Viktor Orbán in Moscow: “Putin’s new little kitten”?

Earlier I mentioned that after his return from Brussels Viktor Orbán was flying to Moscow. Ahead of yesterday’s meeting no one knew exactly what the negotiations would be about. The Hungarian press mentioned possible several topics: the further development of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant; the building of the Southern Stream that will go through Hungary; the sale of Russian natural gas; transportation, especially the country’s rail system; and bilateral trade. I suspect that all of these items have been under discussion between the two countries for the past few months. Obviously no detailed discussion of these topics took place during the fifteen-minute audience Vladimir Putin granted the Hungarian prime minister.

The Hungarian media poked fun at the brevity of the visit and complained that Viktor Orbán’s visit didn’t make banner headlines in the Russian press. Yes, the meeting was short, but presumably all the groundwork had been laid for it.  Orbán had only to show his face to endorse the negotiations of his underlings. Moreover, one must keep in mind that for Hungary Russia is a much more important partner than vice versa. In trade relations the Hungarian share of Russian imports is only 2%. On the other hand, Hungary because of its dependence on natural gas and oil is heavily dependent on Russian goodwill.

Hungarian foreign policy experts pointed out that the Russians are pragmatic negotiating partners who will not be bothered by Viktor Orbán’s earlier attitude toward Russia. Because, in case anyone has forgotten, Viktor Orbán’s relations with Russia were outright antagonistic during his first four years in office. And, while in opposition, he fiercely attacked both Péter Medgyessy and especially Ferenc Gyurcsány for trying to mend fences with Russia. He was especially critical of Gyurcsány’s efforts to make a deal with Russia on the Southern Stream. He managed to blacken Ferenc Gyurcsány’s name in Washington where the Bush administration was certain that Gyurcsány was not only interested in obtaining natural gas but that somehow he was ideologically attracted to the semi-dictatorial Vladimir Putin. The same Vladimir Putin to whom western newspapermen compare Viktor Orbán nowadays.

So, let’s look at the long process that eventually led to Viktor Orbán’s conversion. In January of 2007 he announced that “we don’t want to be the happiest barracks of Gazprom.” In November of the same year he called the Gyurcsány government’s policies in connection with Russian-Hungarian relations incomprehensible. How can Hungary be “a bridge between the West and Russia”? Hungary’s place is squarely in the West. This is the same man who now finds his country’s destiny in the East.

During the Russian-Georgian conflict he sided with Georgia. In October 2008 he claimed that “in Hungary today one-sided and unbalanced pro-Russian policies are being pursued.” In 2009 he considered a potential Russian threat to Europe a serious matter. Even after he won the elections, in November 2010, he said that any kind of partnership with Russia was dangerous. He complained that more and more EU countries were initiating economic cooperation with Russia and that this would lead to a dangerous economic and political penetration of Russia into the West.  He declared that “even NATO  doesn’t consider Moscow an opponent anymore but a partner” and expressed his fear that “the western world will eventually forge a historic alliance that will be dangerous for Central Europe.”

This fear of Russia led Viktor Orbán to come up with the idea of a cordon sanitaire or an axis as he called it. The former socialist countries should band together from the Baltic to the Adriatic to make sure that Russian political and economic ambitions are checked. One “political analyst” went so far as to write in Heti Válasz (December 2009) that he believed that Russia would be genuinely fearful if Viktor Orbán were to become prime minister of Hungary. The mouse that roared!

After his election Orbán visited Poland where he most likely tried to convince Donald Tusk to join this axis. Orbán failed in this attempt, however, and from there on the government made little mention of this grand alliance forged by the Hungarian prime minister. But as the speech he gave in November 2010 indicates, he didn’t abandon his anti-Russian sentiments and his fear of Moscow.

Although his meeting with Putin was very short, Orbán arrived in Moscow with a large delegation. He was accompanied by György Matolcsy, minister of national economy; Mrs. László Németh, the mystery minister of national development; Mihály Varga who at last is free from his duties as chief negotiator with the IMF; Péter Szijjártó who lately behaves as if he were the foreign minister (as he is except in name); and Csaba Baji, the CEO of the Magyar Villamos Művek Zrt. (Hungarian Electric Power Co.) On the Russian side, besides Putin, the Russian minister of agriculture and the CEOs of Gazprom, Rosatom, and Vnesheconombank were present.  Vnesheconombank is commonly called the Russian Development Bank. The institution is used by the Russian government to support and develop the Russian economy.

