The strangest encounter: Vladimir Putin in Budapest

I believe that in the past I’ve called attention to the troubling fact that the Hungarian public more often than not learns from foreign sources what its own government is up to. This is definitely the case when it comes to Russian-Hungarian relations. The other country that comes to mind is Iran, and I suspect that in both cases there are some weighty reasons for the secrecy.

We have known for some time that Russian President Putin, a black belt judo champion and honorary chairman of the International Judo Federation, was planning to attend the World Judo Championship held in Budapest on August 28, but it was only from a statement issued by the Kremlin that we learned a few hours before Putin’s arrival that it was “at the invitation of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán [that] the head of the Russian state will visit Budapest.” It looks as if, for one reason or another, Orbán didn’t want to publicize the fact that the World Judo Championship was, at least in part, an excuse for the Russian president to make his second visit to Budapest this year. Since 2010 this is Putin’s seventh visit to Hungary. As Péter Krekó, director of Political Capital, noted, Putin visits only dictatorships like Belarus and Kazakhstan that often.

While Putin was in Hungary the Senate of the University of Debrecen bestowed upon him the title of Civis Honoris Causa. Because of Putin’s busy schedule, the honorary degree was handed to him in Budapest. The university awards this degree to individuals for outstanding public and/or artistic achievement. Individuals who contribute in some way to the reputation or the financial well-being of the university are also eligible. Putin allegedly received the award because “both the Hungarian government and the Russian Federation intend to assign an important role to the University of Debrecen in the Paks2 project.” There is apparently an arrangement with Rosatom that the university will create a center to train Hungarian engineers in atomic technology.

The University of Debrecen gave the first such honorary doctorate in 2012 to George Habsburg, the grandson of Charles IV, the last Hungarian king. In 2016 the recipient was Rudolf Schuster, the former president of Slovakia. A couple of days ago László Majtényi, head of the legal think tank EKINT, sarcastically inquired when the university will bestow its fourth Civis Honoris Causa to Recep Erdoğan.

Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin at the World Judo Championship

Some time ago the Hungarian government promised 3.5 billion forints for the restoration of Russian orthodox churches. This pleased Putin to no end, but little work has been done on the buildings. A few days prior to Putin’s arrival the government decided to expedite matters by buying the old orthodox church in Tokaj from the municipality for 313 million forints. After this purchase the Hungarian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church will be able to begin restoration work on the building. The money for the restoration also comes from the Hungarian government.

Political scientists who got together yesterday to discuss Russian-Hungarian relations pretty much agree on what Russia’s foreign policy aims are and how it uses Hungary to achieve its goals: weakening of the European Union and NATO, achieving acceptance of the annexation of Crimea, and ending sanctions against Russia. But when it comes to the question of Hungarian policy toward Russia, the analysts are stymied, mostly because the Orbán government doesn’t communicate in a transparent manner on the subject. They noted that the relationship between Putin and Orbán seems to be close and friendly, although others are convinced that the great friendship between the two leaders doesn’t really exist and that perhaps there is even friction between the two men.

Szabolcs Vörös of Válasz is one of those journalists well versed in foreign affairs who finds this visit worrisome. He called attention to the fact that no statement was released about the visit on the government website. The only notice on the visit was released on August 28 at 2:00 p.m. by MTI, the Hungarian wire service. It quoted the press secretary of the prime minister, who announced that “after the successful Aquatic World Championships another sports event will begin in the Hungarian capital…. The prime minister on the day of the opening and on the following days will have discussions with sports and state leaders, for example with Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation; with Vladimir Putin, the honorary president of the International Judo Federation and president of Russia; with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee; and with Kaltma Battulga, the head of the Mongolian Judo Association and president of Mongolia.” Well, if that release isn’t strange I don’t know what is.

There’s no question that the Hungarian government was trying to minimize the visit as much as possible. I am not sure why, but this statement was truly bizarre. Mentioning Putin only after the president of the International Judo Federation and placing his position in the Federation ahead of his political status borders on the ludicrous. The Russian government refused to be a partner in this minimizing game and said that in fact it was the Hungarian government that invited the Russian president to Budapest.

