Hungary as a “field of operation”

Paranoia seems to have swept through the Hungarian government. Fidesz politicians are convinced that the United States wants to remove Viktor Orbán and cause his government’s fall. All this is to be achieved by means of the “phony” charge of corruption.

Recently a journalist working for Hetek, a publication of Hitgyülekezet (Assembly of Faith), managed to induce some high-ranking members of the government to speak about the general mood in Fidesz circles. The very fact that these people spoke, even about sensitive topics, to a reporter of a liberal paper points to tactical shifts that must have occurred within the party.

Their argument runs along the following lines. Until now the Obama administration paid little attention to the region, but this past summer the decision was made to “create a defensive curtain” in Central Europe between Russia and the West. The pretext is the alleged fight against corruption. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania are the targets. Fidesz politicians point to recent Slovak demonstrations against corruption which were “publicly supported” by the U.S. ambassador in Bratislava. Or, they claim, the Americans practically forced the Romanian government to take seriously the widespread corruption in the country. They are certain that the resignation of Petr Nečas, the former Czech prime minister, “under very strange circumstances” was also the work of the CIA.

In its fight against the targeted Central European governments Washington relies heavily on NGOs and investigative journalists specializing in unveiling corruption cases. George Soros’s name must always be invoked in such conspiracy theories. And indeed, Átlátszó.hu, sponsored in part by the Soros Foundation, was specifically mentioned as a tool of American political designs.

To these Fidesz politicians’ way of thinking, all of troubles recently encountered by the government are due solely to American interference. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the government itself has given plenty of reason for public disenchantment. In fact, the first demonstrations were organized only against the internet tax. Admittedly, over the course of weeks new demands were added, and by now the demonstrators want to get rid of Viktor Orbán’s whole regime.

The Fidesz politicians who expressed an opinion think, I am sure incorrectly, that the Americans have no real evidence against Ildikó Vida and, if they do, they received it illegally. Vida got into the picture only because of the new “cold war” that broke out between the United States and Russia. Hungarian corruption is only an excuse for putting pressure on the Hungarian government because of its Russian policy and Paks.  As for Hungary’s “democracy deficit” and American misgivings about Orbán’s “illiberal state,” Fidesz politicians said that if the United States does not accept Orbán’s system of government as “democratic” and if they want Fidesz to return to the status quo ante, this is a hopeless demand. “Not one Hungarian right-wing politician would lend his name to such ‘retrogression.'”

The latest American “enemy” of the Orbán government is the State Department’s Sarah Sewall, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, who a week ago gave a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in which she said that “we [recently] denied visas to six Hungarian officials and their cronies due to their corruption. This action also bolstered public concern, and on November 9th, the streets of Budapest filled with 10,000 protesters who called for the resignation of corrupt public officials.” As soon as Hungarian officials discovered the text of that speech, André Goodfriend, the U.S. chargé in Budapest, was once again called into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I think it would be a mistake to characterize the American fight against corruption simply as a smokescreen for exerting political pressure on foreign governments. Sewall in that speech explains the potentially dangerous political ramifications of corruption.

Corruption alienates and angers citizens, which can cause them to lose faith in the state, or, worse, fuel insurgencies and violent extremism…. Ukraine …provides [an] illustration of how corruption can both increase instability risks and cripple the state’s ability to respond to those risks. The Maidan Movement was driven in part by resentment of a kleptocratic regime parading around in democratic trappings.

All this makes sense to me, and what Sewall says about Ukraine is to some extent also true about Hungary. But the Fidesz leadership sees no merit in the American argument. In fact, today both Viktor Orbán and Péter Szijjártó used very strong words to accuse the United States of interfering in Hungary’s internal affairs.

"We can't pay as much in taxes as you steal"

“We can’t pay as much in taxes as you steal”

Viktor Orbán sent a message from Belgrade. The prime minister does not know why the United States put aside 100 million dollars for “the preparation of an action plan against two dozen Central- and East-European countries in order to put pressure on their governments.” The United States declared Hungary to be a “field of operation,” along with others. Referring to Sewall’s speech, he expressed his dissatisfaction that he has to learn about such plans from a public lecture. “If someone wants to work together with Hungary or with any Central-European government for a good cause, we are open. We don’t have to be pressured, there is no need to spend money behind our backs, there is no necessity of organizing anything against us because we are rational human beings and we are always ready to work for a good cause.” It is better, he continued, to be on the up and up because Hungarians are irritated by slyness, trickery, and diplomatic cunning. They are accustomed to straightforward talk. (He presumably said this with a straight face.)

