Viktor Orbán: “We have convinced NATO”

Viktor Orbán’s self-aggrandizing fabrications after international summits never cease to amaze me. He holds so-called press conferences, usually in Hungarian and frequently with a single reporter from M1 state TV, to explain his pivotal role in the negotiations. It is usually, he explains, at Hungary’s insistence or upon his own sage advice that the European Union, or in this case NATO, decides to pursue a certain course of action.

This time the claim is that NATO at his urging decided “to take an active part in the European Union’s efforts at solving the refugee crisis. … We managed to get NATO on our side … We stated that illegal migration must be stopped, the outside borders must be defended, uncontrolled influx carried not just civilian but military security risks.” After this grandiose announcement that gave the impression that soon enough NATO troops will be standing at the Serb-Hungarian border, he said that “first and foremost, certain NATO forces will be moved to the defense of the maritime borders.”

The fact is that NATO has had a presence in the Aegean Sea ever since February when at the request of Germany, Greece, and Turkey it joined other international efforts to deal with the crisis. NATO is also involved in stemming illegal trafficking and illegal migration. These roles were described in the “NATO Summit Guide,” released by NATO ahead of the summit. It was reported in April 2016 that “Barack Obama said he was willing to commit NATO assets to block the traffic in human beings and the people smugglers that we refer to as modern slavers.” In June The Financial Times reported that “NATO will take a more prominent role in handling the EU’s refugee crisis by expanding its presence across the Mediterranean, potentially helping to stem an increased flow of people from north Africa into Italy.” In brief, Hungary didn’t initiate anything. The decision to expand the operation has been in the works for months.

Only one Hungarian publication, 444.hu, noticed this latest untruth of Viktor Orbán.

A few hours ago Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of NATO, tweeted that four NATO battalions will be deployed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Polish, Romanian, and Bulgarian troops will also be used in this new NATO force. Note that neither Hungarian nor Slovak troops will take part in the mission. A U.S.-led battalion will be stationed in Poland. Germany will send 500 troops to Lithuania, and more soldiers will come from the Benelux countries, Norway, and France. Half a battalion, led by Great Britain, will be moved to Estonia. A full NATO battalion, led by Canada, will be sent to Latvia.

The most interesting development is the exchange of troops between Poland and Romania. A Polish brigade will be stationed in Romania, and the Romanians will send a brigade to Poland. It also seems that Bulgaria will send 400 people to Romania, and it is likely that Polish soldiers will be sent to Bulgaria. So, in a way, a kind of international force of former Soviet-dominated countries is taking shape.

Russian helicopters

Although Hungary is not sending any soldiers to regions bordering on Russia, the country will have a forty-member NATO control center (irányítási pont). Orbán is being careful to stay in the background as much as possible so as not to alienate the Russians. He did, however, specifically mention in the “press conference” that in his opinion the present military arrangement does not infringe on the “NATO-Russian agreement.”

Origo assumed that Orbán was talking about the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and Russia signed in 1997 which, according to the paper, includes a clause that prohibits the stationing of NATO troops in countries bordering on Russia. There are commentators, however, who insist that this reading of the agreement is based on a misinterpretation of the text, which has a clause stating that the prohibition is valid only “in the current and foreseeable security environment.” Those who argue that placing NATO troops in the Baltic states is perfectly legal point to “the changed security environment.”

By sending troops to Latvia and Lithuania, the NATO leadership accepted the latter interpretation. But here again Orbán invented a lofty role for himself when he said that “we persuaded NATO that no Russian interest will be violated.” Who are these persuasive “we”?

Although the analysts of the Heritage Institute, a conservative think tank, might argue that the prohibition against stationing NATO troops in countries neighboring Russia is nothing more than “a myth that has been perpetuated by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine,” the Russians see it differently. The Russian foreign ministry blasted NATO for concentrating “its efforts on deterring a non-existent threat from the east.” As had been agreed to earlier, NATO ambassadors will meet their Russian counterparts in Brussels where “Moscow will seek explanations for NATO’s plans.”

