A footnote to McCain’s visit and Viktor Orbán’s letter to John Lukacs

I’m going to start with a footnote to my post on American-Hungarian relations and the visit of John McCain to Budapest.

I have written about Foreign Minister János Martonyi several times over the years on Hungarian Spectrum. Here I’ll recap briefly.

Martonyi loyally served the Kádár regime as trade secretary in Brussels between 1979 and 1984 when he was promoted to department head at the ministry of foreign trade. He joined the communist party only a few months before its collapse.

In the Antall administration he became undersecretary in the ministry of foreign affairs, but when the socialists and liberals won the election in 1994 Martonyi, for the first time in his life, found himself outside the world of civil service. He became a partner at Baker & McKenzie’s Budapest office. His exile didn’t last long. In 1998 he became foreign minister in Viktor Orbán’s first government where he dutifully played second fiddle to Viktor Orbán, who even then was inclined to conduct his own diplomatic efforts, if you can call them that. While today he has his own undersecretary for foreign affairs and trade located in the prime minister’s office, then he was not so blatant. My impression in those days was that the man Orbán relied on was his old friend, one of the founders of Fidesz, Zsolt Németh, undersecretary under János Martonyi.

Initially I felt sorry for Martonyi for being put in such a demeaning position, but since then I changed my mind. A self-respecting person would have resigned. He didn’t. During Fidesz’s exile, especially during the tenure of April H. Foley, he was the confidant and skillful manipulator of the American ambassador. Perhaps because of his usefulness during this period Viktor Orbán decided that the post of foreign minister would go to Martonyi even though most people thought that the front runner was Németh. But given Zsolt Németh’s decreasing visibility and influence, it looks as if Németh has been dropped while Martonyi is just ignored.

In my post on the McCain visit I called attention to Martonyi’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Orbán government’s anti-American stance, which belies the man’s allegedly pro-western moderate views. Today he gave a telephone interview to MTI in which he explained that he had a private conversation with Senator McCain “who spoke in very positive terms” about his visit to Budapest. Martonyi assured the American politician that the rules of democracy are being followed to the letter in Hungary. He added that “John McCain is still our friend who follows Hungarian affairs with understanding. His visit to Budapest only strengthened his sympathies quite independently of the kind of terminology he used at his press conference.”

So, if I understand it right, according to Martonyi, Senator McCain lied at his press conference and in the press release I shared with you yesterday. Or put another way, those Hungarians who heard McCain and read the newspaper reports on that press conference were misled by the good senator because he, in fact, was mighty impressed with Viktor Orbán and Hungarian democracy and thought that the monument designed to demonstrate that Hungary had no role to play in the Holocaust was a splendid idea. A friend of mine originally from Romania told me that this kind of lying was a favorite trick of the Ceaușescu regime.

And now to something entirely different. I translated Professor John Lukacs’s open letter to Viktor Orbán expressing his misgivings about getting involved with Russia through a long-term commitment on the Paks nuclear power plant. Well, this time Viktor Orbán replied to Professor Lukacs very promptly.

* * *

Mr. John Lukács
Corvin-Chain recipient professor

Dear Mr. Professor:

I am reading your open letter that is also addressed to me and that appeared in the newspaper that once belonged to the communist party. I always looked upon your friendship and attention as one of the gifts of my life. Perhaps because of your books or the liberality of your lectures, or perhaps the genuine Catholic serenity which surrounds you. I don’t really know. Whatever it is, it was easy to be in agreement when we talked about Hungarian history, the state of Christian civilization, and the important questions of the future. This must have been the reason that until now I didn’t notice the differences which divide us and which are most likely due to our different generational responses.

You still see our beloved country’s anchoring in the West as an open question. For our own anti-communist generation hardened during the times of the regime change, it is a closed chapter.  A clearly and splendidly closed chapter. A worthy answer to the Soviet occupation of 1945 and to the decades of communism. It is an answer coming from the Hungarian spirit and Hungarian soul. Two plebiscites connect Hungary to the military and political system of the West. NATO and the European Union. What always belonged together has grown together. We chose our military, political, and economic systems by an overwhelming majority because today’s Hungarians know who we are and where we belong. We here at home already live in that future about which you still worry on the other side of the ocean.

miniszterelnokThe most challenging question of that future is the competitiveness of our West, that is of Europe in the next decades. My own answer can be summarized this way: the future of Europe is western identity and eastern activity. We have to firmly guard our values, including our Christian commitment, and at the same time with full speed we must build our economic ties with the East. This is what Germany, France, and even the United States are doing, and at last we ourselves started on that road.

