First of all, I would like to thank all of you for carrying on with "duties" in my absence. Some of you posted news, many of you provided English and Hungarian language links and kept up the spirit. I'm very grateful for that.
As for the situation in Connecticut. By yesterday 1,600 crews were at work trying to restore power to the the remainder of the 750,000 people (sometimes also described as households and customers–which would make the number substantially higher) who at the peak were without electricity. Keep in mind that the population of Connecticut is 3.5 million! The local power companies needed help from out of state. The crews who worked in our area yesterday came from Missouri!
As for the details. In the first three days we didn't even have telephone connection because telephone and electric lines are normally placed on the same poles. (And cell phone users were suffering from very spotty coverage as the backup power of towers ran low–or at least that's what the news said.) Lack of electricity also meant lack of water because water in this area is provided by individual wells. Although we stored a fair amount of water ahead of time I guess I don't have to emphasize the difficulties encountered under these circumstances.
Perhaps the most oppressive aspect of the situation was being cut off from civilization. No TV, no Internet, and only an old Walkman I used to listen to during my morning walks. I slept a lot because what can one do after it's pitch black? Nothing short of staring into the darkness. However, while without electricity or any outside stimulus, I read a lot of books which one day will be the topic of a post or two.
The joy caused by the end of the power outage was somewhat clouded by the discovery that my computer, most likely because it felt lonely , had become ill. (And no, it wasn't a power surge problem; I was super careful on that front.) It refused to boot up. It turned out that there was a memory failure. After a few hours this problem was semi-solved and at least the computer works at "half strength." A memory upgrade will arrive next week, so I'll have twice the memory I had before the failure and four times as much as I have now. Or, to be more precise, my computer will have more memory.
And now let's return to the documents relating to Hungary that WikiLeaks got hold of. Origo, the online newspaper, has all the Hungarian material but not everything has been summarized yet. For today I am using the few documents that pertain to the Americans' perception of Ferenc Gyurcsány.
I must say that I feel in my element here because we are dealing this time with real, honest-to-goodness documents that give us a much more reliable picture of U.S.-Hungarian relations than the guesswork that appears in the writings of political commentators.
These documents were written between 2007 and 2010 and thus cover a period during which two U.S. ambassadors, both political appointees, were watching over U.S.-Hungarian relations. April H. Foley, a Bush appointee, served between August 18, 2006 and April 2, 2009. Then for almost a year there was no ambassador until Barack Obama at last decided to give the post to Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, who presented her credentials to László Sólyom on January 11, 2010.
What did the American diplomats in Budapest think of Ferenc Gyurcsány and his government? Not much; in 2007 and 2008 they had a rather low opinion of the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition in general and of Ferenc Gyurcsány in particular. In the first cable April Foley was especially worried about Gyurcsány's foreign policy, specifically about Russian-Hungarian relations. According to Foley, Gyurcsány's utterances are "ambivalent concerning energy security and the missile defense program." On the other hand, Foley was obviously taken with Fidesz, "whose leaders work hard to repair the party's relations with us." The cable makes it evident that there was some American pressure on the Gyurcsány government "to send clear signals that Hungary is strategically committed to the United States." But the Americans were disappointed because the signals were not clear enough. Gyurcsány became suspect in American eyes as a result of his frequent visits to Russia. The Americans were also unhappy about a Hungarian-Ukrainian agreement to build a storage facility for natural gas reserves.
On a personal level, April Foley heartily disliked Ferenc Gyurcsány. The following snide remark may give a taste of the relationship between the two. During the summer of 2007 Daniel Fried, U.S. undersecretary in the State Department, was visiting Hungary, and the U.S. Embassy prepared a background summary of Hungarian politics for him. An excerpt: "Your visit will be at the beginning of the silly season which the tired Gyurcsány government badly needs although doesn't deserve." Her suggestion to Fried was to visit Viktor Orbán. The implication was that the best description of the Hungarian political situation could be obtained from the leader of Fidesz.