Viktor Orbán’s reference to the military term “field of operation” captured the imagination of László Földi, a former intelligence officer during the Kádár regime as well as for a while after 1990, who announced that in secret service parlance “field of operation” means that every instrument in the intelligence service can be used to undermine the stability of a country. The Americans’ goal, as Orbán sees it, is the removal of his government.

Meanwhile the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade who were brought in by Péter Szijjártó are solidly anti-American. They consider the diplomats who served under János Martonyi to be “American agents” because of their alleged trans-atlantic sentiments. So I don’t foresee any improvement in American-Hungarian relations in the near future, unless the economic and political troubles of Putin’s Russia become so crippling that Orbán will have to change his foreign policy orientation. But given the ever shriller condemnations and accusations, it will be difficult to change course.

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Member

The thought never occurs to the illiberal Fidesz party members, Orbán followers and Fidesz representatives, members of the Government, that no criticism can be made against corruption, (and the other Fidesz/KDNP/Jobbik dastardly deeds) where there is none or very little of them exist.
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Ask the government employees who are in the Parliament to provide 20 years of their tax returns and show how they saved the amounts they spent on real estate, luxury items, personal expenditures and living expenses. First to be in line the Orbán, Lázár, Szijártó, Kósa, Rogán families. Those, who can not show how to save, for example, 170 millions, like Szijjártó, in a short time from a government salary after deducting living expenses, should forfeit every penny to their name before receiving a lifetime sentence for embezzlement of public funds.

Rev Albert W. Kovacs
Guest

America shouldn’t throw stones since it is a glass house, and we can see the corruption in Washington. Obama’s pal Nancy Pelosi’s husband got a contract to sell government “excess property” – and with no one else able to bid he made big time $$$millions. … Obama’s buddies raised money for his elections and, when their solar industry failed, they were bailed out by the government at taxpayer expenses. … Speaking about expenses, he has piled up extra plane costs for his family and himself in the $$$millions! His wfe travels with three big jets for her entourage. … The bankers put up big money to re-elect him because he bailed them out at the start of the recession. … One of the biggest fundraisers is his new ambassador to Hungary, Coleen Bell. Her knowledge of Hungary is nincs-nichts-zip or nada-zilch-zero. Obama is a communist/socialist like your party, and we expect you’ll be throwing more stones any chance you get – from the outside looking in! The voters kicked you guys out!!! Now you’re crying!

o'magyar (dignity)
Guest

Dearest Albert, how many Hungarian regimes have failed Hungary? What is the difference that another one ruined the hope of the nation? Out of our common dignity, time to let orban go. Thanks.

Paul
Guest

“unless the economic and political troubles of Putin’s Russia become so crippling that Orbán will have to change his foreign policy orientation”

After today’s events (massive hike in Russian interest rates, followed by continuing collapse of the Rouble), I can’t see this being that far off..

Paul
Guest

“Obama is a communist/socialist”

Mad troll time…

Mrozek
Guest

Dear Albert, It might have escaped your attention that Senator McCain called Mr. Orbán a neofascist dictator… he is a Republican, dislikes Obama. What do you make of that?

Member

Of course the USA would like Orban out of his position, and I think they just took their number behind of a long list of other countries. This is not a secret. Orban has a problem with the USA as they decided to fight against corruption instead of enriching the Fidesz buddies.

gdfxx
Guest

I am not an Obama supporter. But the stuff this reverend is posting is bothersome. The US is still a country of laws. Corruption of government officials is a crime and those who are caught are punished. Just look at former governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell. As opposed to the Hungarian regime where corruption seems to be more the rule than the exception.

Rev Albert W. Kovacs
Guest

Our news reports how many Pennsylvania officials have been convicted of ripping off the state, many for a loooong lime, so they’ve lost their pensions. They got away with it for years. The last several governors of Illinois are in prison on long sentences … so is Jesse Jackson’s son, a former State Representative. Why are so many of Obama’s own Cabinet heads taking the 5th, against self-incrimination? … Former NJ Senator and Governor Corzine “lost” 2 BILLION $$$ of the investment money he agreed to build into a profit, and can’t ‘find’ it – but he’s not in jail. … Big companies with friends in Washington are regularly caught overcharging their customers. What’s the scam of the week? Many Americans say we have the finest government that money can buy! – And wasn’t the Socialist’s front man Gurcsany and his pals kicked out because of massive corruption? Didn’t some skip town to South America? … No, Obama is jumping on the Socialist bandwagon, his kind of pals. Meanwhile, Americans just voted more Conservatives into the two houses of Congress!

