The Putin visit a day after

Yesterday, shortly after the Putin-Orbán press conference ended, I summarized the events of the day and gave a brief account of what the two politicians had to say about their meeting. My immediate impression was that the winner of this encounter was Vladimir Putin. He received an invitation to a member state of the European Union where he has been a pariah ever since June 2014 and was treated well.

After forming his government in 2010, Viktor Orbán made no secret of his desire to have not only good economic relations with Russia but also close political ties. No country in the western alliance ever objected to trade relations with Russia, but Orbán’s political friendship with Russia has been watched with growing suspicion, especially after the events in Ukraine. During the last year or so Viktor Orbán has been busy trying to appease the European Union while hoping to get added benefits from Russia.

To his domestic critics Orbán’s performance yesterday was embarrassingly subservient. Attila Ara-Kovács, the foreign policy adviser to the Demokratikus Koalíció, described Putin as “a landlord” who came to look around his estate while Orbán the bailiff stood by, awaiting the master’s orders.

Putin’s visit to the cemetery has been drawing very strong criticism. Hungary seems to be in such a subordinate position to Russia that the government is unable to make the Russians change the objectionable word “counterrevolution.”  What happened yesterday was the humiliation of the nation, critics say. Barring the Hungarian media from the cemetery was also troubling.  Did the Russians insist on this? And if so, how could the Hungarian prime minister agree to such an arrangement?

The most substantive criticism of Orbán’s performance yesterday was his complete silence on Russian aggression against Ukraine. Two days after he visited Kiev he stood motionless next to Putin, who was “just rewriting the Minsk Agreement,” as István Szent-Iványi, former ambassador to Slovenia, aptly put it on ATV this morning.  Orbán’s message to the world was clear: “Hungary needs Russia.” That’s all he cares about.

Throughout the press conference he steadfastly supported the Russian position. Today’s editorial in Népszabadság on the Orbán-Putin encounter was titled “Shame.” What did the editorial board of the paper find shameful? The list is quite long. The “strong man of Europe” and “the living statue of bravery” listened while Putin accused the Ukrainians of starting the war and while he called the separatists “aided by Russian regulars armed to the teeth” simple miners and tractor drivers. Orbán didn’t move a muscle when Putin called on the Ukrainian soldiers encircled by Russian and separatist forces in Debaltseve to surrender. He didn’t mention the inviolability of territorial integrity and the sovereignty of a neighboring country. He said nothing about the concerns of the European Union or about the victims of the fighting. In brief, he behaved shamefully. Orbán chose Russia. The die is cast, says Népszabadság. 

What did Viktor Orbán get in exchange? Not much. Gas, which he would have gotten without all this humiliation from Russia, and scorn from the West. Since yesterday we learned that Hungary is paying $260 for 1,000m³, which is apparently higher than the open market price. At least he avoided signing a long-term contract which, given recent price volatility, would have been a particularly bad deal.

Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about what the two men discussed for two solid hours. It couldn’t have been the continued supply of Russian gas to Hungary because that was a done deal before yesterday’s meeting. Viktor Orbán himself admitted today when he talked to a group of journalists that what the deal needed was only the final nod from “the Indian chief.” It also looks as if negotiations about a new pipeline from Turkey to Hungary through Macedonia and Serbia are already underway. Orbán and Putin were completely alone without any of their aides. What did these two men talk about for that long?

Smiles all around

Smiles all around

Fellow politicians are suspicious. Especially since the Hungarian prime minister cannot be relied upon for an accurate account. Here is a case in point. Grzegorz Schetyna, the Polish foreign minister, gave an interview to a Polish radio station yesterday from which we learned that the week before Orbán went on and on about the absolute necessity of meeting Putin in person because of the extremely unfavorable terms of the present gas agreement. Well, today we know that not a word of Orbán’s lament to Schetyna was true. The meeting had nothing to do with a new gas contract.

Finally, another first can be recorded in the history of the Orbán administration. A few days ago Viktor Orbán called together the leaders of the five parliamentary delegations: Fidesz, Christian Democratic People’s Party, MSZP, Jobbik, and LMP. The meeting, of course, didn’t signify any change in the government’s attitude to the opposition, but it looked good. Today’s big news was that Viktor Orbán invited about 15 journalists who cover foreign affairs for a “background talk.” Gábor Horváth, who is the foreign editor of Népszabadság, had the distinct impression that such gatherings had been held earlier but without journalists from opposition papers.  Orbán talked for an hour and was ready to answer questions for another forty-five minutes. The prime minister called Russia “one of the most difficult partners” and claimed that “we would be worse off if we did not work with them.”