Please don’t pay too much attention to the left, which is still struggling with its own communist past and Muscovite* role. Its present anti-Russian stance is outright laughable. To hold the view that strong economic ties with Russia are wrong because of its communist past would find its parallel in arguing against the strengthening of our economic ties with the Germans because they were Nazis. All this is only the scummy slough of communism.

As you know, we have an election campaign here and therefore there is more than usual disagreement. But I would bet a lot that on the question of Russian relations the day after the election there will be perfect agreement.

We thank you for your concerns and friendly words. We all of us wish you vigor and good health. We are looking forward to your new books.

January 27, 2014

With friendship,
Viktor Orbán

—–

*Orbán actually uses the word “muszkavezető.” First of all, “muszka” as the equivalent of Russian is dying out in the Hungarian language. Second, “muszkavezető” literally means “someone who leads in the Russians.” One can say all sorts of things about Rákosi and his gang, but not that they themselves were responsible for the presence of the Russians on Hungarian soil.

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Mr. Paul
Guest
“So, if I understand it right, according to Martonyi, Senator McCain lied at his press conference and in the press release I shared with you yesterday.” No. Martonyi never said that McCain lied and he would never do such a thing with decades of diplomatic experience under his belt. The explanation is possibly much more simple.The famous Logan Act prohibits McCain and other US citizens “to conduct foreign relations without authority”. This means that McCain publicly has to follow the State Department’s line or whoever instructed him on this trip. A violation of the Logan act is a felony under US law and punishable with up to three years in prison. This means that by the power of Law McCain has to publicly follow the official foreign policy of the US and cannot create his own. When in private however he has an opportunity to share his own opinions without fear of violating the law. So by default McCain has two opinions, an “official” one, and the one he really thinks. Martonyi implied that the McCain in private is different from the “official” McCain but this is already by the Law created default for any US official. I suspect that… Read more »
Mr. Paul
Guest

“Orbán actually uses the word “muszkavezető.” First of all, “muszka” as the equivalent of Russian is dying out in the Hungarian language. Second, “muszkavezető” literally means “someone who leads in the Russians.” One can say all sorts of things about Rákosi and his gang, but not that they themselves were responsible for the presence of the Russians on Hungarian soil.”

Muszkavezető is an archaic word but it has a clear meaning. It refers to the people who helped the Soviets. The invading Soviet troops in many cases had no knowledge of the area where they were and used the help such local “muszkavezető” to gain this knowledge. How to get from city A to city B faster, which roads are good, where are shortcuts availble and so on and so forth. So the term does not refer to leading as in “leading the troops” like a general, but rather acting as a “guide” to help them move around easier. “Vezető” has multiple meanings in Hungarian and this particular meaning is closer to “idegenvezető” — “tourist-guide”.

Member

Dear Ms. Balogh: An excellent article with all the right conclusions nicely proven.

Mr. Paul
Guest

I always assumed that the word “muszkavezető” has its roots going back to 1956 but now that I have looked into it it turns out that it is much more ancient than that.

According to Pallas lexikon, Muszkavezető goes back to 1849 when the Russian troops invaded Hungary at the time of its War for Freedom / Independence. The Muszkavezető were officers, selected from the Hungarian population to guide the Russian troops and supply them with advice, directions and other local knowledge.

So in essence they were traitors to Hungary who helped the enemy gain victory in the war.

see for example:

http://www.kislexikon.hu/muszkavezeto.html

petofi
Guest

What can one say about Martonyi? Wasn’t he the Foreign Minister when he-who-dares takes it upon himself to negotiate privately, without consultation or informing his own Minister, with the Azeris? After that act of humiliation, any Minister of any country would have tendered an immediate resignation. But eating a few plates of crow is nothing for a Hungarian when his self-interest is at stake. Martonyi is the archtypical Fidesz politician–a veneer of sophistication that
hides the rotteness within.

Mr. Paul
Guest
Eva S. Balogh : Well, Mr. Paul, first of all I don’t think that you know the exact meaning of the Logan Act of 1799. Put it that way, it is not applicable in this case. The Logan Act forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. McCain was not negotiating with a foreign government. He was authorized to come to Hungary and represent the views of the American government. He was negotiating with no foreign government about anything. I know the Logan Act quite well. Let me quote the actual text of the Logan Act for you: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.” source, the Logan Act, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33265.pdf As you see the Logan Act is applicable to this case 100%, word by word. We can check it point by point: 1. “Any… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Since lying comes so easy to Martonyi, indeed, it’s an occupational necessity in the Orban government, it was no problem to understand McCain in a way best to serve himself (Martonyi).
No doubt, McCain will blanch when Martonyi’s version will be reported to him. What’s more,
if McCain gets elected to the presidency, Martonyi and Orban will be remembered.

