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In focus: PM Orbán’s statements on Ukraine

February 6th, 2023

Commentators disagree sharply on Prime Minister Orbán’s call for peace talks and an armistice in Ukraine.

At a roundtable discussion with a dozen conservative foreign journalists, Prime Minister Orbán discussed the prospects of the war in Ukraine. According to the journalistsreports, PM Orbán said that Putin cannot afford defeat in Ukraine if he wants to win reelection in 2024. He added that if Putin were to lose power, he could be followed by an even more radical warmonger. PM Orbán also said that Russia cannot tolerate a NATO presence in its direct neighbourhood, but nor does it have the capacity to occupy the whole of Ukraine nor change its government. All they can do is to turn it into an ungovernable mess, a no mans land like in Afghanistan, PM Orbán suggested. NATO may soon have to decide, he continued,  if it also wants to send soldiers in order to defend Ukraine. However unlikely it sounds now, the possibility that Russia might at some point use nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out, the Hungarian Prime Minister remarked. Ukrainian politicians have harshly criticized Mr Orbán for, in their view, proposing a bald comparison between Ukraine and Afghanistan.

In Magyar Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik interprets the war in Ukraine as a European civil war. The conservative commentator writes that the war is being fought for domination among European countries. Bencsik, however, blames the war on the US, accusing it of trying to make Ukraine its military and economic headquarters, close to the borders of Russia. He suggests that the war is beneficial for the US, as it costs no US lives but boosts the US arms industry. The resulting intra-European fight will weaken the global power of Europe, he adds. As for Hungary, Bencsik agrees with the government that our primary concern should be to stay out of the conflict even as members of NATO and the EU, and thus we have no option but to support their sanctions on Russia.

Magyar Nemzet’s Zsolt Jeszenszky thinks that Russia cannot be defeated. The pro-government columnist denounces the Russian aggression, but maintains that it was provoked by Ukraine’s ignorance of what he calls Russia’s legitimate geopolitical interests. The conflict, Jeszenszky speculates, was therefore the result of US expansion which aimed at weakening Russia. Russia is using Ukraine as a proxy in its efforts to achieve its own aims, while Europe sleep-walks without considering its own interests, Jeszenszky contends. He goes on to claim that Hungary’s and Europe’s interest would be an immediate armistice, bearing in mind the economic costs of the war. Jeszenszky emphasises that any further military escalation would result in further devastation and even more deaths. He dismisses the suggestion that Russia could be defeated like Nazi Germany, as the former has nuclear weapons. The longer the war and the bigger the destruction, the more dependent Europe will become on the US, Jeszenszky fears.

Heti Világgazdaság’s Árpád W. Tóta finds Prime Minister Orbán’s call for an armistice and peace talks a tacit endorsement of Russian President Putin’s military aggression. The liberal pundit believes that a ceasefire would give Russia time to regroup before continuing its offensive and would also tacitly recognize Russia’s territorial gains. Tóta believes that to achieve peace, Russians need to be fought back as Nazi Germany was in the Second World War and Putin needs to be defeated. He accuses the Hungarian Prime Minister of not supporting Western military efforts to liberate Ukraine out of fear that his ideological ally, President Putin would be defeated as well.

Writing in the same weekly, Márton Gergely also accuses Prime Minister Orbán of siding with Russian President Putin by suggesting that the Russian offensive will not stop unless a secure buffer zone is established between Russia and Ukraine. The liberal analyst points out that such a zone could be secured only if Ukraine gives up territories occupied by Russian troops. Gergely, however, is optimistic that NATO weapons will help Ukraine defeat Russia. In conclusion, he writes, despite PM Orbán’s disagreement with the weapons supply to Ukraine by countries that are members of NATO and the EU, as a NATO member herself Hungary cannot be neutral in this war.




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