I for one wouldn’t take Orbán’s words about his difficult relations with Russia seriously. He seemed to be relaxed and happy on the same stage as Vladimir Putin. He looked as if he were basking in the limelight that he shared with the great man. Here was the president of a strong, important nation who didn’t pester him with checks and balances and democratic values.  Two weeks earlier he looked decidedly unhappy and annoyed when the chancellor of Germany somewhat undiplomatically announced that as far as she knows there is no such thing as illiberal democracy. Most likely he was humiliated and it showed. After he waved goodbye to Putin in front of the parliament building, Orbán and his close entourage looked extremely satisfied with their performance. It was a good day for Viktor Orbán. It started well and it ended well, as far as Viktor Orbán was concerned. Putin also seemed to be satisfied. Whether it was a good day for Hungary is another matter.

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clive75mercer
Guest

This sounds like the beginning of the end for Hungary as an independent European leaning Democracy. One sincerely and fervently hopes not. I remember the Russian invasion of 1956, the anger that it produced. Orban though younger than me, must have experienced the oppression that followed, as must many his fellow Hungarians. Does Orban seriously wish to impose similar forms of oppression on the people he is supposed to protect and
nurture ? His motives are becoming clearer, this is about Victor Orban and his efforts to establish a regime. It is not about care for the people of Hungary. From Putin he can only learn the disgraceful art of lies and deceit.
Clive Mercer

Webber
Guest

Budapest spin-doctors apparently can’t work their “magic” in Poland:
http://news.yahoo.com/polish-leader-holds-difficult-talks-hungarys-orban-135315853.html

Member

Éva:
“Orbán’s message to the world was clear: “Hungary needs Russia.” That’s all he cares about.”
I would rephrase this.
The Fidesz/KDNP/Jobbik needs Russia, Paks II and the gas business to steal hundreds of billions of forints every year.”

Long live the MET and MVM, with them, who needs Simicska Lajos any more?

Alex Kuli
Guest

The analysts said Orban was taking a low-key approach to the Putin visit in order to avoid ruffling EU feathers. The very next day, Orban waved his middle finger at Tusk and predicted the EU would pick a fight over his administration’s pro-family energy policy.

Analysts got no clue.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/18/us-hungary-eu-orban-idUSKBN0LM1TS20150218

pushit
Guest

Orban feels he’s been successful, that he’s been taking it in stride. The US was pushed down, the corruption problem went away, the small blunders like internet tax, or compulsory drug test, nobody even remembers them, Merkel was happy, she couldn’t damage him and with Putin thing are well, Paks 2 is on schedule and MET is doing brisk business with Russians. Money flows from the EU. There is nobody on the left who can potentially be a challenger to Orban and it is anyway hopelessly divided. The usual loss of popularity is to be expected. So he feels himself confident. Just so you know.

Member

PUSHIT: One can live for awhile with illusions in a virtual World. The Hungarians are very good at it. The success archived by Orban is strictly within the borders of a deeply isolated country, where a lots of people unfortunately are getting poorer. In the midst of a populist culture, many people finds refuge by reviving the imagined successes of a “glorious” newly invented past.

Masenyka
Guest

At a conference in Budapest the Ukrainian chargé was muted by the Hungarian organizers because “his continued talking would have been problematic to the Russian diplomats”…

Another day in Hungary.

http://index.hu/kulfold/2015/02/19/lekevertek_az_ukran_ugyvivot_budapesten/

Masenyka
Guest

The looting in connection with Paks 2 has official started.

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/02/19/paks2_informatikai_kozpontja_egy_busztelepen/

ruhataros
Guest

Interesting pictures.

After the “all-important” Putin-Orban meeting counterparts of one of the signed agreements were left in the room and the package was found by an index.hu photojournalist.

The counterparts were in a bag with a huge EADS logo on it…

Also the well-informed (?) Népzabadsag journalist Ildiko Csuhaj was photographed waiting for the Putin motorcade in a mini-skirt in about 2 degrees centigrade.

http://gorillavideos.tumblr.com/post/111362907424

Misinnyó
Guest

Short talk with one Gaspar Orban, law school student at ELTE.

