American rapprochement with Viktor Orbán’s Hungary?

While readers of Hungarian Spectrum continue to discuss the possible reasons for André Goodfriend’s departure, let me share one right-wing Hungarian reaction to the exit of the former chargé, István Lovas’s opinion piece in yesterday’s Magyar Hírlap titled “The Bell Change.”

One could devote a whole series of posts to István Lovas himself, from his brush with the law as a teenager to the open letter he wrote recently to Vladimir Putin in which he asked him to start a Hungarian-language “Russia Today” because the Russian propaganda television station is actually much better than BBC. Lovas lived in Canada, the United States, and Germany, where he worked for Radio Free Europe. He was considered to be a difficult man who caused a lot of turmoil in the Hungarian section of the organization.

For many years Lovas was a devoted Fidesz man. He already held important positions in the first Orbán government (1998-2002). For years he worked for Magyar Nemzet, most recently as its Brussels correspondent, but a few months ago Lovas, along with a number of other Orbán stalwarts, lost his job. Mind you, the European Parliament had had enough of Lovas even before he was sacked by Magyar Nemzet, especially after he presented a bucket of artificial blood to Sophie in ‘t Veld, the Dutch liberal MEP. The bucket of blood was supposed to symbolize the Palestinian children who were victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lovas, himself of Jewish descent, is a well-known anti-Semite.

After having lost his job at Magyar Nemzet and after Putin failed to respond to his plea for a Hungarian “Russia Today,” Lovas moved on. Gábor Széles, who owns Magyar Hírlap and EchoTV, offered him a job. Now he has a weekly political program called “Fault Lines” (Törésvonalak) on EchoTV, and he also writes opinion pieces for Széles’s newspaper.

So how does István Lovas see American-Hungarian relations in the wake of the arrival of Colleen Bell and the departure of André Goodfriend? To summarize his opinion in one sentence: from here on the United States and the Orbán government will be the best of friends.

According to Lovas, André Goodfriend was the darling of those lost liberals who have been wandering in the wilderness “ever since SZDSZ was thrown into the garbage heap of history.” They are still hoping that nothing will change. Originally they were certain that Goodfriend would run the embassy while the newly arrived ambassador would be its public face. Meanwhile, Goodfriend would continue visiting “left/neoliberal SZDSZ or MSZP politicians and intellectuals.”

These liberal hopes were dashed soon after Colleen Bell’s arrival. The new orientation was clear from day one. Bell went and laid a wreath at the statue of the unknown soldier on Heroes’ Square. She visited the Csángó Ball organized every year to celebrate a fairly mysterious group of Hungarians living in the Romanian region of Moldavia, speaking an old Hungarian dialect. These are important signs of the new American attitude toward things dear to the current government: fallen heroes and national minorities. Certainly, says Lovas, Goodfriend would never have been found in such places. Yet liberals don’t seem to have grasped the significance of all this. They think that more Hungarians will be banished from the United States and that Hungary will have to pay a high price for peace with the United States. Most likely, Orbán will have to compromise on Paks, on Russian-Hungarian relations in general, and/or will have to buy American helicopters.

But Lovas has bad news for them. There will be no more talk about corruption cases, and Hungary will pay no price whatsoever. Colleen Bell realized that Goodfriend’s methods had failed. Of course, Lovas is talking nonsense here. Even if Lovas is right about a change in U.S. policy, it was not Bell who decided on this new strategy but the United States government.

Lovas is certain that the change has already occurred. It is enough to look at the new website of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. There are no more programs on tolerance, on Holocaust events, “all those things that are kicks in the groin of the Hungarian people and their elected government.” A drastic change occurred in U.S.-Hungarian relations which even such liberal-socialist diplomats as Péter Balázs, foreign minister in the Bajnai government, László Kovács, foreign minister under Gyula Horn, or András Simonyi, ambassador to Washington (2002-2010), couldn’t explain away.

This change couldn’t have taken place if Goodfriend had stayed or if the Orbán government had conducted “the kind of servile atlantist policy recommended by Géza Jeszenszky,” foreign minister under József Antall and ambassador to Washington during the first Orbán government. Jeszenszky, who just resigned as ambassador to Norway, had a long interview in which he expressed his deep disappointment with Viktor Orbán and his foreign policy, especially with his attitude toward the United States.