Member

Kovacs: You are not conducting a dialog, you are spreading stupid, imagined lies. If you do accuse someone or state something of a large magnitude, you must name your sources, so the reader can get the data also.
You see, I can asp write, that you are a corrupt , defrocked child molester priest. However without proof, it can be 100% lie.
I hope also, that you are not trolling to supplement your earnings from Hungarian tax moneys.

Rev Albert W. Kovacs
Guest
Sir, I’m not fabricating fairy tales, but well known facts. The item about former state officials losing their pensions was in the Tribune-Review (Pittsburg) within a eek ago. You can find the information about the Illinois governors by Google. Do the same for Jesse Jackson, Jr. His wife was convicted also, and when he gets out of prison then she will go in – they let her stay home for the precedent so one can take care of their young children. … I am not a priest, but a Magyar Református lelkész, with a wife, three children, four granddaughters and one great grandson, I am 85 years old, live on Social Security and a church pension, from money put aside every year since I began my ministry in 1954. I have no other income, certainly none from Hungary, and drive a 2003 Buick. … Your allegations of misconduct are off the subject, questioning my integrity. But it is you who do not know what is common knowledge here about corrupt politicians and their rich friends. … How about judges from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, sitting in prison now, because they convicted and sent to youth prisons many young boys. Their rich… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@Rev. Albert ‘Troll’ Kovacs

Your attempts to distract are nonsense.
The US doesn’t have 5% of the corruption that Hungary or Russia have.

Have you ever seen 200 members of the State Department dismissed in a day?
Have you ever seen the wholesale changes in judicial practice?
Have you ever seen the voting changes Hungary has instituted?…and on and on.

(Get back to your basement digs at KGB headquarters, will ya?)

Rev Albert W. Kovacs
Guest
You do Petofi no honor when you strive to squelch dialogue, calling one a troll. Is this site only for lopsided single voice opinions – if so, why post at all. Go talk into your mirror! … But for anyone listening, I’ve been chasing the Hungarian situation since WW2. Communists and the “fellow-travelers” tried to silence me when I spoke about Russian tyranny in Hungary, and even about Jews in Russian gulags like Solshenitzen and Sharansky. Church leaders shunted my voice off to the side. … MY POINT is that although there may be corruption in Hungary, the Obama bunch has a log in its own eye compared to the speck in Hungary. Picking on Hungary makes the USA look righteous, but we have our share of crooks. … So WHY? Hungary stands out like a sore thumb among the Socialist/Communist gov’ts of the EU. They also hate its constitution that posits a Christian heritage of a thousand years, because they are atheists. It’s as much a religious split as the Sunni vs Shiite divide, with no quarter given in a battle to the death of religion. Obama is not on the side of religion, but has turned out to… Read more »
Geza Kmetty
Guest

The conversation is getting off the subject. Orban’s government is in trouble, no matter how you look at it. The tens of thousands are on the streets and they will not stop until the regime changes. The US government has nothing to do with it! The corruption scandal just happened to ignite the already built up dissatisfaction. Stop looking for CIA conspiracy!! McCain’s comments on an incompetent Ambassadorial candidate was appropriate. Stop bellyaching and bite the bullet. The Magyar population will not tolerate blatant thieves even if they are backed up by a 2/3 majority in the Parliament.

JGrant
Guest

May I remind the commenters of this blog of the good old truth of blogging:
DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!!

Robert Fairhurst
Guest

An interesting story low down the news 2 days ago was the 30% pay rise Orban will give to the military. Is he worried about revolution and trying to make sure the soldiers stay on his side?

LwiiH
Guest

Dear Rev, so what you are saying is that because there is corruption in the US they shouldn’t be talking about corruption in other countries. It’s a pretty unsophisticated childish argument. But Dad, you had a cookie too! I wonder why no wonder no one is listening.

@gybognarjr, is that true, is he a child molester?

It seems OV’s fight to deflect public anger towards the US is failing. I think it’s delusional to believe he’ll resign but the damage he’s heaping on the country is mind boggling.

