Hungary’s “geopolitical game”: Playing hardball with Ukraine

The Hungarian government has been flexing its diplomatic muscles ever since the Ukrainian government passed an education law that made Ukrainian the language of instruction from grade five on for all citizens. Students from other nationality groups, mainly Russian, Polish, Romanian, and Hungarian, will be able to learn only two or three subjects in their native languages.

That decision prompted a vehement reaction from the Orbán government, for which the “gathering of the nation across the borders” is an important political goal. For years, an incredible amount of money has been spent on Hungarian-inhabited regions of Ukraine, Romania, and Serbia in order to fortify the economic strength of Hungarian enterprises and alleviate the poverty of the inhabitants. In Ukraine, the number of Hungarians is small, perhaps 120,000, yet Hungarian diplomacy moved into high gear, reaching out to all international organizations that have anything to do with Ukraine to protest the law. The Orbán government also made it clear at the time that it would do everything in its power to prevent any kind of friendly intercourse between Ukraine and the European Union and NATO. Given Ukraine’s position as a victim of Russian aggression, one might question the wisdom of the Hungarian government’s stance over a relatively minor dispute, which could most likely be resolved through bilateral talks and a little good will on both sides.

Hungary’s first opportunity to isolate Ukraine came at the end of October when Hungary vetoed a planned December 6 meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Commission, a decision-making body responsible for developing relations between NATO and Ukraine and directing cooperative activities between them. Sputnik reported the good tidings that “Hungary announced that it will block Ukraine’s aspirations to integrate into NATO.”

In 2008 Ukraine applied to join the NATO Membership Action Plan, which was shelved two years later when the pro-Russian Victor Yanukovych was elected president. Interest in renewing relations with NATO intensified after the Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Since October 2014 the Ukrainian government has made joining NATO a priority. President Petro Poroshenko wants to meet NATO requirements by 2020 and has promised to hold a referendum on joining the alliance.

Given western suspicion of Hungarian-Russian relations in general, it is not the smartest move on the part of Viktor Orbán to take such an anti-Ukrainian position. The United States is a strong supporter of Ukraine and is ready to take a stand on the Russian-Ukrainian issue. CNN reported a couple of months ago that 1,650 servicemen from 15 different countries, including many Americans, were participating in a military exercise in Ukraine which was planned to take place a few days before Russia was scheduled to launch its own massive military maneuvers, which “put the region on edge.”

It is in this tense diplomatic and military environment that Hungary decided to play the tough guy by turning away from Ukraine and by default standing by Russia. This development is especially disheartening when there seems to be growing agreement among the member states of NATO that Ukraine’s desire to join the alliance might be realized soon enough. Two days ago Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, stressed that Ukraine must undertake reforms before its membership in the alliance can be considered. He added that “membership in NATO will make Ukraine strong.” So, unless I misread the signs, there is a general inclination to expand NATO by admitting Ukraine in the next few years.

U.S. Secretary State Rex Tillerson took a tough line on Russia today in a talk with the foreign ministers of the NATO member states, which naturally included Péter Szijjártó. In addition to blaming Russia for interfering in the U.S. election, he expressed his belief that “there is broad consensus among all the NATO members that there is no normalization of dialogue with Russia today.”

If that wasn’t enough of a warning to Péter Szijjártó, there was also the news that Germany and ten other NATO member states had expressed disagreement with Hungary’s actions of blocking “Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic initiatives.” Apparently, these countries don’t consider the language issue to be something that should put “the strategic interests of the Alliance in jeopardy.” The letter also called attention to the fact that division and disagreement in the alliance is a success for Russia, which should be avoided.

Szijjártó wasn’t impressed, and during one of the intermissions he gave a brief press conference in the course of which he reiterated that Hungary is not ready to negotiate with Ukraine. If membership in NATO is so important for Kiev, then the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, should withdraw the education law. Hungary’s position is that Ukraine not only has violated its commitments to the European Union but also has failed to fulfill its NATO obligations. He declared that “Hungary is not prepared to sacrifice the interests of the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia on the altar of any kind of geopolitical game.”