According to Lovas, what happened recently is a victory for Orbán’s foreign policy, a feat that “could be achieved only by the courage and tenacity” of the Hungarian prime minister. The United States government tried to mend its ways by sending someone to Budapest who is not worried about such things as tolerance or the Holocaust. From here on the Budapest embassy will function just as American embassies do in other capitals. The U.S. Embassy in Vienna, for example, does not report “breaking news” about the Anschluss.

Lovas might exaggerate, but something is going on. When was the last time that Viktor Orbán called together the whips of all political parties for a discussion on Hungarian foreign policy? As far as I know, never. As Magyar Nemzet put it, “Viktor Orbán asked for the support of the political parties in reaching the nation’s foreign policy goals.” Among the topics was the objective of “strengthening the American-Hungarian alliance.” Péter Szijjártó, who was of course present, claimed that “political relations with the United States are improving” and that the Orbán government “will take further steps toward the restoration of earlier economic, political, and military cooperation.”

The meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary delegations  Source: MTI / Photo Gergely Botár

The meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary delegations convened by Viktor Orbán
Source: MTI / Photo Gergely Botár

I’m sure that we all want better relations between Hungary and the United States, but the question is at what price. The United States can’t close its eyes to Viktor Orbán’s blatant attacks on democracy, the media, human rights, and civil society. And then there is the timing of this alleged renewed love affair between Budapest and Washington. If true, and that’s a big if, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hungarian democracy–yes, liberal democracy. Just when Viktor Orbán’s support is dropping precipitously and when it looks as if he may lose his precious two-thirds majority in spite of all the billions of forints he promised from taxpayer money to the city of Veszprém to buy votes. When a large part of the hitherto slavish right-wing media at last decided to return to more critical and balanced journalism.

No, this is not the time to court Viktor Orbán. It would be a grave mistake. It is, in fact, time to be tough because the great leader is in trouble. Trouble abroad, trouble at home. Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, in a speech to the European Parliament said the following without mentioning Viktor Orbán’s name: “We cannot let our societies imperceptibly slip back; we cannot allow illiberal logics to take hold. There is no such thing as an illiberal democracy…. We are keeping a close eye on all issues arising in Member States relating to the rule of law, and I will not hesitate to use the [EU Rule of Framework established last March] if required by the situation in a particular Member State.”

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jjjkk
Guest

orban, putin, obama – in one saddle?

Member
Éva: Just a few of my thought on the situation between the US and Hungary. It is not the responsibility and or the job for the US to actively influence Hungary’s internal affairs. We can call the attention of the Hungarian people, what are the weak spots, where this dictatorship can be attacked. THEY DID NOT USE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ACHIEVE ANY GAINS! They are lame and helpless people without guts to fight for their own rights and future. Colleen Bell does not make foreign policy, she only executes what is being told to her. Lovas is a type of Hungarian, there are many more like him, who are make Hungary a worthless country to care about. Where corrupt, criminal, immoral animals like him can be bought for a dime a dozen, it is useless to invest any money and time. Hungary morally already in Asia. In order to receive any help, Hungarians have to prove themselves to be worth the effort. So far they proved just the opposite. Let Putin use them and abuse them, let him rob them with the Fidesz/KDNP/Jobbik, they deserve it. Most Hungarians now dispose the USA, so let it be. I am sure they… Read more »
NK
Guest

” he presented a bucket of artificial blood to Sophie in ‘t Veld, the Dutch liberal MEP. The bucket of blood was supposed to symbolize the Palestinian children who were victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lovas, himself of Jewish descent, is a well-known anti-Semite.””

I don’t know who this Lovas person is, but as a point of definition, Jews cannot be antisemitic. There is a different term for them, self-hating Jews.

Rabid anti-Semites usually accuse Jews of being antisemitic, to cheapen the meaning of the term, let us not fall into the trap set by them.

Unless the goal is to incite hatred against Lovas, the jew.

fractalized.bitstream
Guest
fractalized.bitstream

It is well known that the US politics has been planning to drop the Hungarian intellectual circle (that used to be SZDSZ) due to its total failure to be of any useful impact on the Hungarian soceity. Not wanting to lose the influence on the Hungarian politics the US goverment is now trying to strenghten the ties with the reigning goverment. Lovas is right in his analysis. The relations will be much better.

Ron
Guest

Eva I saw this picture before, and it was not about the Hungarian American relationship, but about the behavior (development of relationship) towards Russia relating to the realtionship of the Hungarian-American alliance.

