór adds that the Ukraine events are likely to strengthen President Putin: through the annexation of Crimea, Putin can restore his image at home as a strong leader. Poór points out that Putin is in a win-win situation. Even if the West imposes sanctions on Russia, they will be only symbolic and thus Putin can claim that his country is strong enough to shrug off Western deterrence. And if sanctions hurt the Russian economy, Putin can blame increasing poverty on the West, Poór remarks.

The Ukraine crisis highlights the weakness and inconsistency of EU foreign policy, Rudolf Rezsőházy comments in Mos Maiorum. The conservative analyst contends that the European Union overstretched its power by reaching out to the underdeveloped and culturally distant Ukraine, a country which is in Russia’s sphere of influence. The conservative analyst believes that the EU has no means to balance Russia’s influence over Ukraine, and thus it creates false hopes among Ukrainians who want to join the European Union. Rezsőházy also doubts if Ukraine can or should be kept together. He fears that a country consisting of markedly different cultural and ethnic groups can only be maintained artificially. In an aside, Rezsőházy notes that Hungary is an extremely delicate situation, because it needs to consider the interests of Hungarians living in the Trans-Carpathian region.

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