Vladimir Putin and Viktor OrbánMTI / Photo  Szilárd Koszticsák

Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán, January 31, 2013
MTI / Photo Szilárd Koszticsák

Putin turned out to be a gracious host, at least on the protocol level.  He was “very glad that [Viktor Orbán]  finally took advantage of this invitation to come to Moscow.” He announced that he considered Hungary a priority partner in Central Europe, especially on economic matters, “because, after all, after Germany, Russia is the most important trading partner of Hungary.” Putin noted that an avenue in Budapest was named after Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy. He naturally neglected to mention that Moszkva tér in Buda lost its name at almost the same time. He ended his speech with “We have been waiting for you in Moscow. … Welcome back!”

Orbán was equally expansive. He talked about Hungarian admiration for Russian culture and praised Russian achievements profusely. He made sure that Putin understands that he is aware of Russia’s economic and political importance:  “We believe that Russia is a great power. It has not only a great past, but also a great future. So it is obvious that  Hungary has a keen interest in maintaining a fruitful and close cooperation with Russia.” He also welcomed Russian investment in Hungary.

Putin added a little dig. Or at least I interpret it this way. Picking up on Orbán’s reference to Russian culture, Putin in his brief answer noted the multinational nature of the Russian Federation. Among the components of this ethnic mix are the Finno-Ugric people to whom the Hungarians related. He indicated that there will also be Russian-Hungarian cooperation in that field. So, forget about Kazakhstan!

Véleményvezér, one of the leading Hungarian-language blogs, entitled its post “Viktor Orbán, Putin’s new little kitten.” As for the Hungarian opposition’s response, I will deal with that topic tomorrow.

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petofi
Guest

Viktor meeting the boss.

Member

Tolstoy avenue (sétány) is imaginary – it does not show up on a map, it is a path in the Liget (park), see
http://index.hu/belfold/2012/01/30/tarlos_szepitett_az_oroszoknal/

Ron
Guest

Is it now me or lately all the pictures published relating to VO handshakes are strange, qua body language. I check out the video’s, but noticed nothing strange.

Btw on the picture above, it looks like they have some hand shake pressure contest going on.

Turkmenbasi
Guest

After this meeting with the Czar of Russia, Orbán is going to host a meeting with the Sultan of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Budapest on Tuesday. What a flurry of meetings with oriental autocrats.

Indeed, not many Western leaders are ready to meet Orbán tête-à-tête these days…

Bowen
Guest

It’s hardly surprising that Putin and Orban are suddenly rather friendly. Putin must be watching the Bekemenet marches with some amusement. When Putin won his election this year, (according to BBC news):

“Tens of thousands of supporters of Mr Putin – with Russian flags and banners – took part in a concert outside the Kremlin to celebrate his victory late on Sunday. Making a brief appearance with current President Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Putin thanked his supporters from “every corner” of the country.
“I promised you we would win, and we won,” he said, his eyes watering. “Glory to Russia! We have won in an open and honest battle. We proved that no one can force anything on us.”

Much at it makes me want to vomit, I think we can safely expect similar “victory celebrations” if Orban wins his election in 2014. Maybe he’ll stand in Kossuth Ter and wipe away a few emotional tears as he confirms that nobody – not even the EU – can tell Hungary what to do.

wwwieeiww
Guest
Orbán is envious of Putin. Orbán understands and respects power. Real power, I mean, sovereignty. In the EU the Germans can be tough (they never are), but they will need Orbán’s vote both in the parliament or in the council. Putin should not care, he turns off the tap and that’s that. His got what nobody else has: energy (and the nukes). Orbán also respects the other, more sinister power (used for internal purposes mostly, but not exclusively), that Putin is head of the siloviki (ex-Cheka). The second is the business. Orbán and Co.’s can’t stop thinking about the money they can get ‘access to’ by taking over the natural gas business. That is an annually ten billion EUR business in Hungary from which they could take out as much as they would not be ashemed of. There are so many ways (and you can learn a lot from the Russians in this respect). The natural gas business will not be profitable for the tax payers (surprise), but Orbán’s pals will make sure that through brokerage fees, middlemen, subcontractors etc. they will amass furtunes. The system (energy contracts back and forth – similar to the very complex CDO’s and derivatives)… Read more »
Turkmenbasi
Guest

wwweiiewww: “Orbán and Co.’s can’t stop thinking about the money they can get ‘access to’ by taking over the natural gas business. That is an annually ten billion EUR business in Hungary from which they could take out as much as they would not be ashemed of. There are so many ways (and you can learn a lot from the Russians in this respect). ”

Exactly. As far as I know that is the main fault line between Csányi and Fidesz. MOL is a state within the state in Hungary and Csányi has been controlling MOL through its lieutenant, CEO Hernádi. Orbán is determined to change this status quo.