According to Magyar Nemzet, Hungary will suggest introducing sanctions against Ukraine at the EU-Ukraine Joint Commission on Friday, but since the qualified majority rule applies in that body, Hungary’s antagonistic move will most likely fail. The hope now is that in February, at the next meeting of defense ministers, a NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting can be scheduled. At the moment, however, Hungary is still playing hardball.

Orbán’s Hungary is getting itself into international deep water, with serious possible consequences. This is not a “geopolitical game,” as Szijjártó thinks. This is a deadly serious international affair in which Hungary has no business. As things stand, there is just too much suspicion of Hungary’s relations with Russia. It is possible that while the European Union is too weak to “discipline” the Orbán government, the United States through NATO will be less willing to overlook Orbán’s duplicity as far as his relationship with Russia is concerned.

December 6, 2017
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Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

Kudos to Peter Szijjarto. Finally, someone speaks up for the rights of members of the Hungarian minority in occupied territories. Ukraine, if it wants membership in NATO, should live up to the promises it made and not pass nationalistic laws that violate the human rights of its minorities.

wrangel
Guest

Occupied territories is a bit of a strong word, isn’t it?

Obviously those territories were rightfully acquired by the respective countries because – among other – the experienced Hungarian governor Miklós Horthy was a stupid idiot who couldn’t leave the fascists while the recently deceased king Mihai, when he was aged 23 then, was able to do so and smartly joined the allies when it was clear that the war was lost.

Hungarians (as it’s clear from Orban’s corruption and psychotic antics) are always on the losing side because the Hungarian politicians are idiots and corrupt.

The Romanians very clearly committed themselves to the West for example and they are overtaking Hungary in wealth and income per capita in a year or two. Compared that to 1989 when in Romania you were lucky to have a sack of potato for the whole winter and in Hungary people were already importing Gorenje fridges and whatnot.

It was a historic mistake for Horthy and Orban and his people like Szíjjarto are also making similar mistakes by firmly allying themselves to Russia in the childish hope that Russia will soon invade most of Ukraine and then Hungary “may get some territories back”.

Ferenc
Guest

“occupied territories”
Indeed the situation in Hungary is really terrible, a majority of the Hungarian people are trapped on their own ground by a minority lead by an autocrat, who uses a series of strawmen to fill their pockets for his use.
Incredible that such is possible inside the EU! Watch the Hearing! (see under)

Marty
Guest
I think the really depressing and truly tragic thing that people like Mr. Zoltani want to avoid facing at all costs is that ethnic Hungarians in well-managed countries like Slovakia or increasingly in Romania do like their home country. Sure, there’s some discrimination and ethic Hungarians during elections campaigns could easily end up the bogeyman like “the liberals” (ie. “the Jews”) or George Soros do in Hungary but in general life is better and getting better (especially in Slovakia it is already much better than in Hungary). Romania is obviously a bigger, more complex country and there are differences between the Hungarians living in the Secler region and Partium but the point is that Slovakia is an orderly, almost Western country and in Romania things are getting clearly much better while in Hungary the situation is one of stagnation for 85% of the country economically and a clear fall in other respects (like rule of law, competitiveness, education, media etc). If you’re an ethnic Hungarian the majority Slovakians and Romanians do not only look down on you because your a minority but because your famous home country Hungary is a butt of jokes, a stagnant, poor place lead by insane… Read more »
Cujo
Guest

From what I know, obtaining Hungarian citizenship requires basic knowledge of Hungarian language, even though I understand the requirement has become laxer in recent years. An exam in Hungarian on basic constitutional principles was required before, now there is only an interview in Hungarian that would require knowledge of basic spoken language.
That’s not to say that education in maternal language of minorities should be restricted in any way through legislation of any state that aspire to stay at the same table with EU and NATO. Too many times before, integration occurred in the absence of internalizing proper societal and cultural values that define a civilized western democracy. And yes, it is indeed the case of all Eastern European countries now part of NATO and EU. No exception.