Vörös also noted that the total cost of the Paks project was supposed to be about 12 billion euros, 80% of which, 10 billion euros, would have been covered by the Russian loan. In February, however, during Putin’s last visit, at the joint press conference the Russian president announced that Russia is willing to lend 100% of the cost of the project, “but then we must change certain parts of the contract.” It looks as if these changes have been made because Putin yesterday was talking about a Russian loan of 12 billion euros. Putin has been very eager to get the project underway as soon as possible and has been putting pressure on the Hungarian government, or to be more precise on Viktor Orbán. Some people fear that Putin is in possession of compromising information on Viktor Orbán, which the Hungarian politician certainly doesn’t want to become public knowledge. One thing is sure. Orbán, who before 2010 was a rabid anti-Russian politician, suddenly became a close friend of Vladimir Putin.

Aside from the nagging question of compromising information on Orbán, there is another problem. We know next to nothing about the details of the deal. Who knows what these changes in the contract entail? Why did the two men have to meet, especially since their meeting was extremely short? Why did they arrange this whole charade? We have no idea. In any case, if we can believe Péter Szijjártó, work on the Paks project will begin in January.

August 29, 2017
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Member

Paks 2 would be a long term project, completion would take place by the time the ratio of World energy supply from fossil fuels and renewable resources will be drastically different, as well as the attitude of the consumers to go with it.
The viktor and maybe even Putin will be only bad memories by the time someone could throw the switches to start up a technologically outdated nuclear reactor and a socially unacceptable method of producing electricity.
Many Hungarians always liked to live in their past (the consider glorious), the little viktor and Putin will prolong this pleasure for them, so their faces can glow with happiness or perhaps something else.

Ron
Guest

The reason for Putin to visit Budapest is to sign the adjusted loan agreement from 80% to 100%. This due to fact that Hungary otherwise would not get permission from the EU.

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-464_en.htm

It would be seem as State Aid which was not allowed.

Ferenc
Guest

Quote from your link:
“Brussels, 2017.Mar.06: The European Commission has concluded that Hungary’s financial support for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Paks (Paks II) involves state aid. It has approved this support under EU state aid rules on the basis of commitments made by Hungary to limit distortions of competition.”

Please explain what the 100% instead of 80% loan changes to being considered ‘State Aid’ or not. And if so, does this mean that HU does not anymore have to fulfill it’s above stated commitments?

PS: who can take serious that the HU government commits to ‘limit distortions of competition’??

dos929
Guest
About the ‘secrecy’, or rather the ‘secrecies’ of the Orban regime… Ever since they got hold onto power secrecy is another trade mark of the regime. Whenever there is a small or not so small issue or decision that may be suspect for any reason (but mainly for covering up corruption), they are declaring it a ‘national secret’ and the door is shut on it for anything between 30 and 50 years… And there is no end to the regime’s corrupt practices, as there is no end of the secret decisions, most of which rarely reaches the public since they have put their dirty hands on most of the media. Orban and his cronies feel themselves so unmovable from power that they no longer pretend and don’t care if some of their dirty laundry reaches the public, as they rightly know that not the opposition parties, not the EU and of course not the citizens of the country can do anything about it. This posture of Orban is so entrenched that even the infringement notices received from any of the EU bodies do not disturb them, and they behave like nothing happened. In any decent democratic government secrets belong to… Read more »
Observer
Guest

The corruption and lawlessness story of the week:

– Istvan Garancsi, Orban oligarch and front man, advertised on Bud council columns without permit and without paying any fees for two years
– Bud council, under Fid control, is now trying to paper this over retroactively, to preclude the imposition of the due penalties.

The Orban mafia state in action.

Observer
Guest

Further to covering up and lawlessness:

The Orban regime is widely and totally arbitrarily ascribes the status of “national interest” to usually corrupt or controversial projects to exempt them from the existing environmental, labor, safety etc. regulation – a license for their oligarchs to do as they please, e.g. Orban’s toy train was of national interest !!