And as far as I understood this meeting was mainly relating to Ukraine, and not the USA (except for the point mentioned above).

http://www.hirado.hu/2015/02/14/orban-es-szijjarto-nemzeti-kulpolitikai-celokrol-targyalt-a-frakciovezetokkel/

On another note what is Tobias (MZSP) doing there?

bob
Guest
When someone is thinking about why are certain websites delisted from Google, the above comment by this gybognar creature might yield the answer. Gybognar is using language that is not only sub-par, it is sub human. Gybognar’s language and style is the same as the Nazis used against the Jews. You think I am exaggerating? Let’s examine the typical Nazi style of Gybognar: “corrupt, criminal, immoral animals” (this could have been easily said about Jews, by Nazis)… “morally already in Asia.”… “worthless” … “have to prove themselves to be worth the effort. So far they proved just the opposite.” .. “the idiots remain.”.. “I wish they would assimilate into Western culture, but after 1,100 years of failure I gave up hope.” Now Google does not read context, just looks at words, style and similar things. But if you have content here that is of similar style as neo-nazi websites, hate pages, attack pages, pages that harass individuals, then that content might be viewed as undesirable. Gybognar is just one example, but I’ve seen here death threaths against Hungarian right-wing politicians, wishing death on people, threats of violence (wishing for statues to be blown up and similar), conspiracy theories and so… Read more »
Member

BOB: I will repeat for your sensitive ears. There are corrupt, criminal, immoral animals not only in Hungarian politics, but elsewhere too. I am sure you heard about ISIS, Iraq, Iran, and a few places in Asia and Africa too. You invent better words for them, I can’t.

Anyone who for his personal gain and with false ideology, destroys the life, the livelihood, the future of decent people, and the future of their children , those who just want to live as a human being is a worthless criminal, who deserves the ultimate punishment!

However, if you can live with such destructive people in peace and happiness, I tip my hat to your infinite tolerance. Only a couple of similar people come to my mind, Jesus and Budha.

Realitycheck
Guest

gybognarjr

“THEY DID NOT USE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ACHIEVE ANY GAINS!”

Disagree. The opposition, in its many forms, has used the visa scandal to focus attention on corruption in Fidesz. And this in part could be responsible for the slide in the polls. I consider that slide a gain.

And lets not forget that Fidesz won its super majority dishonestly. Until the 2/3 majority is lost, the oppositions hands are largely tied. So your condemnation of the Hungarian people is a bit premature.

Member
REALITY CHECK: The gains are the losses of relatively benign Fidesz supporters, who only vote for them, because they hate the “komcsi” left side, since their belief is, that the Fidesz is the party who chased away the hated communists. There are also many Fidesz supporters, whose expectations not only was not met, but lost a great deal instead. Also the loss of Fidesz support is more attributable to the infight and lack of clear programs by the Fidesz and not to any degree of the MSZP, who is working together with the Fidesz to keep them in power, staying alive, out of jail and get their share of the loot. I don’t want to go into length about corruption, but it was not invented and used solely by the Fidesz/KDNP, but as good friends Simicska and Puch organized it from about 1990 on. The MSZP was very corrupt also, but not inhumane, selfish and anti-social, as the Fidesz. We will see, if this Fidesz Government will be in power in 2018 and what kind of “elections” they serve up to the people. Since 1989, Hungary is independent, member of the EU and it has a Government made up of… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Eva: @Ron, He is the leader of the MSZP parliamentary delegation. That’s why he is there.

I understand that, but why? I do not think he has any influence. And whatever decision is made Fidesz will tell the world MSZP agree with this. (For the record, I believe LMP, Jobbik and Fidesz/KNDP is one group).

buddy
Guest

“Not wanting to lose the influence on the Hungarian politics the US goverment is now trying to strenghten the ties with the reigning government.”

The problem with this statement is that it presumes that Hungary is some great world power that other countries clamor to curry favor with. I’m sorry to tell you that Hungary is just not that important in world affairs.

Member

bob
February 15, 2015 at 6:50 pm “So why exactly would google be willing to list all this as a news site?”

Because we will ad it to the news sites. I think you are taking gybognarjr’s reaction out of context regarding the last two day’s development. Now, if I can ask you to go over for example to the Magyar Hirlap website and post your similar concerns below of Bayer’s articles, that would be just swell.

buddy
Guest

An addendum to my last comment – actually, the very opposite of the statement I quoted appears to be occurring: it is in fact the Hungarian government that is trying to strengthen ties with the US government, as attested to by the picture in this post.