Member

Please read my text carefully. I simply illustrated, that accusations are meaningless, unless a proof and source of that proof is provided. If I say, that you are stupid, that is meaningless accusation, since there is no proof and there is no basis, for me to say so.

LwiiH
Guest

On the question of corruption, “If someone wants to cooperate with Hungary we are open to that.” says someone that forces subordinates to sue diplomats for their country taking actions against corruption. Now that is what I call cooperation.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Orbán & Co are fighters for “sovereignty” and against any foreign interference. They want to continue their work, to make the “family” richer. Moreover, they are afraid of what can happen. Orbán and his close friends on the USA watchlist is not a remote possibility.

Luiz
Guest

The trolls are getting more active, every day there’s a new lunatic here. I’m sure the Reverend – as a paleo conservative – is also a huge Russia-supporter.

haselnuss
Guest

The entire Fidesz regime is now ardently anti-American and anti-EU.

I wonder how long the NATO or the EU can tolerate being the enemies of the state/government? Well, the EU doesn’t care, we know that much.

The entire – government sanctioned – political discourse on the right-wing (Fidesz-Jobbkik) is in essence about the EU and American (jewish) conspiracies intending to destroy Orban/Hungary/the righteous Hungarian nation.

Is this what normal, reliable NATO member countries do?

I tell you what: the communist Kadar regime in the 1970-1980’s was much less anti-American and anti-West than this Orban government (and add the Jobbik reserve voters) is now (and has been for years, only it wasn’t apparent to many). Crazy, but true.

petofi
Guest

@LwiiH

“….but the damages he’s heaping on the country…”

Is it not time to consider that Orban’s damage on the country is INTENTIONAL…?

yagello
Guest

It’s official: My castrated cat is more potent than the EU.

There are some who have been preaching this, but I guess for a while a lot of people held out some hope to the contrary.

But it’s clear now, the EU is a common market and that’s all it is.

Orban and his smart lawyers (and many others who dared to face reality) of course knew this all along, and this gives them the self-confidence.

Fideszniks know they can do what ever they want to, and not only that, they can continue to receive the funds which keep them afloat. These well-fed Western politicians are just no match for the ruthless Eastern-European ‘boys’ from the provinces.

I guess the only reason Putin is in a difficult position now is because Russia is not a member of the EU, if it was, Putin would be still getting the funds and there would be no problem with the rouble either.

http://444.hu/2014/12/17/azt-hitte-hogy-az-eu-majd-megallitja-orban-viktort-itt-a-bizonyitek-hogy-sohanapjan-kiskedden-lehetseges-ez/

Guest

Robert Fairhurst: “An interesting story low down the news 2 days ago was the 30% pay rise Orban will give to the military. Is he worried about revolution and trying to make sure the soldiers stay on his side?”

Definitely. He is using high interest foreign loans to buy loyalty. Paid loyalty is a ruinously expensive commodity. Paid loyalists can not be satisfied by promises.

Guest

@ Jean P, not so long ago on Hungarian Spectrum, gybognarjr commented the following post //hungarianspectrum.org/2014/11/27/sandor-kerekes-is-the-orban-regime-fascist-the-answer-is-yes/ with Dr. Lawrence Britt’s Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism. Point 4 spoke of the Supremacy of the Military which was pretty much the only point which did not fit Hungary’s current situation. It looks to me Orbán is somehow afraid of the military. Does anyone have more insight into this?

Kárpáti
Guest
@Jean P This is very important but not really a new item, in the sense that it was announced weeks ago and was raised also at this blog. The pay rise applies to the military, police and intelligence fields. I also think that the 30% is an annual average so depending on the timing of its introduction, it could actually be as big as 50% (if introduced about mid-year), year on year. Also it will be differentiated, so some individuals could get higher raises too. Orban is not afraid, but he knows that he depends on the security branches. He’s very conscious about this fact and he knows that Gyurcsany was abandoned by the security branches (especially by the secret services, which detested the minister Szilvasy who was more loyal to Gyurcsany than to the services, and who replaced Andras Toth, a communist era silovik loyal not to MSZP or Gyurcsany, but to the interest of the services) and Orban prudently wants to prepare for such a very unlikely scenario. The leadership of all these forces have been staunchly Fidesz-loyal anyway (as well as the prosecution), but Orban always prepares many steps ahead. The younger members of these forces lean… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Jean P., Robert Fairhurst, theestampe

I’m sure a big pay raise doesn’t hurt Fidesz popularity among the armed forces (and their families).