Guest

These pictures of Trianon 97 have been put up all over Keszthely – has anyone seen them too and knows who’s responsible for this idiocy?
comment image

Ferenc
Guest

First have never seen such here in western-Europe…

Are these things put up now? I can read dates of 2017.Jun…
Responsible for this? There are names at the bottom, but can’t read them (one Janos and one Miklos, that’s all I can decipher). BUT your image is coming from this site http://www.egipatrona.hu , may they have something to do with it, hallelujah…

Guest

If you google Trianon 97 you’ll find lots of info on “happenings” regarding this – I’m too lazy …
And when I asked my wife about it she said:
I have better things to do than (expletive deleted)! 🙂

Ferenc
Guest

Images-googling of trianon 97, brought only 2 pcs similar to the one you posted, yours and one from ‘Gorka’s’ troupe (or their rivals using the ‘vitez’ name).
So the works in Keszthely are most likely done by some people connected to one of those groups.

Member

This seem to be left over posters for an invitation to a trip to Trianon this summer around the 4. of June, the day of national self pity, for holding a ridiculous demonstration before the eyes of innocent french people.

Ferenc
Guest

In about 10 minutes the EU-LIBE hearing will start, it can live be watched at the following link
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20171207-0900-COMMITTEE-LIBE
(and later on demand at the same place)
Connections to the post by Eva?
Well Szijjarto will be representing the HU government, very strange for a foreign minister when the ‘Rule of Law’ inside Hungary is the matter. Anyway I’ll not be surprised if at some point he’ll bring up/point to the Ukraine…

Ferenc
Guest
Ferenc
Guest

Typical Szijjarto isn’t even trying to speak English! As Foreign Minister!
And MTV is, on special request, allowed to film inside the room!

Ferenc
Guest

Szijjarto: “Mi Magyarok azt, Mi Magyarok ezt, ….. ” let’s see where this will go to…

Ferenc
Guest

In ‘t Veld (ALDE, NL) just spoke: very HARD, really going to the points!, everybody should watch that (again)!!

Ferenc
Guest

She was the first one who got real applause (and, as it’s finished now, overall the loudest)
Later on Szijjarto replied to some of her comments/questions and got a few hands together. He basically tried to discredit Veld by questioning her parties electoral support (against OV&Co’s).
The other one who got applause was Polyak (from Mertek Media Monitor), who in his answers slowly built up to an serious appeal to the EU to do everything they can to help the people in Hungary to restore democracy!! (in between he marked the consultations as false questions, giving false answers, and just being a JOKE, and all of this done with government friendly media)

Ferenc
Guest

Reflecting back on the whole hearing, there wasn’t so much new said, mainly harder from all sides. There were the usual fools, some liked to follow OV&Co’s examples, one asked them to follow their example (Brexit…).
The one, which I found most mindboggling was Hohlmeier (EPP-CSU), who started off with praising economic development in Hungary, from which everybody in Hungary was profiting*.
And then continuing that she does NOT AT ALL agree with the refugee/migrant treatment by the Hungarian government.

*When comparing to neighboring countries, HU Economy good developing is questionable at least; and everybody in Hungary profiting is just NOT TRUE, so a LIE!!
May be something for Wolfi to get her properly informed about the real situation?

Guest

Mrs Hohlmeier is the daughter of Franz Josef Strauß and imho as reactionary (almost fascist …) and corrupt as her father. She was sidelined many years ago to the EP by her own party (which is still reactionary enough!

Btw that’s one of the EP problems:
At least in Germany it is common for the parties to send no longer welcome people to the EP – Oettinger is another example …

Ferenc
Guest

Thanks clarifies a lot.
And makes me think about a short sketch on local TV on 1989.Jan.07 (after the death of Hirohito had been in the news, that’s how I could find the date…).
Two comedians finalised their weekly show as follows:
“Hirohito is there…..
now awaiting Strauss!”

Member

Who was the other Orbàn Mafia defender except Orbàns barking poodle Szijjarto?

Anyway, in his concluding statement that one iterated over all the values listed in Art. 2 of the EU treaty like rule of law, human rights and so on, and he tried to explain, that every state has another interpretation of these values and therefore no one should judge about Hungary.

This is almost the same, as if he had said, these values wouldn’t matter at all. And I think, this is how the others understood it.