Mutt
Guest

I can’t imagine McCain praising the Orban regime. If Martonyi ever had a conversation with him privately I’m sure the senator didn’t beat around bush.

I assume the real reason of the visit was delivering a warning that it’s not a good idea to cozy up with the Russkies. This may have happened in private.

Mutt
Guest

Mr. Paul, there’s no Logan act here. As courtesy of the State Department Orban wasn’t humiliated publicly.

Mr. Paul
Guest
petofi : Since lying comes so easy to Martonyi, indeed, it’s an occupational necessity in the Orban government, it was no problem to understand McCain in a way best to serve himself (Martonyi). No doubt, McCain will blanch when Martonyi’s version will be reported to him. What’s more, if McCain gets elected to the presidency, Martonyi and Orban will be remembered. Martonyi uses slippery diplomat speech he is hard to catch in a lie if you look at his sentences again. “John McCain is still our friend” Our friend indeed. But who is “us” in the sentence? “Us Hungarians”? McCain would agree with that. “Us, the country of Hungary”? Because Martonyi only says “us” you can never pin him down and everyone can only make sense of the sentence by decoding the “us”. Martonyi is Hungarian for sure that can be “us”. He represents the whole country as FM that can be “us”. He also represents the government, as minister… He also represents Fidesz… Any one of these can be “us”. ” His visit to Budapest only strengthened his sympathies” Towards whom? Us? The Hungarian people? The country? The government? Fidesz? Anyone can pick and choose their own decoding of… Read more »
Hamu Rabbi
Guest

“had no role to play in the Holocaust” — because everything, just EVERYTHING has got to be about the Holocaust, right? There were like 3 rounds of “zsidó kárpótlás” in Hungary where the state sends cheques to the surviving Jews or their family — now who is going to compensate the rest of the nation? Sorry as I am for the dead Jews, but my family and my people have also suffered under the German Invasion, my city which was one of the prettiest in the world was bombed into oblivion because of this invasion, will you allow me to see a monument of that? On the northern end of that very same square there is an obelisk commemorating the Russian Invasion called the ‘Liberation Monument’, where the muszkavezetők and their descendants say their Leninist prayers and that’s just as well. ‘Liberation Monument’. Pleeease just cut the crap about Orban manipulating history.

Mr. Paul
Guest

Today there was also an Anti-Paks demonstration in Budapest. Many opposition leaders gave speeches of course Gyurcsany gave the most significant one. He is by and large a much better speaker than anyone the opposition has available.

But I noticed something : Mesterházy was missing from the anti-Paks demonstration completely. Maybe the Russians started convincing MSZP already? I remember that a few commenters said that the Russians would not even sign the deal without some backing from MSZP.

It would be also quite inconsiderate from the Russians if they would not consult MSZP at all before the deal was made. After all if this deal goes forward it will last decades and the Russians cannot expect MSZP not to govern during that time… They must know MSZP will be the main government force at some point. So it would be weird if they didn’t consult them at all.

tref
Guest

Muszkavezető is a very weird word indeed. ‘Muszka’ for Russians is extremely old fashioned word that has not been in proper use for at least 70-80 years or more, and even then it must have been rare and certainly not appropriate in a formal or serious letter these days. Whoever drafted the letter must be a weird person, but I guess that is not a surprise.

petofi
Guest

@ Mr. Paul

“..And then McCain would have to agree that he is a friend of course so on and so forth…”

Your hair-splitting, sir, is just that–it doesn’t explain away anything. And please remember who said this: ” I looked into his eyes and saw K…G…B “–Yes, that’s right, it was McCain who has
an accurate bullshit meter. That fact will not be lost on him should he become US President.
And then, the bullshit that Orban and his minions spout will come back down to rain upon themselves.

drinker
Guest

Muszkavezető is a very weird word indeed. ‘Muszka’ for Russians is extremely old fashioned word that has not been in proper use for at least 70-80 years or more, and even then it must have been rare and certainly not appropriate in a formal or serious letter these days. Whoever drafted the letter must be a weird person, but I guess that is not a surprise.

Andy -- Senator McCain and the State Department
Guest

Irrespective whether anyone likes or dislikes, agrees or disagrees with Senator McCain on any issue a responsible such as Senator McCain obviously clears a trip to Hungary with the State Departrment before undertaking his trip. That in practice would mean the trip has the approval of the US Secretary of State – and likely with full knowledge by President Obama and such a visit is planned every step of the way and supported in full by the local US Embassy.