Let us not forget that, Csányi also has a significant influence over the Hungarian siloviki through another of his lieutenant, interior minister Pintér.

Member
Russia is one of Hungary’s last lifeline. Plainly this is it. Orban knows it, the West knows it, and so does Putin. Why Hungary is coming out of its $ based bonds to finance itself (more so to finance the financing at more cost that IMF would of done it) Matolcsy’s comments did some good to the Hungarian Forint and prepared that market for the sale of bonds. According to the Washington Post: “Market sentiment toward Hungary has improved markedly in recent days as a result of Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy’s comments in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that there’s no room for “shock therapy” in monetary policy. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will replace the governor of the National Bank of Hungary March 3, when his six-year mandate expires, and markets feared that monetary policy may become radically loose to help the government’s growth agenda. Mr. Matolcsy’s comments firmed the forint 2.7% to a two-week high against the euro, and yields on a 12-month treasury bill the government auctioned Thursday fell to a two-and-a-half-year low.” I think the shock therapy will arrive to investors sooner then they believe. Either Matolcsy or Orban is known for keeping their… Read more »
LwiiH
Guest

OV got 15 minutes.. WOW!!!

An
Guest

@wwweiiewww: “In Orbán, it seemed State found a nice representative (i.e. against the Russians). Unlucky State, it got let down for the umpteenth time.”

Americans can be so naive.

You whole analysis, btw, is spot on. Unfortunately.

Guest
Eva: “Putin added a little dig. Or at least I interpret it this way. Picking up on Orbán’s reference to Russian culture, Putin in his brief answer noted the multinational nature of the Russian Federation. Among the components of this ethnic mix are the Finno-Ugric people to whom the Hungarians related. He indicated that there will also be Russian-Hungarian cooperation in that field. So, forget about Kazakhstan!” Turkmenbas: “After this meeting with the Czar of Russia, Orbán is going to host a meeting with the Sultan of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Budapest on Tuesday. What a flurry of meetings with oriental autocrats.” I agree with Eva’s interpretation. Remember that the Turanian project was initiated in the second half of the nineteenth century as a joint enterprise between Hungary and Turkey. Its aim was to stir up trouble for Russia among its Turkic peoples in Central Asia and Siberia. The fundamental but obsolete assumption of turanism is that Hungarian is a Turkic language. This is still universally believed in Turkey, and in Hungary it is the credo of the nationalistic right. The state sponsorship of a giant gathering of Turkic people every two years in Bugac in Hungary places Hungary… Read more »
Turkmenbasi
Guest

Jean P: My comment on the meetings with Putin and Erdogan simply established the fact and did not aim at outlining any interpretation of ethnic frictions.

Meanwhile, I sense that Erdogans’s visit is a reward for the Orbán Government’s handling of Turkey’s younger brother, Azerbaijan.

szabi
Guest

Re Paks, left unsaid is the underlying outrage. Newspapers and sites such as Index, talk about it(and have been talking about it in this manner) as completely normal.

“Orbán goes to Moscow and will give them Paks. Trade it for something.”

I mean a giant investment like this which has no comparision in Hungary in the last 30 years, not even on the same order of magnitude (Metro line 4 was a tiny fraction of Paks). And Orbán will just give it to Putin, without public procurement (yes, there will be a sham procedure) or real consideration for what is Hungary’s best interest. And this has been treated by everybody as normal.

