Viktor Orbán’s friends: Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdoğan, and Ilham Aliyev

Yesterday around noon Moscow time the Kremlin published a short announcement regarding a telephone conversation that had taken place earlier that day. It was brief and to the point: Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán “discussed current issues on the bilateral agenda, in particular the implementation of agreements reached during the visit to Budapest by the President of Russia on February 2, 2017. The two leaders also stressed the importance of the construction, carried out by Rosatom State Corporation, of two new power units at the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, as well as joint gas projects.” About half an hour later the news of the telephone conversation was also announced in Budapest. It was even briefer than the Russian version. “Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation about current questions of Hungarian-Russian bilateral relations.”

Most newspapers and internet sites republished the short MTI announcement without any comment or interpretation. I found only two exceptions. One was 168 Óra, which was certain that it was Viktor Orbán who called the Russian president “only a few hours after he had returned from the NATO summit in Brussels,” implying that perhaps the topic of conversation wasn’t so much Paks, as the Kremlin communiqué claimed. Perhaps Viktor Orbán reported to Putin on his impressions of the NATO summit.

The other was a longer opinion piece by Gábor Stier, Magyar Nemzet’s Russian expert. Stier is a pro-Russian journalist specializing in foreign affairs. As opposed to 168 Óra, he is certain that it was Putin who called Orbán. Stier might be a great friend of Russia, but even he doesn’t believe that the conversation between the two men was about “current bilateral relations.” Putin visited Budapest only a couple of months ago, and about two weeks ago the two men spent some time together in Beijing at the summit of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Stier also can’t imagine that, now that all the obstacles have been removed to the financing and construction of Paks, the nuclear power plant merited a telephone call.

So, why was such an encounter arranged? Stier believes that the key to the content of the exchange lies in the brief Russian reference to “joint gas projects” which, in Stier’s opinion, is the construction of the “Turkish Stream,” which “would benefit not only Moscow and Budapest but the whole Mediterranean region.” Now that U.S. policy toward Europe is changing and “its relations with Russia may become more pragmatic, there is a chance that Washington will not hinder these plans,” says Stier. In that case, he believes, Berlin will be less antagonistic to the project. Apparently on the same day Putin also phoned Borut Pahor, president of Slovenia, an event that, according to Stier, supports his interpretation of this unexpected telephone conversation between Putin and Orbán. This second telephone conversation, however, was prompted by the twenty-fifth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and an independent Slovenia, which took place on May 25, 1992. I’m therefore less sure than Stier that the phone call had anything to with the pipeline.

Given the paucity of information, all of the above is just conjecture, but the frequency of Putin-Orbán meetings and telephone conversations is striking. So is Orbán’s increasing diplomatic isolation, at least when it comes to Western countries. On the other hand, relations with autocratic countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan are excellent.

Let’s take a look at Turkish-Hungarian relations of late. President Recep Erdoğan was supposed to visit Hungary already in 2016, but the trip had to be postponed because of the Turkish military coup that occurred in July. According to the latest information, the trip might take place soon, to coincide with the opening of the restored “türbe” (tomb) of Gül Baba (d. 1541), a dervish poet and companion of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, which is in the hills of Buda.

There was also at least one telephone conversation between the two men that Orbán initiated. Orbán congratulated the Turkish president on his victory at the polls that made him an autocrat for life. In return, Erdoğan suggested bilateral talks in Beijing at the summit. At that time Erdoğan also invited Orbán to Ankara, which Orbán naturally gladly accepted.

Recep Erdoğan in Budapest in 2013

I might also add that while Orbán often justifies his anti-Muslim stance and Hungarians’ unwillingness to have Muslims in their country by reminding the world of the 150-year occupation of the central part of Hungary by the Ottomans, a veritable love affair is going on between the Hungarian and Turkish governments.

Not too many people are aware of the fact that Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566) died during the Battle of Szigetvár in Hungary. His body was taken back to Istanbul to be buried, but his heart, liver, and some other organs were buried just outside of Szigetvár. The Battle of Szigetvár is also an important site for Hungarians, who celebrate the heroism of the captain of the fort, Miklós/Nikola Zrínyi/Zrinski, who also died there. In any case, the Turkish government has generously contributed to archaeological work conducted to find the exact location of Suleiman’s burial. For its part, the Hungarian government is planning enormous busts of both Suleiman and Zrínyi. A rather strange way to commemorate the victory of 20,000 invading Ottoman troops over 2,500 Hungarian-Croatian defenders.

