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US ambassador criticises Hungary’s stance on Ukraine

February 7th, 2023

A pro-government columnist believes that the US ambassador is motivated by an excessive thirst for publicity, while a left-wing analyst shares the opinion of the American diplomat.

Shifting the uneasy relationship between the US Embassy and the Hungarian government to a higher gear, Ambassador David Pressman told Politico last week that “political leaders in the government of Hungary continue to push policies endorsed by Putin.” (For an earlier incident, see BudaPost, November 4, 2002.) When asked about Mr Pressman’s statement, Foreign Minister Péter Szíjjártó told ATV that ambassadors are not supposed to behave like pro-consuls telling the host nation how to live in their own country. The Ambassador then tweeted that Russia’s drive to redraw the map of Europe unilaterally was not a domestic political development in Hungary, then urged, in the New York Times, “more clarity and more decisiveness” over the war in Ukraine. No further reaction came from the Hungarian side.

On Hirklikk, international affairs analyst Miklós Dérer takes up the Ambassador’s defence against the accusation of interference in Hungarian internal affairs and describes his remarks as both delicate and witty. He suggests that Foreign Minister Szíjjártó’s reply was actually addressed to government supporters and was meant to reiterate that the government ‘defends the national interest’, unlike what the government side calls the ‘dollar Left’ (a reference to the controversial financial support to opposition candidate for Prime Minister Péter Márki-Zay from a US-based foundation. See BudaPost, September 29, 2022).

In Magyar Nemzet, by contrast, László Szőcs finds the New York Times article misleading, as it gives the impression that Hungary is a homophobic country in Putin’s service. He also accuses the Ambassador of yielding to ‘an excessive craving for publicity’ by sparring in public rather than using diplomatic channels. As a result, he writes, Mr Pressman has not been received by the Prime Minister for the past five months, although his predecessors could see him within weeks if they so wished.

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