Hungarian commentators found Viktor Orbán’s endorsement of Donald Trump baffling. One of them, Szabolcs Panyi of Index, suggested that Viktor Orbán simply misspoke during his speech at Tusnádfűrdő/Băile Tușnad on July 23.
No one could have been so foolish, Panyi argued, as to endorse a presidential candidate who had just announced that he as president would disregard NATO’s Article 5, which is the cornerstone of the North Atlantic Alliance. Article 5 provides that an armed attack against one or more of the members of the alliance in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. As far as Trump is concerned, those countries who don’t pull their weight in the alliance will be left in the lurch, among them Hungary with its measly defense budget of 0.7% (instead of at least 2%) of the GDP.
Then there is the story of likely Russian involvement in the release of damaging documents from the National Democratic Committee via WikiLeaks just a day before the opening of the Democratic Convention. It is a well-known fact that Trump is a great admirer of Vladimir Putin, whom he considers a strong leader who is “rebuilding Russia” and who “does his work well.” At one point Trump went as far as to say that, even if Putin hired people to kill his critics and opponents, “at least he’s a leader,” not like George W. Bush. Trump’s admiration of Putin has been amply returned. On several occasions the Russian president expressed his approval of Trump, and the Russian propaganda machinery is full of praise for Trump’s foreign policy ideas. His stance on NATO was especially well received.
The western media is full of stories that the Russians, by illegal means, are trying to tip the scale in Trump’s favor in the election campaign. (And, of course, today Trump egged the Russians on.) So, the endorsement of Trump by Viktor Orbán, who has been accused of being the Trojan horse of Russian designs on the European Union, is most unfortunate indeed.
For all of the above reasons Szabolcs Panyi believed that what Orbán said was not what he meant. Panyi came to that conclusion after seeing the video of the speech, where he discovered that Orbán had no written text in front of him and was trying to find an item among his notes. Panyi figured that the prime minister, in addition to talking about Trump’s ideas on terrorism, national security, and immigration, wanted to say more, but he couldn’t find his notes. Thus, his thoughts on Trump were truncated and misunderstood.
Viktor Orbán didn’t leave Panyi in doubt for long. Yesterday during the joint press conference with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern he made himself crystal clear. Yes, he is supporting Trump wholeheartedly because he convinced that his election is in the interest of Hungary.
Orbán’s endorsement of Trump created quite a stir in the international media, and his comments yesterday were quoted in major newspapers worldwide. In the translation of Reuters, “the Democrats’ foreign policy is bad for Europe, and deadly for Hungary.” On the other hand, “the migration and foreign policy advocated by the Republican candidate, Mr. Trump, is good for Europe and vital for Hungary.” Actually, the original Hungarian, as recorded by Népszabadság, is even stronger: Republican foreign policy is good for Europe “and it means life for Hungary” while the Democrats’ foreign policy ideas “mean death for Hungary.” As far as Orbán is concerned, for Hungary “migration is not a solution but a problem … not medicine but a poison.”
Rumor has it that, over and above policy differences, Orbán holds a grudge against Hillary Clinton for her open criticism of his politics in the summer of 2011 during her visit to Budapest, which was followed by a letter written in December of the same year. As we know by now, Orbán neither forgets nor forgives. In fact, he is vengeful. It is enough to think of the fate of Gábor Iványi, head of the Methodist Brotherhood, or, for that matter, Ferenc Gyurcsány, whom he managed to discredit just because he lost a debate to him. Of course, in the case of the future president of the United States, Orbán is no position to play God, but he can embrace Donald Trump and verbally attack the despised Hillary Clinton.
Bill Clinton is not exactly a favorite either because the former president made a few nasty remarks about politicians who, like the Hungarian prime minister, “said he liked authoritarian capitalism, just saying ‘I don’t ever want to have to leave power’ – usually those guys want to stay forever and make money.” In addition, there is Orbán’s bogeyman, George Soros, who has a good relationship with the Clintons and just gave 25 million dollars to the Clinton campaign. All in all, there is every reason for Viktor Orbán to dislike Hillary Clinton.
There’s no question that Trump and Orbán have a lot in common. For instance, the same kind of crazy talk when it comes to protecting their countries against unwanted migrants. Yesterday, for example, Orbán announced that “Hungary does not need a single migrant” despite the country’s incredible labor shortage, while Trump talks about closing the door of the United States to all Muslims and, of course, building a “big, beautiful” wall along the Mexican border.
The consensus in Fidesz circles is that U.S.-Hungarian relations are already so bad that Orbán doesn’t risk much by endorsing Donald Trump. If Trump loses and Clinton wins, nothing will change. On the other hand, if Trump is the winner, he might remember kindly the only sitting European prime minister who openly and proudly endorsed a man who many of his colleagues deem unfit for and unworthy of the post of president of the United States.