Martin
Guest
Not just a close friend but by far the closest “friend” Orban has is Putin. A good talk between some interesting people in the linked artcle. Substitute Trump for Orban. I have no doubt whatsoever that Putin has a real, dangerous kompromat on Orban. The Russians always do kompromats in advance when the target is still only an up and coming personality. But the Russians also possess the Hungarian archive on the identity and activities of Hungarian spies since the Hungarian speaking Russian liaison officers were physically inside the Interior Ministry up until 1990 when already Orban was one of the top 20 most important, interesting politicians. And the trick: the closer Putin gets to Orban, the more fun they are having in public the more dangerous the Russian kompromat becomes since it would be increasingly more difficult to attack the credibility of the kompromat since the Russians are now our best friends. It’s a typical blackmail situation but the Russians are also smart to sweeten the deal for Orban and his cronies like Csanyi (who and whose daughter were beaming when they met Putin). By the way Putin is coming back to Hungary in early 2018 before the Hungarian… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Without question the discussion about Trump and damaging information on him known by Putin was fascinating. In the discussion between Le Carré and Macintyre the issue of the economic transformation of Russia from a communist command economy to a parasitic economy keeping in place a massive inefficient state sector with crony oligarchs being a model for Trump is never raised. The appeal of Putin for Trump is I fear one of kinship, more than kompromat. Trump endlessly babbles and pontificates. Putin speaks very strategically. The North Koreans have made fools of Trump and our military in the process. It’s an immense disgrace that not one of these missiles has been brought down by the billions of dollars in technology we have floating out at sea. Trump thinks he is doing promotions for an upcoming episode of the Apprentice and building up anticipation for fire and furry. All the while he being made the fool by the pathetic North Koreans. It is more than obvious that Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is looking closely at all relationships with Russia in particular business dealings with Russian oligarchs. Eventually Trump could be destroyed, but… Read more »
Martin
Guest
Simicska was “betrayed” by his friend Orban, he didn’t jumped ship. Simicska’s money was Simicska’s but in 2014 Orban finally decided it was his turn so he told Simicska that he (ie. Simicska) won’t be winning any more state tenders. Simicska got upset. Of course Orban made it also clear to Simicska that from now on he that is Orban was pivoting to Russia and Simicska didn’t like that but what if Simicska could continue to benefit from the public procurements? Mészáros – Orban’s most well-known alter ego – is a classic Strohmann (front), he has no agency. He gets up and signs those papers which happen to be on his desk that day. It’s all Orban’s money and he – just like Putin – has a bunch of such fronts. So basically although Orban had been making tons of money already prior to 2014, since then he is the “new Simicska” himself. This was the real basis of their disagreement. Orban is coming from a world of very material rural people in which hierarchy/status is key, in which poor people envy the rich ones (in fact the rich demand that they be envied) and having the newest BMW or… Read more »
Guest

Nicely written, my wife (a liberal atheist Hungarian … :)) would totally agree. In short the Fidesz motto is:
If you have nothing then you are nothing!

wrfree
Guest
Re: ‘The North Koreans have made fools of Trump and our military in the process’ And there are questions in Trump stewardship as things are simply not working out for the US in its global relationships in the past few years. And we ‘won’ the Cold War?’ -European diplomacy is not in a copacetic state. The lines must be cut in ‘communications’. There is great POTUS static. -Russia has been big on real estate stretching its muscle grabbing Crimea, parts of Ukraine and Georgia. Perhaps Estonia will be borscht soup soon. With Magyarorszag well the gulyas has been served up rather easily. And the palinka glasses raised high to an occupier once again while POTUS appears to be infatuated with his Russian pal who really looks as if he wishes to follow Trump as real estate maven. Jealousy does some interesting things. Nagy baj baj baj. -The US Navy looks a bumble on the high seas as their commanders cannot command their ships and have their seamen die due to negligence rather than from the missiles fired from enemy ships. Admiral Nelson, if he were alive, would take off his other arm in protest against current naval command behavior. It… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“The appeal of Putin for Trump…”

is simply nothing more than this: without Putin, Trump would’ve been broke 12 or 13 years ago…

petofi
Guest

The presence of Putin before the elections in 2018 is an implied threat to Hungarians who well understand such ‘messages’…

Martin
Guest

Nope Petofi, it’s a not-so-implied threat to Orban himself.

Orban better start building Paks2, using up the Russian loan (bind Hungary to Russia even more) or else…

Putin will come and check the progress personally, he just doesn’t trust Orban. Or rather: trust but verify, as RR said it.

Observer
Guest

Putin is securing the shackles on Hungary:

The Paks project will probably cost more than 10 000 billion Ft. (currently gov estimates of 4-5 000, costs of spent rods storage and of dismounting old reactors excluded).
The current gov debt is at least 25 000 bil. i.g. it will increase by 40% with the consequences of higher DCS and lower credit ratings.

The produced energy is likely to be too expensive to sell – the eventual subsidies (not allowed at present) or idle plant will strain the budget to the point of bankruptcy.

(This will qualify Orban as the worst enemy of the nation since Rákosi, or Heinau)

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘worst enemy….’

It is uncanny. I sit here in my observation post and cannot put the thought out of mind that perhaps one day we all be edified with a replication of a previous East-West German espionage caper/escapade at the highest level of the two governments.

It was in that instance that the West was hanging out in the pocket of the East thanks to a double agent. We await future revelations in the Orban-Putin relationship to make sense of the present.

It’s getting late early in the 21st for Magyarorszag as they appear to be using sports to further fuse political relationships’ and objectives. So if it’s judo Putin’s ‘newaza’ (ground technique) swiftly put Orban on the mat. Now he’s preparing his ‘nagewaza’, throwing technique. For the Japanese it takes 10 years to be proficient. Vlad looks he’ll be practicing on Orban for awhile.

Observer
Guest
petofi
Guest

“…worst enemy of the nation…”?

But, if people could only see…that is exactly what Orban wants to be!

All Hail The King Of All Gypsies!!!

tappanch
Guest

Russia spreads its paws over Hungary, Serbia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Syria (troops, air cover and air defense systems).

North Korea tests better and better missiles (which were originally obtained in the Ukraine) to reach the US.

Iran continues to build its empire in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Yemen.

President Trump continues the policy of “splendid isolation” started by the Obama administration. Only the words are different.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest
IMHO the reason why Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is so set on accepting Vladimir Putin’s $12 billion dollar “gift” to build a brand new nuclear power plant is simple: he wants to develop a nuclear bomb. On the surface, the given reason is to ensure Hungary’s future energy needs. Sounds reasonable, right? Except in Europe, where Hungary is still a member of the European Union, every other member country is shutting down nuclear plants and building renewable energy generating infrastructure. Even France, the leading nuclear user in Europe is scaling down. Doesn’t Hungary have the same needs and resources as her partners? Of course, this is not the first time we hear of a country being hell bent on nuclear power plants. Just look at Iran: even though overflowing with oil reserves, she has for years insisted on nuclear power plants for energy – which invariably turned out to be perfect sources for nuclear weapons. Bombs to threaten her neighbors and also to sell to willing buyers like North Korea. Such good business! Hungary under Orban is more and more isolated from the rest of Europe; even the neighboring Visegrad countries find it difficult to accept him. A European… Read more »
Aida
Guest

OT, please reflect on the news of death of the great film director Karoly Makk. His “Szerelem” is a real, real masterpiece. The cast from heaven is unforgettable. Darvas x 2 and my film idol Torocsik made magic. Let Karcsi rest in peace.

Member

The way I see it, Putin doesn’t even have to have kompromat against Orbán, though he may have some. (What exactly would it be? Hungarians wouldn’t care about any sex scandal, even an utterly outrageous one. Even Orbán’s fans are well aware that he steals on an extraordinary scale. What else could it be?) He just sat down with Orbán – as I imagine it – and gently reminded Orbán that Orbán would like to remain leader as long as he lives, or at least much longer than normal Western democratic processes would allow. But if he could just import some political strategies from Russia – which he has done slavishly, unimaginatively – he could have a job for life, like Putin, and a similar, if not quite as lavish, Swiss bank account.

Guest

Even at the Debrecen uni not everybody is happy with honouring Putin:
https://bbj.hu/politics/scandal-brews-over-proposed-honor-for-putin_138009
I’m still wondering whether this is a calculated affront against the EU?
If I were a German politician this would have been the last drop for me (making the bucket overflow …) and I’d begin on working to get rid of Hungary, save the EU’s reputation – and a lot of money too.
We have to wait until the German elections real soon now – our new government might see Hungary in a different way …

PS and rather OT:
Found an interesting article on the diffferences between conservative/progressive politics and parties in the USA and Germany:
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/six-charts-to-help-americans-understand-the-upcoming-german-election/
And may German brother in law told me about those (few …) AfD lunatics he knows around Munich – they are complaining that Mrs Merkel turned the CDU into a leftist party! Funny in a way.
Btw he’ll vote for the Left – just to show that he’s not happy with the SPD’s crawling up to Mrs Merkel …

Istvan
Guest

If is the choice is fighting with Great Roumania (unification of Roumania with Moldova ) and Russia. I believe we should support Russia. Regarding USA -gave Transylvania To Roumania and betrayed us in 1956-when the Spanish wanted to send troops to help us they blocked it. Today involved more war us than Soviets.

Jean P.
Guest

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