Somehow I kind of doubt that Obama has called Congressional leaders together for a special session on how to improve ties with Hungary.

Jan Hink
Guest

Well said. I am curious, again, about further developments. And how quickly you took up that Timmermans speech! Thank you.

exTor
Guest

The reaction by ‘bob’ to ‘gybognarjr’ is overreaction. The only thing that ‘gybognarjr’ can be accused of is inability to fluidly express his point of view, which is crudely cynical. Postings like that of ‘gybognarjr’ will have zero affect with respect to Google. People should cut ‘gybognarjr’ some slack.

This forum is for people for whom English is their primary language and who have some measure of interest in the politics of Hungary. For the record, the posting by ‘bob’ is no less crude, with his use of ‘subpar’, ‘subhuman’ ond ‘neonazi’ as terms of ‘critical’ disparagement. These are adhominem terms and they (for the most part) have no place here, either in Balogh’s essays or in subsequent postings by readers.

flint
Guest
Ambassador Bell was confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the President to represent the US in Hungary. Her activity so far makes it clear that Ambassador Bell is interested in the betterment of relations between the US and Hungary. A good American supports the US foreign policy, if you are against US foreign policy aims, you can hardly call yourself a good American. There was a passage in the blog post which suggest that Hungary is open to improve the relations further: “When was the last time that Viktor Orbán called together the whips of all political parties for a discussion on Hungarian foreign policy? As far as I know, never .. Among the topics was the objective of “strengthening the American-Hungarian alliance.” Péter Szijjártó, who was of course present, claimed that “political relations with the United States are improving” and that the Orbán government “will take further steps toward the restoration of earlier economic, political, and military cooperation.”” If both sides intend to improve relations, it stands to reason that they will improve. Turning to the opposition for help (an unusual step as the blogger says), clearly signals that Hungary is serious about improving relations further. Ambassador Bell… Read more »
Member

FLINT: A small correction. Ambassador Colleen Bell cannot execute any of her own intentions regarding US-Hungarian relations. She is carrying out the intentions of the President’s and the intention of the Congress and those are relayed to her by the State Department. She is NOT a carreer diplomat and she is not qualified to make policy decisions (few diplomats do), but she is doing her best job, representing the US in Hungary, and so far she is doing a good job.

Realitycheck
Guest
@gybognarjr I find de Maistre’s quote out of touch with reality. There are plenty of situations in history where this was not true. Authoritarian and dictatorial regimes often come into power without the support of the people. Replace “Every” with “Some” it would be closer to the truth. “Since 1989, Hungary is independent, member of the EU and it has a Government made up of Hungarians nobody forced on them. This is what they are capable of and this is what they accepted, supported. If they could do better, let’s see it.” Not entirely true either. Fidesz only won 44% of vote and yet have a 66% super majority, so Hungarians do not have the government they supported. The make-up of parliament is certainly not what they supported. I think you are being too hard on the Hungarian people. Despite bumps along the way, between 1989 and 2010 the overall trajectory was in the direction of a maturing democracy. Given the Hungarian electorate’s perception, even if distorted by rightwing propaganda, it made sense (from a democratizing perspective) to replace MSZP with Fidesz. Very few had any idea of what was to come. So, even then the Hungarian people did not… Read more »
Member
REALITY CHECK. You are right, I am too hard on the Hungarians. They don’t deserve a great deal of sympathy for a few reasons. They have plenty of sympathy and excuses for themselves, no extra dosage needed. Most of them think that everything wrong is caused by other people, not a their own fault. Many of them feel sorry for themselves and act as victims, with little self confidence, that they could be successful. Lack of independence and self assurance, is the base of giving way too much respect to politicians, which those abuse and take advantage of. Many of them base the success getting into good schools, better jobs, on their “friends”, people they know and owe favors to them, instead on competition, knowledge and experience. Many people loose their jobs or get one, based on party politics and corruption and each time a new Government gains power, most of the workers get replaced by their own people, REGARDLESS of knowledge and ability to do a given job. This does not allow for long term, consistent planning of policies. Many Hungarians accept the falsified history, especially when it teaches them that they are better than their neighbors or other… Read more »
exTor
Guest

“Every nation has its Government which it is fit for.”
(“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.”)
Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821)

The summation by ‘gybognarjr’ is apt and aptly cynical. Allow me to finetune his translation for 21st-century English ears:

“Every country gets the government it deserves.”

petofi
Guest

The importance of Hungary on the world stage is tantamount to a mid-size fart in a hurricane.