Another politician Orbán has warm relations with is Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, who visited Budapest in 2014. Two years later Viktor Orbán and his wife paid a visit to Baku, where the two men agreed to repeat their visits to each other’s capitals. This year it is Aliyev’s turn to visit. Mind you, the Hungarian media had to learn from Azeri sources that their president will visit Budapest in October. Aliyev inherited “the throne” from his father in 2003, and he has been president ever since. This spring Aliyev designated his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, first vice president. She would replace him in the event of his death. In 2016 at Orbán’s suggestion President János Áder bestowed a high state decoration on Aliyeva.

Putin, Erdoğan, Aliev—these are the people Orbán feels comfortable with. And they are are the ones who are willing to visit the Hungarian capital on a somewhat regular basis. A sad commentary on Hungary’s standing in the world of diplomacy.

May 27, 2017
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Guest

The post about the Manchester attack gave rise to a discussion about why some young people become murderously destructive. Lack of prospects, mental disease, the fault of the society….

Today’s post raises the same question on another scale. Why does a person decide to destroy all the structures and mechanisms that makes the society he lives in livable? Why does a person decide to deliver the society he lives in into the hands of a foreign despot?

Member

When I first interviewed Orban more than 20 years ago, I asked him why he, a vice-president of Liberal International, was palling around with old-style nationalists in the MDF and KDNP. He said something that turned out to be his personal political credo: “Politics is not only about representing your viewpoint, it’s about forging strong alliances.” (Not an exact quote.)

He’s now palling around with foreign despots because he thinks it will bring him what he wants – plenty of cash and no interference from pesky EU human-rights mongers. Just like the MDF and KDNP eventually brought him nearly unlimited power within Hungary.

wrfree
Guest

‘ Such is the city for whose sakes these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought thst she might be taken from them and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf’.

Pericles at Athens…. Funeral oration on Athenian dead

It is fitting perhaps as Memorial Day is upon us here to consider and reflect on what changes have occurred to Europe and to the political orientation of some of its nation-states in the current post-war period. Ironically American dead contributed to Hungary’s relief yet the memory perhaps has been relegated such that the country and its virtues have been shunted aside. Remembrance is hard to come by.

We can say pretty much that for some nations they may have forgotten why the Allies had fought and died on bloodied European battlefields for those few years in the mid 20th. Orban’s predilection to walk in the footsteps of the triumvirate noted as well as others who delve into the autocratic puts into question their attachment to the democratic ideal. One wonders then who would they fight for when the times comes to choose which are the virtues and values to adhere to?

Guest

“He’s now palling around with foreign despots because he thinks it will bring him what he wants – plenty of cash and no interference from pesky EU human-rights mongers.”

Then I must ask: Why are some persons willing to sacrifice their country for money. I realize that many are ready to harm their country for money but here we are not talking about harm but willful devastation and treason against country and allies.

Member

A roundabout answer to your question: To me, it is very interesting how many dictators (and yes, almost all of them are men) have zero interest in trying to seduce women. Neither Hitler nor Stalin were known for this kind of thing. Many of the great American industrialists spoke of their wives as afterthoughts, even nuisances.

Numerous Orban clansmen have mistresses, notably Matolcsy. Not Orban himself. He is interested in two things: Power and soccer. His lust for power subsumes all other human passions, including love of country.

aida
Guest

Power men and their women? Seducing women? Hardly. Napoleon experts observed that never did he allow any of his decisions to be impacted on by women. It seems that power.men are very self contained. They are usually lonely because of the difficulty to share when at the top. When he is running a large army or state, in Napoleon’s case both, it could fatal to allow his attention to be diverted by stressful and emotional issues generated in a romantic relationship.
Orban’s wife is a charming and beautiful woman. Could it be that he is loyal to her because he loves her?

Member

Doubt it.

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Alex Kuli,
Why on earth would Orban spend his precious time on seducing women?
Firstly, take a good look at his beautiful/stylish/clever wife and you will find the answer.
Secondly, he’s NOT stupid to open himself to blackmail. Orban channels his excess passion towards the love of his country (at least that’s what I understand from his speeches).

Guest

With friends like these …

Totally OT:
Szigetvár is a nice small town, though a bit sleepy. We visited the famous castle grounds last year with my German brother in law (a real history buff), the museum on the castle grounds where we met some young students from Turkey and the “Turkish House” in the town center. There will be more exhibits, the Turks are also interested in showing more and building on the Hungarian-Turkish friendship – no more wars …

And even more OT: There’s a very good pizzeria there! 😉

David North
Guest

I see Fidesz is blaming EU immigration policies for the Manchester atrocity. Talk about spin! The bomber was the son of Libyan refugees, nothing to do with the EU at all!