“Poor gipsies are so stupid, they can’t even finish the first grade…”

http://unadjustd.tumblr.com/post/111396428926/szuperet-vitatkoztam-gaspival

Member

In the last 24 hours Hungarian SPectrum’s worpress.com site has been transferred over to it’s “stand-alone” platform. As there could be some hiccups in the transfer, if there is anything you find it does not work, please post it here.
There are a few functions that are new on this platform:
– Nested comments, meaning you are able to reply to a particular comment and it will appear under the particular comment. THis also means that not all new comments will show up at the bottom of the page. Check under recent comments at the right that you read all the comments.
– When you place a new comment, you will have 5 minutes to edit. You will se the countdown as soon as you post your comment.
– On the right side below each comment you are able to see the commenter’s previous comments.
– If you find the typeface to small to read you can use the “command” and “+” keys to enlarge the screen.

Paul
Guest

Excellent! I like the way the screen now shows several (truncated)HS posts as well.

It all looks and works much better.

Paul
Guest

PS – not so keen on it jumping back to the beginning of the post when you submit your comment though. Not much point in the editing clock if you don’t notice it because your comment disappears!

Guest

Thank you Eva and Some1 for the revision/improvements!
There were a number of video clips of the Merkle-Orban visit–has anyone seen any of the Orban-Putin visit?

Re the 5 minutes for editing: it seems one has 5 minutes to decide to edit. Once you start editing, the 5 minute clock stops–important if you have written a long post.

Now I’m not sure if the clock stops. Now, I don’t think it does. (Have edited this 3 times.)

pa
Guest

“Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about what the two men discussed for two solid hours. It couldn’t have been the continued supply of Russian gas to Hungary because that was a done deal before yesterday’s meeting.”

This is a complete lie, it is not a done deal, in fact the deal is still not done. The deal is not signed and the exact details of it are not even worked out.

What was agreed and announced by Putin was something different. The agreement is about that Hungary does not have to pay 4 billion dollars to Russia in 2015.

The 1995 contract stipulates that Hungary pay Russia 4 billion dollars in 2015 because Hungary signed that it will buy and pay for gas even if it does not use it. Even if it is not used you still have to pay, this was the contract signed in 1995.

I wonder who here would have preferred Hungary to pay 4 billion dollars to Russia for unused gas, essentially a gift to Russia???

Can you hate Hungary that much?

Member

Pa: You can be sure, most of what they talked about for two hours was about MONEY! Yours, mine and tens of millions of people’s money and how much will they pocket and deposit into their bank accounts from it.

Member

What are you talking about? ARe you referring to the very important agreement they worked on, and they forget to take it with them? It is a journalist who found the agreement on a chair. Does Orban hates Hungarians so much that he leaves this very important agreement lying around? Maybe he already forget bout it by the time he shook hands with his great KGB pal. Do you hate Hungary so much that you trust a an ex-KGB agent so much. Aren’t you ashamed? Would you pay any prize so just Orban look good? Even the Russian newspapers wrote about the contracts when the Hungarian government did not want to talk about it. IS Orban hates Hungary this much? I guess Russians like Hungary better.

TeamBritanniaHu
Guest

I thought the denial of the Hungarian Holocaust was bad enough, but now Órban has positioned Hungary, against all its natural, national and international interests, to support another genocide in Eastern Europe, committed by ethnic Russians against fellow-Slavs, whom they have always regarded as inferior. This is the biggest disaster in Hungarian foreign policy since 1938. Once he has carved out a Russian province from Ukraine, Putin will support Russian separatists in the Baltic states. That is not just my belief, but that of the British foreign secretary. In return, Órban thinks he will get Russian support in ‘winning back’ Sub-Carpathia and Transylvania, I guess, a move to the East which would inevitably mean leaving the EU, since Romania is a fellow EU member.

Awgart Rawetrwetr
Guest

@TeamBritanniaHu Sub-Carpatia is a very poor and backward region. The aboriginal population is not ukrainian but Rusyns and Hungarians (who were not really happy when they were pulled from the 1000 years old Hungarian state.) There were a plebiscite about the borders in december 1991, when the 90% of the voters voted to rejoin Hungary

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