Member
PETOFI: The importance of a country in World politics is not only dependent on its size. Some smaller countries can be very important, influential and beneficial for most people in the World. Just think of the history of Portugal, Holland, Great Britain Denmark, or Japan and their accomplishments on the World stage. The Vikings built an Empire and terrorized Europe for about 150 years, developed trade routes from the Black Sea to Ireland, where there was a Viking King at one time. Portugal and Spain at one time divided the World between themselves with the help of the Pope. Holland was a great trader nation and developed the trade with Asia and India, without going into wars with other countries and it is an important country today. Great Britain was a small nation and took on Holland, then France, then Spain and won, so it could build the British Empire. Japan became a modern industrial country, after coming out of hundreds of years of isolation and rebuilt itself after WWII again. It is not size, but quality, that maters. Good quality politicians with vision and good plans. That is what Hungary lacks, not size. King Mathias was the last Hungarian… Read more »
latefor
Guest

Congratulations to Colleen Bell! I believe that she is a great choice for an ambassador and I sincerely hope that she will be an advocate for co-operation between the two countries.
Also, I wish from all my heart that she will give us hope at last to replace HATE with LOVE.
It would be a nice feeling if Hungarians all over the world could wake up in the morning without feeling guilty for being who we really are, that is: compassionate, tolerant and loving people.

petofi
Guest

@latefor

“…without feeling guilty for being who we really are, that is: compassionate, tolerant and loving people.”

Yeah, except for the 600,000 jews that were gleefully put on trains for Auscwitz..

petofi
Guest

Auschwitz

petofi
Guest

@latefor

In my university days, students referred to Buffalo as ‘the armpit of the USA’.

But I have now discovered that Hungary is the asshole of the world.

latefor
Guest

@petofi – “Yeah, except for the 600,000 jews that were gleefully put on trains for Auscwitz”

Here we go again…the war ended 70 years ago! This is psychological torture towards my generation and others who were born after the war! Never ending torture! As the saying goes:
“The definition of madness is doing the same thing all over again, accepting different results” I guess I don’t have to read your comments, do I?

latefor
Guest

…expecting, I might say

petofi
Guest

Hungary has long ago ceased to have any moral stature whatever.

The importance of a state is not in its size or influence in the world, but the norms and values it
instills in its citizens.

Member

PETOFI: We mostly agree, but one should not give up hope.
My only take on this is, that serious changes in society only takes place with violent changes in history, usually revolutions, wars and natural disasters.
Of course human history is always influenced by changes in the global weather changes. We are going through one now.

latefor
Guest

@petofi ” The importance of a state is not in its size or influence in the world, but the norms and values it
instills in its citizens.”

I have a great idea: show more “Bold and the Beautiful” on TV and less Crime and torture movies. Frankly, most of us are sick of looking at tortured dead bodies and badly done sex scenes. The power of the right influence can restore norm and values! Just a thought.

petofi
Guest

Oh, sorry, latefor. “Pschological torture, huh?”
The suffering of a mother who saw her child trampled in the hell of gas chamber is nothing compared to your travails…
God forbid that you should acknowledge what your parents’ generation had wrought!

Yes, let’s forget.
Let’s love.
(But let’s remember that jews, at the best of times, can only be 2nd class citizens in Hungary.)

latefor
Guest

Petofi – NO, we should NEVER forget, but calling a whole nation (not just a few) a bloodthirsty, “genetically inferior” anti-Semite on an ongoing bases is not the answer to anti-Semitism. You only create resentment, not sympathy and innocent Jews will suffer as the result of your thoughtlessness. This is my opinion. What you are doing is NOT working and I’d honestly love to see some positive changes in the attitude of those who have the power (like yourself) to influence world opinion. HATE is NOT WORKING!

petofi
Guest

Rapprochement with Orban?
Let’s not kid ourselves. The Yanks are just easing up on the Victor–when they could’ve mashed
his little nuts–just to mollify Putin, who has nary a friend in the world, and a country
rapidly heading into the garbage pile. On the face of it, it looks like the US is allowing the little
colonels to have their moment in the sun with Putin’s visit.

Orban is just a little yo-yo. He thinks he’ll ‘pulling the strings’ but he IS the string.

petofi
Guest

damn spellcheck: not ‘he’ll’ but ‘he’s’…

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