The news of Viktor Orbán’s endorsement of Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States stunned the world. Orbán is the first and most likely the last European political leader to extol the virtues of Trump. As BBC noted a few months ago, “the international reaction to Donald Trump is so forceful and so unanimous in its condemnation” that it is unprecedented. Earlier Libération ran the headline “Donald Trump—The American Nightmare.” The article described him as a “provocative clown,” a “malign buffoon” whose “constituency is ignorance.”
But there is also a growing fear in Europe of the spread of right-wing populism because “in nearly every European country they are on the move now, the little Trumps,” Evelyn Roll wrote in Süddeutsche Zeitung, warning against the dangers of nationalism. Le Monde pointed to “our Marine Le Pen” as the French equivalent of Trump, while Der Spiegel compared him to Viktor Orbán. Only a few days ago in The Washington Post Anne Applebaum suggested that a Trump presidency would destabilize Europe because of his “direct and indirect links to a foreign dictator, Vladimir Putin, whose policies he promotes.” Applebaum then listed the names of Trump advisers who in one way or the other supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Franklin Foer in Slate called Trump Putin’s puppet.
And now comes the Hungarian prime minister who praises and endorses a man who has been described as an ignorant sociopath and a danger to the United States and the European Union. Vladimir Putin’s goal is the destruction of the European Union and the re-creation of a Russian Empire that would definitely include the Baltic States and Ukraine. Trump’s references to the European Union and NATO leave no doubt that he is playing into Putin’s hands. His remarks send chills down the spines of those who know anything about Russian designs and the threat Putin poses to Europe and consequently to the United States. When his fellow Republicans, like Mitch McConnell, tried to reassure allies of the United States that “if any of them get attacked, we’ll be there to defend them,” Trump immediately called McConnell “100% wrong.” And what does he think of the European Union? He claims that the European Union was created simply to “beat the United States when it comes to making money.” I guess he figures that if the EU disappeared, it would be good for American business.
It is this frightening man whom Orbán finds to be an “outstanding” politician who is best fit to be the next U.S. president. He himself is surprised at his own conclusion, but “in the current situation” he is certain that Trump “is the best for Europe and for Hungary.” Naturally, Orbán didn’t dwell on any possible threat from Russia and Trump’s infatuation with Putin, whom he has praised profusely over the years. And, of course, Orbán didn’t talk about Trump’s isolationism and his threat of a military abandonment of Europe. Instead, he emphasized three items from Trump’s program: his conviction that immigration carries a security risk, that national security forces must be strengthened, and that the West must end its export of democracy. He agrees fully with Trump. He himself “couldn’t have said it better.”
Orbán’s speech delivered in Tusnádfürdő/Băile Tușnad in Romania, which included the endorsement of Trump, was long and more filler than substance, but there was one paragraph that should give one pause:
Nowadays when we choose a certain language to describe our worries and troubles we must count on being branded, downgraded, excluded and, in general, being exiled from mainstream Europe. Of course, when the mainstream is in trouble then a timely exile is rather advantageous. Earlier we wouldn’t have thought that to be the case, but now it is increasingly likely that Hungary is being squeezed out from the European mainstream and everything we had done [the European politicians] considered not a part of the accepted norms of European politics—be that our constitution based on Christian foundations, our ideas on demographics, our national integration across borders—but all that today, after a few years, seems to be more of an advantage than a drawback. In this very moment no one can exclude the possibility that in the next few years the European mainstream will not advance the way imagined and so the black sheep will become the flock, from the exception the mainstream.
In brief, Orbán predicts the collapse of the European Union and strongly indicates that this would be a vindication of his policies and hence his personal triumph. I believe this statement is the strongest indication to date of his hope that the European Union will collapse. Therefore, the joint effort of Putin in the east and Trump in the west to weaken the institutions, values, and culture of the EU by strengthening populism in European countries and the simultaneous weakening of the Union itself by former communist countries infected with strong nationalism fits perfectly into Orbán’s plans.
As I reported earlier, at the beginning of July Tamás Bauer, a professor of economics and politician (SZDSZ and later DK), wrote an opinion piece in HVG with the title “Orbán would like to unbutton it,” which refers to Ferenc Deák’s famous figure of speech about the hussar’s dolman which was buttoned incorrectly. In it Bauer charged that “Viktor Orbán wants more than Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. He doesn’t want simply to remove his country from the Union but he wants to eliminate the Union itself.” The politicians of the democratic opposition all believe that the meaningless referendum is the first step in this direction, and seen in the light of this crucial paragraph they may be right. That’s why support for that referendum is a cardinal sin against Hungarian democracy and against the European Union and an endorsement of a new Europe under heavy Russian influence.