Orbán is misleading the Hungarian public about the country’s real standing in the international community and about his own role in shaping international policy. But when the government controls so much of the media it’s easy to tell tales.

July 10, 2016
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
gdfxx
Guest

I love the picture. They are all awaiting the manna from heaven, some of them even opened their mouths for it.

Observer
Guest

Interesting will be the Polish role in NATO , while they seem very active, Hungary is on the side line, apart from Orban’s habitual lying. How are the two regimes going to play this out

Observer
Guest

Re Orban, I think few people take seriously his flow of lies and half truth, some of which are quite embarrassing.

Guest

AllI would say at this point is for NATO to be ‘smart, aware and cool as a cucumber’. If things get rough in the Baltic ‘sandbox’ they should be ready to counter the ‘usual’ Russian machinations. Vlad’s now paying for his unannounced and no passport country travel ventures. Who the heck trusts that guy now? Curious how VO and Pete will react if and when ‘green men’ will visit Estonia and all the ‘Russians’ there in the future. I want to read the rationale on that one.

LwiiH
Guest

OT

the fallen of WWII. A visual data driven narration of the war. Hungary had a small mention as having the 3rd largest number of Jewish deaths. Poland got a mention for losing 16% of its population. Staggering numbers on all fronts…

Guest

Can the Hungarian army only afford to send troops anywhere? Not to mention their current equipment look quite limited…

Observer
Guest

Of course not.
The Hu contingents abroad are always part of a coalition, eventually NATO, force, which bears the costs of deployment, support and even pays the personnel, much higher wages compared the Hu contracts.

Istvan
Guest
I would recommend Eva’s readers take a look at the website http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/ for a more comprehensive discussion of the NATO summit. A critical problem with the defense of the Baltic nations is that they are strategically not defendable against a Russian invasion using only non-nuclear weapons, and using those weapons would likely kill off a significant portion of the population of the Baltic nations. As I wrote before the best hope for those nations is to combine the small NATO forces with an active defense similar to that adopted by Finland, effectively creating a real Russian killing machine that has as a goal not winning a war with Russia but killing as many invaders as possible. Possibly this would make Putin think about the political price he have to pay at home for such an invasion. When I was deployed to NATO during the late 1970s our obsession was with the Fulda Gap. This is an area between the Hesse-Thuringian border (the former intra-German border) and Frankfurt am Main that contains two corridors of lowlands through which tanks might have driven in a surprise attack effort by the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies to gain crossings of the Rhine… Read more »
Guest

I often wonder what NATO thinks about Hungary/Orbán cozying up to Russia and at the same time claiming “we are good members of NATO”.

Do the executives in NATO even take Hungary for real and are the Hungarian officers at all informed about what NATO is planning?

Istvan
Guest
The Nuclear Planning Group acts as the senior body on nuclear matters in the Alliance and discusses specific policy issues associated with nuclear forces. All member countries, with the exception of France, which has decided not to participate, are part of the NPG. Hungary attends and is represented at these meetings once a year at the level of Ministers of Defense. The senior advisory body to the NPG on nuclear policy and planning issues is the NPG High Level Group (HLG). In 1998-1999, the HLG also took over the functions and responsibilities of the former Senior Level Weapons Protection Group (SLWPG) which was charged with overseeing nuclear weapons safety, security and survivability matters. The HLG is chaired by the United States and is composed of national policy makers (at policy director level) and experts from Allied capitals. It meets several times a year to discuss aspects of NATO’s nuclear policy, planning and force posture, and matters concerning the safety, security and survivability of nuclear weapons. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine there has been less and less discussion of arms control, but very little public discussion as to whether the nuclear stance of NATO has hardened. It was clear that… Read more »
spectator
Guest

Hungary was only needed at the time of the former Yugoslavian conflict. Ever since the need only formal.
Honestly, do yo really want to cooperate with some “Orbanist” state, when you are civilised European?

Is there any reason justify such cooperation?
I doubt it,

spectator
Guest

Been away for awhile, and now my comment “awaiting moderation..”
Just what happened gals and guys in the last couple of weeks/months?

