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Weeklies on Hungary’s lonely stance on the war in Ukraine

March 27th, 2023

A pro-government analyst finds it worrisome that the countries which support Ukraine don’t realise how hopeless it is to expect the war to end if the belligerent sides are not ready to compromise. A strong critic of the government suggests that divergences over the war have deepened Hungary’s conflicts with its allies.

In Mandiner, Attila Demkó, head of the Geopolitical Workshop of Mathias Corvinus Collegium, a government-funded think tank, deems it understandable that in Ukraine any discourse about peace talks at present is unacceptable. A country under attack by an invading foreign power, he explains, is fully entitled to reconquer its occupied territories. He is however bewildered by the habit of the EU and US to brand as pro-Russian anyone who finds it highly improbable that Ukraine can reoccupy all the territories under Russian occupation. The reason he suspects behind such behaviour is that ideologies and emotions play an outsized role even at the highest levels of political decision-making. He also dismisses comparisons between Putin and Hitler, warning that the Nazi dictator didn’t have nuclear weapons that could have destroyed the whole world.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető concedes that a view expressed in the previous issue of his own weekly interpreting Prime Minister Orbán’s speech on March 15 as the beginning of a trend of rapprochement with the West (see BudaPost, March 20) has proven to be overly optimistic. As proof for his thesis, he refers to the systematic objections raised by the government to various gestures or measures by the European Union and NATO towards Ukraine. He sees the latest such example, an attempt to forestall the convocation of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (see BudaPost, March 24) as a merely symbolic gesture ‘that would be a lesser threat to Putin than even the arrest warrant issued for him by the International Court of Justice’. Therefore, Szerető suggests, the Prime Minister is seeking opportunities for conflict with the European Union out of purely domestic political considerations, although he doesn’t specify what those might be.

In a front-page editorial, Magyar Narancs also doubts if the arrest warrant for Putin will have any tangible effect in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the liberal editors deem it significant that the court started seeking war criminals ‘at the top’, rather than among simple executors. They also believe that in the future, decent people will find it more difficult to socialise with the Russian leader, who now stands publicly accused of deporting children by the tens of thousands because of their ethnicity. The editors hope that by making Putin even less presentable, the arrest warrant may have an impact on the outcome of the war as well.

In Magyar Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik laments the ‘hardening’ of relations between Hungary and Poland on account of their diverging attitudes towards the war in Ukraine. The Poles, he writes, have engaged in a ‘game of high politics in which we cannot follow them’. Czechia and Slovakia seem to follow in Poland’s footsteps, Bencsik continues, Germany lets itself be ‘dragged along by events’, while Austria is striking an increasingly lecturing tone’ towards Hungary. And still, Hungary cannot make it without friends, he warns, and finds consolation in what appears to be some degree of understanding with the French government as well as in friendly gestures by ‘far away and mistakenly despised nations’ whom he doesn’t mention by name.

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