However; we must remember that not only has it been decreed in 2012 that overall defense spending would be doubled between 2015 and 2025, but also that the war in Ukraine has given a good reason for all NATO member States to increase their military budgets.

PS: my uninformed guess would be that a 30% pay raise means something like a 5-7% increase of the defense budget.

Webber
Guest
@theestampe – Orbán adores the military. He’s constantly attending military parades, and likes to congratulate officers when the troops march around a square in neat order. He also was caught on video congratulating an officer on how good the troops look, and saying “I hate seeing a soldier with a pot-belly.” He loves the military , but may have been afraid of certain people the officer corps for a time, certainly until the so-called Generals’ Trial, in which a group of high-ranking officers were arrested, held for a very long time (years) in preliminary detention, but in the end found innocent of wrongdoing and released (this is a pattern in Hungary). My understanding is that, just as they are doing everywhere else, Fidesz is trying to place party-faithful in the top positions in the army (they already have all top positions in the police forces and fire departments – not to mention university rectors… well, I won’t go on). The other problem Orban may have with the military is that it is so expensive, and Hungary is skint (hence all the new taxes). Whatever the case, it is clear that Orbán loves soccer more than the military, and all funds… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Let’s give Rev. Kovacs a break! He (implicitly) admitted that Orban and Fidesz are corrupt, corrupt, corrupt. So what if he says “nanny-nanny-boo-boo you’re corrupt too.” We can all agree with him that the Hungarian government is corrupt. Agape!
(n.b. Certain parts of Rev. Kovacs’s spelling, grammar, and narrative suggest that he is a native Russian speaker.)

Rev Albert W. Kovacs
Guest

Webber – I did not comment on how much corruption there is in Hungary. I just said American politicians have more than enough corruption at home so they shouldn’t throw stones at the Hungarians. … Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m American born and educated, from New Jersey, and my misspelling (e.g. precedent instead of present) is due to lack of typing skills ( I “hunt and peck” with a couple of fingers) and lateness of night (it was 4:45 AM when I awoke because I couldn’t sleep). … I was supposed to study in Hungary after college, either in Debrecen or Sarospatak, but when the Russians occupied Hungary in 1947 that blew my plans apart. … I am a friend of EU Parliament member László Tőkés, and was a friend of the late Dr. Hegedus Loránt. In 2000 I met his son, very briefly, but his Jobbik connection angers me, and I hope the Reformed Church throws him out! … God bless Hungary!

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Rev Albert W. Kovacs

Gdfxx wrote it earlier, I’ll write it again: by describing U.S. corruption cases where by your own account justice has been served, you’re actually illustrating the difference between the two countries. The problem in Hungary is the absence of prosecution.

I sincerely hope shooting yourself in the foot doesn’t hurt much. However, may I humbly suggest that you consider such activities in moderation?

Rev Albert W. Kovacs
Guest

Luiz – No, I’m not a Russian supporter. They make lousy guests because they never come with their Ladas, but their tanks. ,,, They lie, it is their troops in Ukraine, they have stolen Crimea (and I doubt they will give it back!), and they are as repressive as Stalin. … I hope that NATO will be strong enough to protect the Baltic and Balkan countries. … Despite electing a stupid egoist for President, Americans are seeing the destructive manifestations of Socialism, and voted to elect Conservatives (Republicans) to majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. … I see the Turks PM Erdogan is pushing his Islamist ways and jailing opposition, to silence them, even if it jeopardizes their chance of joining the EU. He is a Mideastern version of Putin.

Webber
Guest
Rev. Kovacs – I apologize for suggesting that you might be Russian (though there is nothing wrong with being Russian!). The problem with what you have written, in my view, is not that you are incorrect. Of course there is corruption in the US as well. There is corruption in every country. Everyone knows that. The problem is in your logic, which is (in my view) perverse. First, there’s this weird one-sided idea that an American or the American administration should not criticize corruption (or racism, or crime) in Hungary just because there is corruption (or racism or crime) in America. Yet Hungarians who take this line mention negative things in America all the time – every day, in fact, on state television (just watch Echo TV and Hir TV, or read Magyar Nemzet). It’s “you have no right to criticize us” when “we” have been criticizing “you” (Americans) every day in print for the past five years (just check: there are at least 20 articles criticizing America in just the r-wing Hungarian press to every article about Hungary in the American press as a whole) Second, who are “we”? Why should anybody think that the Hungarian government is “Hungary?”… Read more »
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