Anything changed what I should be aware? of?

Time flies, but still…

Guest

Re: ‘Putin and political price’

Thanks Istvan for the perspective on Russia, Magyarorszag and NATO at this time. I would agree as well that we are in ‘dangerous’ times. I will be intrigued with the docs. Anything done on war gaming Russian-NATO possibilities in hostilities? I’d have to think some scenarios involve various pretexts based on alleged NATO behavior to kickstart Russian invasion. That of course involves the unpredictability of the grasping Russian territorial behavior.

petofi
Guest

To think that Hillary will be able to decipher the feints from real threats of Putin in times to come…I don’t believe so. Can you imagine if Hillary was President during the Cuban crisis? Worse still, if Trump was president??!

petofi
Guest

It’s high time that the American cognoscenti in the background find a way
to get Biden back into the picture…

petofi
Guest

Aw shucks, Istvan, don’t you wish you were 18 again and could enlist for multiple tours of duty with the American-Hungarian army?

‘Oh, if I were only young again with a jaunty walk, a brawny bod; and my pants full of moxy…’

Istvan
Guest

No Petofi I am too old I couldn’t hump ( a forced foot march ) with a full combat pack (31.75 kilograms ) 19 kilometers in under 3 hours anymore, My daughter who is a reserve Captain does it in 1:45 but she is only 27. I can still meet the Rifle marksmanship standard, but certainly not after a forced march.

Wrfree apparently both the Russians and US Army believe the Baltic states could be seized in a few days. Needless to say the US believes a lot of Russians would die and the Russians believe causalities would be moderate. Here is a discussion from the US military times http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/2015/10/05/us-russia-vladimir-putin-syria-ukraine-american-military-plans/73147344/

Guest

Hungary/Orbán: The mouse that roared . . . . :-))

Istvan
Guest
Well the mouse interestingly enough did not descent from the NATO stance on Russia and made no public statement similar to that of French President François Hollande who on the first day of the summit stated “NATO has no role at all to be saying what Europe’s relations with Russia should be. For France, Russia is not an adversary, not a threat. Russia is a partner which, it is true, may sometimes, and we have seen that in Ukraine, [use] force which we have condemned when it annexed Crimea.” Minister of Defence István Simicskó issued a formal statement on the summit yesterday and it made no mention of NATO’s stance toward’s Russia and the threat it poses ( see http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-defence/news/hungary-is-committed-to-guaranteeing-security ). The statement also said nothing about NATO’s recognition that there would be no further nuclear disarmament given the situation with Russia. The following sections of the official NATO communique were agreed to by all members, including Hungary, at the conclusion of the July 8-9 summit in Warsaw. They relate to strategic nuclear weapons. “Allies’ goal is to bolster deterrence as a core element of our collective defense and to contribute to the indivisible security of the Alliance. As long… Read more »
Guest

Istvan, thanks for your very enlightening comment on NATO – it’s always good to hear a word or two from a military professional!

Just one correction:
When you wrote did not descent from the NATO stance on Russia
You surely meant;
did not dissent from the NATO stance on Russia

Istvan
Guest

Auto correct and bad editing

Guest

And yet it is a fact that Russia believes NATO always seeks to gain advantage in war making capabilities on the continent. Even as they are always on the make. Russia appears to refuse understanding NATO behavior in that continent’s great territorial chess game. As NATO castles Russia takes two pawns(always looking fir that materiel gain) and eyeing the appropriate situation for the next piece to take. To think otherwise is stupidly foolish.

And regarding pieces, Estonia for example harbors a weak position. Her strategy is unquestionably linked with all of NATO to defend her borders. Hopefully Russia would lay off intrusion into the Baltics. But if she does NATO must be ready for that contingency and follow through on defense. Too much has passed and given sustenance to a non-friend of Europe to keep ‘pushing the limits’ in bringing back a heady nostalgia for the good of the cause. And it also should be remembered quiet paper tigers don’t live a good existence.