(And of course dismantling and warehousing Paks II after decommissioning is another issue). I would also mention that the Russians used to take away the used radioactive fuel rods, not anymore.They will be beried around Pécs, close to Villány. And Orbán will trust them regardless. There is that money, as they say.

gdfxx
Guest

szabi :
Re Paks, left unsaid is the underlying outrage. Newspapers and sites such as Index, talk about it(and have been talking about it in this manner) as completely normal.
“Orbán goes to Moscow and will give them Paks. Trade it for something.”
I mean a giant investment like this which has no comparision in Hungary in the last 30 years, not even on the same order of magnitude (Metro line 4 was a tiny fraction of Paks). And Orbán will just give it to Putin, without public procurement (yes, there will be a sham procedure) or real consideration for what is Hungary’s best interest. And this has been treated by everybody as normal.
(And of course dismantling and warehousing Paks II after decommissioning is another issue). I would also mention that the Russians used to take away the used radioactive fuel rods, not anymore.They will be beried around Pécs, close to Villány. And Orbán will trust them regardless. There is that money, as they say.

In nuclear technology safety overrides all other considerations. Well, the Russians are known for their reliability in this domain, see Chernobyl…

Guest

London Calling!

Hello Jean P! – Very interesting!

Do you know if Prime Minister Erdogan is a fan of Michael Jackson?

Regards

Charlie

Ral Peter
Guest
Jean P : Eva: “Putin added a little dig. Or at least I interpret it this way. Picking up on Orbán’s reference to Russian culture, Putin in his brief answer noted the multinational nature of the Russian Federation. Among the components of this ethnic mix are the Finno-Ugric people to whom the Hungarians related. He indicated that there will also be Russian-Hungarian cooperation in that field. So, forget about Kazakhstan!” Turkmenbas: “After this meeting with the Czar of Russia, Orbán is going to host a meeting with the Sultan of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Budapest on Tuesday. What a flurry of meetings with oriental autocrats.” I agree with Eva’s interpretation. Remember that the Turanian project was initiated in the second half of the nineteenth century as a joint enterprise between Hungary and Turkey. Its aim was to stir up trouble for Russia among its Turkic peoples in Central Asia and Siberia. The fundamental but obsolete assumption of turanism is that Hungarian is a Turkic language. This is still universally believed in Turkey, and in Hungary it is the credo of the nationalistic right. The state sponsorship of a giant gathering of Turkic people every two years in Bugac in… Read more »
Ral Peter
Guest
Jean P : Eva: “Putin added a little dig. Or at least I interpret it this way. Picking up on Orbán’s reference to Russian culture, Putin in his brief answer noted the multinational nature of the Russian Federation. Among the components of this ethnic mix are the Finno-Ugric people to whom the Hungarians related. He indicated that there will also be Russian-Hungarian cooperation in that field. So, forget about Kazakhstan!” Turkmenbas: “After this meeting with the Czar of Russia, Orbán is going to host a meeting with the Sultan of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Budapest on Tuesday. What a flurry of meetings with oriental autocrats.” I agree with Eva’s interpretation. Remember that the Turanian project was initiated in the second half of the nineteenth century as a joint enterprise between Hungary and Turkey. Its aim was to stir up trouble for Russia among its Turkic peoples in Central Asia and Siberia. The fundamental but obsolete assumption of turanism is that Hungarian is a Turkic language. This is still universally believed in Turkey, and in Hungary it is the credo of the nationalistic right. The state sponsorship of a giant gathering of Turkic people every two years in Bugac in… Read more »
Guest

@Turkemenbasi
I understood your comment as nothing else than factual information spiced with some ironic titles. Erdogans visit to Hungary immediately after Orbans visit to Russia reminded me of the schizophrenic character of Hungarian identity. Sometimes finn-ugric, sometimes turkic, at present mostly the latter to Putin’s dismay as it seems.

@Ral Peter
I am aware of the information you have quoted. Read also the two previous posts in HS on the subject.

//hungarianspectrum.org/2010/08/15/turanian-tribal-meeting-in-hungary/

http://hungarianspectrum.org/2012/08/10/tribal-meeting-of-the-turanians-with-hungarian-government-support/

Ral Peter
Guest

@Jean P

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Game

The Turan project was a British anti-Russian project from the 19th century.

Guest

Ral Peter:
“The Turan project was a British anti-Russian project from the 19th century.”

It is well documented that the British government paid Vambery to spread the pan-turanian gospel in Turkey. That is probably why he came out in favour of the now discredited ural-altaic theory which made Hungarian a Turkic language and made Vambery a credible advocate for turanism among the Turks.
http://archive.org/stream/derursprungderm01vmgoog#page/n7/mode/2up
Who lighted the fuse is, however, irrelevant to what happened as a result. Turanism took off in Turkey and Hungary and hardly anywhere else. From 1910 there was a close cooperation between newly established turanian societies in Turkey and Hungary. The third and last country to get a turanian society was Japan (1932).