The bone of contention between the Americans and the Gyurcsány government was Hungary's relationship with Russia. According to another cable written by Foley in 2008, "Gyurcsány talks about the new Russia with great enthusiasm (rajongva)." The American ambassador reproached Gyurcsány for standing for "western values [but] eastern interests," something that from the Hungarian point of view one cannot find terribly surprising given Hungary's reliance on Russian natural gas. The Americans suspected Gyurcsány of having some kind of hidden agenda. According to the same document, Gyurcsány talks about Transatlantic relations and western values but "he feels more comfortable with Russia and Ukraine."
Foley and her staff ventured into the world of psychoanalysis: "We feel that some kind of personal thing is playing a part here. Gyurcsány often speaks about Putin's popularity. For example on July 30  he talked how much Russian women are begging Putin to stay. Putin certainly made Gyurcsány feel at home but the same thing cannot be said about his reception in western political circles…. Gyurcsány perhaps values Putin for something he himself lacks: the firmness of his position and his self-assurance in foreign policy matters." The cable concludes: "We made clear to Gyurcsány that we hope that Hungary 'will regain its voice' and will be able to strengthen its position in the western community." The story of the Gyurcsány-Foley meeting is also described by Ferenc Gyurcsány himself. According to his account Foley even criticized the government for increasing its exports to Russia. Gyurcsány wrote that, at this point, "I almost fell off my chair."
The Americans were also upset about Gyurcsány's not taking a firm stand against Russia in 2008 when a mini-war developed between Georgia and Russia over the possession of Abkhazia. What the Americans obviously wanted was an unequivocal condemnation of Russia, which the Hungarian government was loath to do because of its fear of Russian economic retaliation. The Gyurcsány government adhered to the official EU-NATO position but didn't go farther than that. However, Orbán, who of course could say all sorts of things being in opposition, used the language the Americans wanted to hear. The cable approvingly notes that Orbán called upon Gyurcsány to take a firm stand against the Russians. Foley and the American diplomats in Budapest even condemned Mátyás Eörsi (SZDSZ) who visited Georgia and nonetheless "found the reaction of the Hungarian government … satisfactory." The American embassy tried to put pressure on the Hungarian government in this matter and managed to organize a couple of interviews with American diplomats on MTV1.
I suspect that the very negative attitude of April Foley towards the Gyurcsány government had a lot to do with the Fidesz filter through which news reached her about the activities of the government. As I see it, the Americans were fooled by Viktor Orbán concerning, for example, Hungarian adherence to the so-called Southern Stream, a new pipeline that would avoid Ukraine and make the Russian supply of natural gas reach Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria and Italy.
Orbán may have railed against the Southern Stream to Foley, but by January 2010–new U.S. ambassador in place–he changed his tune. According to a "confidential" cable, Orbán "confessed to the Embassy that he would continue the policies of the former government concerning the Southern stream. This is in sharp contrast to his earlier bellicose [harcias] statements." It turned out that the Americans knew already in November 2009 that Orbán was in fact in favor of the Southern Stream. While talking to Richard Morningstar, Special Envoy of the U.S. Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy, he bluntly announced that Hungary must take part in the Southern Stream project even if it endangers the construction of the Nabucco pipeline.
It is worth remembering that Orbán ferociously attacked the Gyurcsány government for its adherence to the Southern Stream project and compared the contract signed by the Hungarians to a coup d'état. Even a year later Fidesz politicians called upon the Hungarian government to change its stance on the subject. Origo gave the following title to the article that outlined the contents of this particular cable: "Orbán used the Russian pipeline as a political instrument."
Considering that there are apparently 7,000 cables in which the word "Hungarian" appears among the newly released WikiLeaks documents, most likely a much more nuanced picture will eventually emerge. On the basis of what I have read up to know it seems that throughout the period in which April Foley was the U.S. ambassador a decidedly pro-Fidesz American policy was in place and a rather antagonistic attitude reigned in the U.S. Embassy toward the Gyurcsány government and Ferenc Gyurcsány himself. Given the close relationship between Foley and the Fidesz leadership–and this was an open secret in Budapest–most likely some of the very antagonistic descriptions of the Gyurcsány government came from Fidesz politicians.
By late 2009 and early 2010 the Americans had to realize that they had been duped. By now "strategic alliances" with both Russia and China are being contemplated by Viktor Orbán, who was thought to be such a reliable friend of the United States of America.