Nice shot into his dictators knee.

petofi
Guest

Szijjarto, Orban, Matolcsy et.al. are perfect representatives of the very heart of the Hungarian soul.

wrfree
Guest

You go D
E
E
P on the ‘soul’ petofi….

After 1000 or more years Magyarorszag in the dive looks as if it hasn’t learned anything. Conscience is ‘awol’ as the selling out continues furiously and unabated.

Marty
Guest
I hope everybody read (this is just one link it was reported in Hungarian too) that a few days ago Putin told Russian companies (regardless of their domestic or foreign ownership) to be ready for war and immediately spike up production if ordered to do so. Putin is widely rumored to have offered to Donald Tusk (then prime minister of Poland) and Orban parts of Ukraine in exchange for their cooperation in Russia’s plot to attain the “re-integration” of Ukraine into the Russian Federation. Putin as most Russians thinks Ukraine is not a real country it is just part of Russia – and if this is so then it needs to be made clear. Putin knows very well how to titillate the imagination of politicians and there are no easier people to control (ie. by people who wield real power and influence) than Orban who would rather leave NATO and the EU (of course he already decided to do so sooner or later, only the populace isn’t yet supporting his ideas) if there was the minimal chance of getting an inch back of Kárpátalja. Of course the Ukrainians were singularly stupid to have signed in 1994 the Budapest Memorandum on… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

I would add Marty that the only way to realistically defend Ukraine is with nuclear arms right now. The treaty was foolish not just on Ukraine’s part but on the part of the US government. If you see my post below, my assumption for any realist defense of Ukraine or the Baltic nations is breaking this treaty. The liberals here in the USA consider that to be insane, but continue to babble about Russian aggression.

The possibility of a NATO defense of either the Baltics and or Ukraine on a conventional level would require the European nations to vastly expand their conventional forces with accompanying increases in military expenditures. That would require cuts to human and social welfare supports in France and Germany in particular, probably the U.K. also. It is hard to conceive that NATO allies in Europe would increase their tax rates to offset those costs. Such a prospect I think is unrealistic.

Observer
Guest

I agree that the European armed forces are inadequate.
But I do not see any scenario under which Putin would stake a conflict with NATO even a limited one – it would be very expensive and what is his regime/oligarchs to gain from it?
Posturing and rhetoric will be all, in this way even Orban leads Europe in the eyes of many dopes here.

Farkas
Guest

Hungary should be booted out of NATO, and from the EU too, for good measure. Who needs these tiny malevolent bastards, party poops and spoilsports as members that in any case habitually bite the hand that feeds them? And what is the actual value-add of Hungarians in these supra-national alliances? Zero, or even minus zero, I would say.

Farkas
Guest

Boot the bums out and lock the doors behind them as they fly straight into the loving tentacles of the Russian octopus.

Ferenc
Guest

Almost agree, but booting out would be a little too much.
Suspending all the rights of Hungary (actually the current Hungarian government) in both the EU and NATO will do. So that reintegration will be easier, when another Hungarian government has proved to be really democratic.
In the mean time the other membes can take their necessary decisions, without being hindered by the current bunch of looters in Hungary.

Ferenc
Guest

PS: for press release about the suspension, I recommend EU and NATO to paraphrase and/or directly use parts of the press release issued 2016.Oct.08 by MediaWorks through nol.hu!!

bimbi
Guest

Mr. Five-a-Side Szijjarto is quick to take umbrage when he perceives any attempt to interfere with Hungary’s internal politics but he has no compunction in doing just that in Ukraine. Of course it is not Peter Szijjarto that is calling the shots – it is his puppet master Viktor Orbán.
Never mind the EPP in the European Union…

the danger is the OPP – Orbán in Putyin’s Pocket.

wrfree
Guest

Mr. Szijjarto reminds one of those guys who hustles pool games and thinks that he and his boys can ‘run the table’. They’re not very good in diplomacy and their style grates. It gets tiresome to hear ‘nem’ all the time. They show a paucity of imagination and realism and a nation quite engaged in its own solipsism. They’re the type to dump the table if the balls aren’t dropping in.

Magyaorszag looks as if it’s slip slidin’ away. They look to be in the midst of being Europe’s ