The Orbán media on the U.S. air strikes in Syria

The reaction of the Hungarian government and its media to the U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian air base manifests its pro-Russian bias and its disappointment in President Trump.

Magyar Hírlap published a lengthy article, “Act of War or a Clear Message?,” on the international reception of the American move in which the dominant theme was the rejoinders of Russian politicians. The article started with quotations from President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ended with Russian Foreign Minister Spokeswoman Mariia Zacharova’s detailed description of the Russian position on the issue. In between, the paper summarized the attitudes of the more important countries in Europe and Asia.

In the Central and East European region, the article covered only Poland and Hungary. Poland approves the move because it considers “the United States the guarantor of world peace and order. There are times when one must react and when actual steps must be taken.” By contrast, this was one of the few times that Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó struck a pessimistic note. Although “a U.S.-Russian agreement on Syria is not only in the interest of Hungary and Europe but the whole world … we have never been farther from such an understanding.” Judging from this statement, the Orbán government must be deeply disappointed with the way in which the Trump administration’s Russia policy is evolving. As for the use of chemical warfare, Hungary naturally “condemns it and hopes that it will not be repeated.” Szijjártó, unlike most of the journalists writing for the government press, didn’t question the Syrian government’s likely role in the chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, resulting in the deaths of 87 people. Even Viktor Orbán said a few meaningless words that carefully avoided any judgment on the attack one way or the other. He simply stressed the need for security and order.

As for the government media, news from Russia dominated the reporting. 888.hu even has a man in Moscow who reported straight from the Russian capital. He attended the press conference of the spokesman for the ministry of defense, who gave details on the American attack which, according to him, was not effective. He also reported from the foreign ministry and described Russian naval movement on the Black Sea.

The bias in Magyar Idők’s reporting in Russia’s favor is evident even in simple news articles. For starters, the author talked about an “alleged chemical attack” when by today, when the article was published, there can be no question that such a chemical attack did in fact take place. The article used the verb “to accuse” in connection with Assad’s role in the attack instead of “to maintain” or “to assert.” After reporting on the so-called events, the paper turned to a U.S. expert who works for an institute attached to the Hungarian foreign ministry. He is known to sympathize with the politics and ideology of the Republican Party. He noted the “great changes that have taken place in the policies of the American president,” policies that run counter to Russian interests.

Of course, from our point of view, the most interesting articles are the opinion pieces that allow us to gauge the views of pro-government, right-wing members of the media. I will start with a journalist whose op-ed articles often appear in Magyar Idők, Levente Sitkei. The piece’s title is “Sirens.” Sitkei compares the accusation that Bashar el-Assad waged chemical war against his citizens to allegations that Saddam Hussein stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Since the latter claim turned out to be untrue, the implication is that the charge against Assad is similarly untrue. “In those days, he [Saddam Hussein] was the bad boy who could hear at least twenty times a day that accusation about himself until [the Americans] toppled his statue and hanged him.” Bashar al-Assad will not end his life this way because “he is only a pawn, a minor character.”

Sitkei claims that a photo of an ISIS fighter crying over the fate of the children in Aleppo is accepted as truth by CNN viewers, but when the same man on Russia Today tramples on a cross, it is labelled Russian propaganda. “Syria is not a state but a wretched, blood-soaked stage … where every move is carefully calculated by experts of a far-away country.” We all know whom he is talking about. As far as the chemical attack is concerned, Sitkei has his doubts about the veracity of the event because it was reported by activists of a civic organization with headquarters in Great Britain. So, it might be nothing more than simple deception. It might never have happened. Or, if it did happen, it might have been done by a rebel group. “The usefulness is what matters, not the truth.” In brief, the western world, and Americans in particular, lie.

The second opinion piece, which also appeared in Magyar Idők, was written by László Szőcs, formerly the Washington correspondent of Népszabadság. He portrays the civil war in Syria as a “proxy war” in which “the Syrian people have only a minor role to play.” The key actors in this fight are the United States and Russia, “the two most important factors of world politics.” I doubt that too many military experts or political commentators would agree with Szőcs on this score.  His conclusion is that no peace can be achieved in Syria “without a reconciliation between Washington and Moscow.”

Mandiner, a site run by younger conservatives but read mostly by hard-core right-wingers, is not convinced by the American claim that the chemical attack was carried out by the Assad regime. They found a brief note on Facebook from Jakob Augstein, a well-known German journalist, in which he criticizes journalists who praise Trump for his attack on Syria while at the same time talk about “the possibility of the use of chemical weapons.” Either we are sure or we’re not.

In the independent Hungarian media there is silence for the most part. Of course, they reported the events and covered Russian as well as American reactions, but no one wanted to express an opinion on the matter.

The pro-government media is largely anti-American and pro-Russian while the government is sitting on the fence, advocating a Russian-American understanding which Orbán and Szijjártó no longer believe is possible. I suspect that Viktor Orbán is starting to suffer from buyer’s remorse. Yes, the candidate he (and Russia) backed became president of the United States, but it seems that no pro-Russian policy will be forthcoming from Washington.

April 8, 2017
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petofi
Guest

“…far-away country”–no doubt.

How about this scenario: to distract the attention from Trump and the Senate investigations… the Russkies set up the whole Syrian thing so that Trump can look heroic before his jerry springer-trained populace.

Vladimir may also have a work with Xi to let Trump drop a few bombs on North Korea. Stay tuned.

petofi
Guest

work = word

wrfree
Guest

You know we could see how emotional POTUS was when discussing the bombing of the Syrian base. And indeed anyone viewing those soul-killing pictures of the dead would be a stone not to feel anything. But on another aspect he will have to tread very carefully.

Assad right now has insightful information on the ‘instinctive Trump when it comes to Syria. Don’t know if Trump and his staff has thought the bombing out but if it is a ‘one off’ kind if thing that could be a Rx for US failure in Syria. The Syrian regime now knows what pushes Trump to act. If another sarin attack occurs hopefully Trump can play it like chess. If it will be like a ‘deal’ well it’s ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’. Who knows what would lurk with the cagey Russians and Syrians?

Btw how did Russia get mixed up with a guy who uses chem weapons? But Im not too sure Russia is embarassed anyway. VO isn’t either. They’re all beyond the pale.

BMO
Guest

What Assad has been doing to his population is exactly what Orban has to the democratic foundations of Hungary. Both propped up by Russia, with intent to keep their seats even if the country has to go down for it.

petofi
Guest

“…no pro-Russian policy will be forthcoming from Washington.”

Huh?

Eva, please tell me this isn’t you writing this nonsense.

The Russians have succeeded in putting their man into power.
This is such a monstrous accomplishment for them that they will do everything to prop him up and make him maintain his position for four years if not eight; after which, the country’s
apparatus of secrecy and information will be fully infiltrated; and the countries secrets and secret preparations will be fully known.

The threats etc from Russia are for verisimilitude…play acting.
The Russkies will now swamp the US with threats and actions (Russia in Nicaragua? maybe back in Cuba?)– all to build up
the hapless buffoon; and deflect attention from the conspiracy investigations. It’s done in order that continued investigations of a President now under international pressures would seem disloyal.

detective
Guest

@petofi: “…no pro-Russian policy will be forthcoming from Washington.”

Huh?

Eva, please tell me this isn’t you writing this nonsense.” This time, Eva is describing the events truthfully, and petofi is becoming dogmatic. Trump is not pro-Russian. Only very cautiously planning his steps.He is just realizing the depth of the Active Measures with great disbelief. He is so much better than hapless Obama was.

petofi
Guest

@ Detective

You’re daft…and just possibly, a troll.
The Donald could never have won the election, let alone the primary, by himself. The Russians were there from the beginning. Of course, the Repubs don’t want this out; and for that matter, the Dems of Hillary-baby were complicit in keeping quiet when the Russians did some tricks on Sanders, too.