Pole
Guest

Mr. Kaczyński has no foreign friends. He doesn’t speak any foreign language, very rarely travels abroad and honestly hates everything what is foreign. He’s 68 years old father of the nation who thinks that foreign policy is irrevelant for his domestic rule. His government has no foreign allies other than Hungary but tries forge good relationship with authoritarian Turkey, Belarus Kazachstan or China. Russia is arch-enemy so no alliance is at the moment possible even if in reality every day of Kaczynski’s rule pushes us deeper in Putin hands.

Observer
Guest

I can’t imagine how any Hungarian, even Orbán faithful, can like anything of the Azeri, Turkish or Belorussian way of life.
One has to be very dumb, sick or blind to do so.

Guest

Well, if you are one of the leaders it’s surely ok – all the rules only apply to the sheeple.
I still remember when my father told me about his experience as a guard officer of Hitler’s headquarter on the outer perimeter. For R&R he was allowed in – and there was whisky, the finest Bordeaux and champagne flowing, jazz music played and the cinema showed the latest American movies …
Since I was still a teenager he didn’t tell me about the women available to the officers …
And I heard similar stories from East Germany which had a separate city and separate stores for the nomenklatura and also from Teheran where booze and drugs are freely available for the top leaders.
The old adage for the sheeple:
DAISNAID!
Do as I say not as I do …
Doesn’t really matter whether they are extremist Muslims, fascists, Christians, Communists, Illiberals or whatever …

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Observer,
Fidesz faithful Orban supporters don’t have to “like” their way of life but they can RESPECT them as their possible future trading partners. Trade has nothing to do with emotions.

Istvan
Guest

On Gábor Stier, Magyar Nemzet’s piece. What is clear, President Trump may still want to attempt to create a diplomatic and defense block with the Russian Federation. But people like General H. R.” McMaster the primary U.S. National Security Advisor to Trump, Fiona Hill Special Assistant to the President Trump and Senior Director for Europe and Russia, and General Mattis current United States Secretary of Defense do not appear to share that vision of US/Russian relations. There are numerous Americans who are hostile to Putin’s Russia and who oppose Trump’s vision, including myself. Stier needs to read something besides his approved Putin journals to get a more balanced vision of all of this. The USA is not Russia, or for that matter Hungary, Trump is not all powerful and on the issue of Russia he is walking on very thin ice indeed.

Zsuzsa
Guest

goody goody friends! by all means these are not the only despots in the world though the rest might be slightly removed from Orban’s sphere by availability.

I_reborn
Guest

I am afraid you all missed a very important point; OV is being rejected by the left lib leaders of the EU so he is aligning himself with those on the opposite side of the scale. Simple fact of life. My enemies enemies are my friend.

Zsuzsa
Guest

I disagree. It’s a simple case of birds of a feather.

Guest

O was a “friend” of the Azerbeijanis while he was still “liked” by the EPP – remember the story about the NATO murderer?
Anyway calling Mrs Merkel and her partners “left lib” is more than funny!
Or are you so far right wing (to the right of me is only the wall …) that the ruling Christian Conservative EPP is left lib for you?

I_reborn
Guest

Eva! You are masquerading in the role of Jeanne d’Arc – Joan of Arc of democratic values while your own blog is under fascist rules. Isn’t that a bit of irony?

Well it is time to either bring your blog under the free commenting rules by eliminating censorship and free all blocked commenters, or close the blog down all together. The choice is yours but the time to make the right one is running out.

Eva this my the last request to open up your blog to everybody or you will find it on a collision course that will bring it down. Do not blame me for the demise of your ultra left-lib hateful invasions propaganda machine when it dies because of your stubbornness.

Zsuzsa
Guest

I have been lurking here for years and I for one would be very sad to see this blog deteriorate in civility and reason. Which would be the result if Eva opened it up. People do not function well in the absence of rules and one rotten apple can spoil an entire barrel. Let me guess instead of the “ultra left-lib hateful invasions propaganda” you would rather see “ultra right-wing hateful invasions propaganda”.

Guest

Totally agree!

I have copied and saved some of the outrageous racist fascist anti-women sexist “statements” of our right wing trolls here – of course these had to be deleted and the abominable creatures banned.

PS:
In Germany these people would have been sent to jail for their hate speech like Horst Mahler!

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