Member

As we all know, Senators and Representatives DON’T make foreign policy decisions independently and while they are traveling abroad. Hungary was just one 24 hr. stop for the delegation and I am sure not the important one. Martonyi flushed down a semi-respectablle carrier long time ago, when he accepted his first paycheck from the first Orban regime. Since then he is just a Fidesz rent-a-trap.

drinker
Guest

Paul, re Paks 2.

Mesterhazy, as the prime minister candidate, will not do ad hoc events, which were not planned months in advance. He will not be a speaker for a small gathering. That is simply PR and campaign strategy.

I am sure the Russians spoke to MSZP about Paks, but now that Gyurcsany as well as Együtt both strongly oppose Paks 2, MSZP could not alone do it, even if it wanted to. Perhaps MSZP is now in a good position because it can tell the Russians, that look, we would be open to it, but we just cannot do it because of Együtt and DK.

MSZP may be a big party, but it is much smaller than it used to be, and this is a national matter, not a small issue.

From the campaign opening it seemed that MSZP wants clearly to oppose Paks 2 strongly. M

aybe they will not do so eventually in the campaign, but at this point I would not worry about MSZP that much.

petofi
Guest

There’s added pressure on Martonyi: Kover has let it be known that his mustache must be twirled and waxed just so…or he’ll be sent on a walking tour of the Hortobagy for a week.

buddy
Guest

petofi :
@ Mr. Paul
“..And then McCain would have to agree that he is a friend of course so on and so forth…”
Your hair-splitting, sir, is just that–it doesn’t explain away anything. And please remember who said this: ” I looked into his eyes and saw K…G…B “–Yes, that’s right, it was McCain who has
an accurate bullshit meter. That fact will not be lost on him should he become US President.
And then, the bullshit that Orban and his minions spout will come back down to rain upon themselves.

Just so there’s no confusion over this, John McCain will never be U.S. President It was widely reported that the 2008 campaign was physically draining on him and limited his ability to run an effective campaign. Talk show hosts and comedians mocked him for being “old”. McCain will not run for President again. He will be 80 years old in 2016.

petofi
Guest

@Buddy

Rather McCain at 80 than Hillary at any age.
(But I agree with you: he’s too old. I thought he was in his early 70s.)

spectator
Guest

There is a certain confusion here regarding the word Muscovite.
I guess what Orbán intended to use rather were “Moscovita” – a word was used first to those returned WVI PW-s who learned of and became followers of the early communism, the ideology from Moscow, hence the name.
(The Hungarian spelling is “moszkovita” btw., and has nothing to with being a “muszka”.)

Max
Guest

Concerning Martonyi’s CV one shall not omit an important assigment / mission. The last communist government appointed him to the position of ‘Government Commissioner for Spontaneous Privatisation’ in 1989.
Spontaneous privatisation was the codename for the first wave of institutional recapitalisation of the Invisible Legion as Martonyi and his comrades have converted political capital into financial ones.

Earnest
Guest

What an odd letter to write as a Prime Minister. I can’t call someone who lowers himself to this level a statesman. What a sad, vindictive and pathetic creature.

Guest

That letter by Orbán sounds really strange – sometimes even condescending!

Who writes that kind of stuff? Surely it wasn’t the Bolsheviktor (sorry, but I had to use this pun …) himself?

It also is full of the typical logical fallacies aka kindergarden-logic that Fidesz so often uses:

The other boy did something similar last week – so why am I being punished?

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Current PM of Hungary :
… with full speed we must build our economic ties with the East. This is what Germany, France, and even the United States are doing, and at last we ourselves started on that road.

Sure. There’s at least one big catch though: both Germany and France, while increasing the volume of trade, did in the last years decrease their trade deficit in goods with Russia. In 2012 the DE/RU trade deficit was approx. 5%, and the FR/RU approx. 16%. Hungary’s trade deficit with Russia was stable at 60%. Also, both DE/RU and FR/RU direct investment balances were hugely positive.

How does the Paks II deal address in any way the concern of Hungary’s trade & investment deficits with Russia ? Is it a “tie” that Mr. Orban is building, or a leash?

Andy -- Wonderland
Guest

Re the nuclear energy question – Orbans vessel is leaking at every rivet and joint. I’ve never seen, heard or witnessed a similarly outrageous political-economic step in any Western Democracy in my lifetime.

Its like a wild circus show, Orban jumping around on the backs of elephants, while they are cahorting around in front of the spectators.

Its a very sad and pathetic show…

The show needs to be shut down immediately as being a wild threat ALREADY AT THE INITIAL pre-planning stage to an entire population of an EU and World member state.

I think Orban’s thinking he’s in Alice’s Wonderland.

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