In the interview Gábor Vona gave to Magyar Nemzet yesterday, the chairman of Jobbik talked about the foreign policy strategies of the party. He said: “I have been repeating ever since 2010 that Hungary must realize its national interest in a German-Russian-Turkish triangle. Not long ago Viktor Orbán himself admitted that much.”
Vona was referring to the rambling speech the prime minister delivered on March 9 to the Hungarian ambassadors who were called home to be personally instructed by Orbán on the intricacies of Hungarian diplomacy. In this speech Orbán said:
I think that, historically, Hungary’s fate depended primarily on its relations with three countries. I am currently watching what is happening in German-Hungarian, Russian-Hungarian, and Turkish-Hungarian relations. These are the three great powers that have determined what happened to us in the last one thousand years…. This is the network of foreign relations that we must maintain.
A German-Turkish-Russian triangle as the cornerstone of the Orbán government’s foreign policy is new. Or at least this was the first time I heard Viktor Orbán talk about it. I suspect that the idea came from Márton Gyöngyösi, the “foreign policy expert” of Jobbik. The son of a Hungarian diplomat from the Kádár era, he has spent most of his life abroad. He is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and prior to his university studies he and his family lived in several countries, including at least one in the Middle East. He has never hidden his anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli feelings. He is pro-Russian and might be on a list of undesirables in Ukraine because he assisted in the plebiscite in Donetsk.
Following up on Gábor Vona’s interview yesterday, Gyöngyösi gave a lengthy interview to 444.hu that appeared today. The interview was wide-ranging. Here I will concentrate on those ideas I think most closely resemble the foreign policy articulated by the prime minister. Just as with domestic policies, the foreign policies of the two parties overlap at several points.
According to Gyöngyösi, the oft-repeated adage that Hungary must choose between the West and the East is a false dichotomy that has plagued Hungarian thinking “ever since St. Stephen.” Instead, Hungary should adjust its foreign policy to the three great powers: Germany, Russia, and Turkey. He launched into an analysis of foreign policy during the reign of Gábor Bethlen (1580-1629), prince of Transylvania, when, in Gyöngyösi’s opinion, Hungary successfully navigated among the three great powers–the Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires.* In his view, Hungary shouldn’t accept any kind of “one-sided dependence or colonization.” It should keep its independence, especially because of “the duality of Hungarian national consciousness [which is] both western and eastern.” I don’t think I have to remind readers of very similar ideas expressed by Viktor Orbán himself.
Although Orbán is careful not to alienate the western powers by expressing sentiments that would indicate that he stands on Russia’s side in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, he has made it eminently clear that Hungary has no stake in allying itself with either side. Gyöngyösi goes so far as to say that he would seriously consider leaving NATO, thereby realizing the Hungarian right’s desire for neutrality. After all, if a neutral Finland is safe and not threatened by Russia, why does Hungary need the NATO umbrella?
Vona might talk about an “opening to the West” and Gyöngyösi might envisage Hungarian ties to a German-Russian-Turkish triangle, but thus far Jobbik has shown itself to be committed almost exclusively to a pro-Russian policy. Gyöngyösi views Moscow as a peace-loving country that has wanted nothing since the end of the Cold War but a security zone in which “the CIA and NATO don’t operate.”
As far as Hungary is concerned, “the country fell from one dependency into another. The Russian soldiers left and then came a different kind of dependency, which arrived in disguise…. Is this colonization? Yes, it is.” The problem Hungary faces is “the unilateral euroatlantism which results in the loss of sovereignty.” This is familiar text from Orbán’s speeches.
Gyöngyösi has no problems whatsoever with the Russian loan for Paks’s two new reactors. “There is a huge difference between this loan and the money coming from the EU, because Brussels has a say in how it is spent. Russia, on the other hand, does not have a say in what we spend the money on. Russia does not meddle in Hungarian internal affairs.” Viktor Orbán would heartily agree.
When it comes to autocratic regimes like Putin’s Russia or Erdoğan’s Turkey, Gyöngyösi thinks, just like Viktor Orbán, that such regimes suit the Russian and Turkish psyches. He also believes that the Russian and Turkish models, perhaps with some modifications, suit the Hungarians better than unrestricted democracy. Just as Hungary adopted Christianity in a modified** form, so there are different versions of democratic regimes. Hungary surely will have its own, tailored to its needs. Again, this sounds familiar. How often we heard similar sentiments expressed by Viktor Orbán.
And finally, Gyöngyösi “already in 2008 talked about ‘the eastern opening,'” which includes good relations with Russia. Viktor Orbán’s concept of the eastern opening definitely postdates 2008, and therefore there is a good possibility that even that foreign policy initiative was taken over from Jobbik. But, according to Gyöngyösi, there are problems with Orbán’s credibility in eastern countries. The political leaders of these countries remember only too well what Orbán’s opinions of them were in 2008 and 2009. Sure, he is the only one now who can negotiate with them, but Gyöngyösi knows “from first hand” what these people think of him. They think he is a “turncoat.” And “one cannot base a stable foreign policy” on purely short-lived economic interests.
*I suspect that Márton Gyöngyösi’s knowledge of early 17th-century European history leaves something to be desired. In vain did I search for Russian involvement in Austrian-Hungarian affairs during the reign of Gábor Bethlen. Russia was going through one of the most difficult times in its history, the period called “The Time of Troubles” when Moscow lost large parts of its territories to Poland-Lithuania. The Russians had enough trouble of their own; they didn’t need to get mixed up in Austrian-Hungarian affairs.
**I don’t know what kind of modified Christianity Gyöngyösi is talking about.