Why is all this worth talking about? Because turanism has again become an important political factor in Hungary and Turkey, and there is a close cooperation between the turanists in the two countries.

Ral Peter.
Guest
Jean P : Ral Peter: “The Turan project was a British anti-Russian project from the 19th century.” It is well documented that the British government paid Vambery to spread the pan-turanian gospel in Turkey. That is probably why he came out in favour of the now discredited ural-altaic theory which made Hungarian a Turkic language and made Vambery a credible advocate for turanism among the Turks. http://archive.org/stream/derursprungderm01vmgoog#page/n7/mode/2up Who lighted the fuse is, however, irrelevant to what happened as a result. Turanism took off in Turkey and Hungary and hardly anywhere else. From 1910 there was a close cooperation between newly established turanian societies in Turkey and Hungary. The third and last country to get a turanian society was Japan (1932). Why is all this worth talking about? Because turanism has again become an important political factor in Hungary and Turkey, and there is a close cooperation between the turanists in the two countries. Jean P : Ral Peter: “The Turan project was a British anti-Russian project from the 19th century.” It is well documented that the British government paid Vambery to spread the pan-turanian gospel in Turkey. That is probably why he came out in favour of the now discredited… Read more »
Ral Peter.
Guest

Jean P :
Ral Peter:
“The Turan project was a British anti-Russian project from the 19th century.”
It is well documented that the British government paid Vambery to spread the pan-turanian gospel in Turkey. That is probably why he came out in favour of the now discredited ural-altaic theory which made Hungarian a Turkic language and made Vambery a credible advocate for turanism among the Turks.
http://archive.org/stream/derursprungderm01vmgoog#page/n7/mode/2up
Who lighted the fuse is, however, irrelevant to what happened as a result. Turanism took off in Turkey and Hungary and hardly anywhere else. From 1910 there was a close cooperation between newly established turanian societies in Turkey and Hungary. The third and last country to get a turanian society was Japan (1932).
Why is all this worth talking about? Because turanism has again become an important political factor in Hungary and Turkey, and there is a close cooperation between the turanists in the two countries.

OTher ironic and funny fact about Turanism and Hungarian far-right: All of the 19th Century Fathers of Hungarian turanism had Jewish origin: Ármin Vámbéry, Vilmos Hevesy,[10][11] and Ignác Goldziher[12][13]

Guest

“All of the 19th Century Fathers of Hungarian turanism had Jewish origin”

Careful there – this might lead to a new “constipation theory”! (copyright is mine …)

Lecso
Guest

Jean P :
Ral Peter:
Did you know that turanist consider the existence of Medieval christian Hungarian kingdom as a shame. Did you know that Hungarian turanists like the Ottoman conquest of Christian Hungarian kingdom? (Despite of the Ottoman genocides reduced Hungarians a minority in Hungary during the period of 1526-1686.) Turanists also hate Christianity.

This is not true, the majority of Turanists that I know are Christians, often very right wing Christians, and they are anything but haters of the Kingdom of Hungary, quite the opposite, it is the MSzP that are the haters of Kingdom of Hungary and Christianity.

Paul
Guest

“it is the MSzP that are the haters of Kingdom of Hungary and Christianity”

How can someone who frequents this blog possibly say something as mad as this and for one moment think anyone on here is going to take it seriously?

You are doubly deluded.

ppokkjso
Guest

Yes, the party that signed the Vatican treaty, haters of all Christianity.

I, as a non-MSZP, Christian however don’t like that fact that private entities such as the Catholic Church get literally tens of billions of forints (altogether, under verious titles, religiois organisations get 100bn) from non-believer tax payers. is this fair in any way? Am I a Chiristian hater just becaue I raise the issue?

Vámbéry Hevesy Goldziher
Guest
Vámbéry Hevesy Goldziher

Just read the detailed biography of these tree turanist and orientalist.

wolfi :
“All of the 19th Century Fathers of Hungarian turanism had Jewish origin”
Careful there – this might lead to a new “constipation theory”! (copyright is mine …)

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[…] Orbán’s second trip to Moscow, which took place in early February of this year, was also hotly debated in the Hungarian press where he was described as “Putin’s new little kitten.” A […]

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