Forget about ‘disbelief’. Trump has been compromised by the Russians in every way possible–sexual and financial. They have their man and will hold on to him. The great Russian trick was to implicate so many others, too…

John G
Guest
No one really knows the truth about what is happening in Syria but western media still describe it as a civil war which it is not. Syria is fighting for its life against a number of separate rebel forces 90% of whom come from outside, including al-nusra, which are directly or indirectly funded by the West, Turkey and the Gulf states, who would like to see the fall of Assad and a Sunni administration installed. There is more and more evidence now that the reporting of the war over recent years has been based on propaganda reports lacking any true facts so now the conclusion automatically is that “Assad has done it”. Peter Ford once UK Ambassador to Syria is one of many who urge caution on any claim of who has committed an atrocity – and that jumping to conclusions is dangerous. This was certainly the case in Aleppo where the true facts did not get out at the time but Assad was always blamed. Before the war it was a country which functioned well with a high level of education and health care and acceptance of different ethnic backgrounds. For many Russia’s intervention may be what saves Syria… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

John it would be good to start with an understanding that Syria as we know the nation state today was an abstract creation of imperialist powers following the defeat of the unified Ottoman Empire in WWI. Specifically the existing borders were drawn up as part of implementation of the Sykes–Picot Agreement for administrative purposes by Great Britain and France. So both Syria and Iraq contain national entities that create instability.

Probably only a federal structure allowing for nationalities and religions to have fuctional autonomy within these contrived nation states has a possibility of ending the civil wars in both Iraq and Syria. That solution is no where to be seen currently and can’t be imposed by either Russia or the USA separately or collectively right now, more bloodshed seems necessary to exhaust the combatants.

Istvan
Guest

There is also another aspect of this John, Russia may not be able to defend the Assad military against US assaults. This article speculated on that http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a25985/putin-didnt-shoot-down-cruise-missiles-trump/

I mean the Russians had at least 45 minutes to attempt to shoot down the incoming Tomahawk missles and didn’t even try. To give the advanced warning to the Russians indicated the US military fully believed the Russians lacked the capacity to take down our missles in a significant manner to impair the mission. I would say based on my discussions with both active and retired officers this was seen as a massive defeat for the Russians and Putin in their attempt to be a global military power.

e-1956
Guest

I think, the Iraqi soldiers managed to take down a few cruise missiles during the 2003 campaign. Improved technology could have made the cruise missile invulnarable.

The most important lesson of Syria is that the Kreml has not spared any effort to weaponize the regime and the nation against the West for the past 70 years. Even ISIS is just another kind terror weapon for the Russian planners.
Additionally, Orban was a willing partner to increase the damage by the refugee movement to Europe and Hungary during the summer 2015.

wrfree
Guest

It’s interesting in the sense that Trump is taking a page out of the Putin war playbook by simply taking the decision to act in executing tactics. Perhaps Putin now will be going through some ‘WT*?’ Syrian moments when it comes to US action in Syria. And the US without a doubt has to walk a fine line on that precipice.

petofi
Guest

With Russian control of Trump, what’s next to come is the engineering of an American/Chinese confrontation…

petofi
Guest

Istvan,
you’re such a blow-hard.
Russians can’t shoot down? You’re daft.
They didn’t want to! As I have said before, the Russians created a victory for beseached Trump, that’s all.

Lajos
Guest

And what would Éva’s opinion be on the subject matter? I mean the US bombing of Syria? Why Éva is so concerned about a country’s politics that she has no other tie but being born there and nothing to say about her adopted homeland?

TKT
Guest

Lucius Cassius (Cicero also used to ask): “Cui bono?” “To whose benefit?” or “Who Benefits?” Certainly Assad and Putin did not benefit. Who benefited then? Many including ISIS, the various rebel Syrian terrorist groups, Turkey/Erdogan, the American Neocons and Liberal Interventionists, the weapons manufacturers (Raytheon manufactures the Tomahawks), etc. etc. Assad, Putin, Iran did not profit…

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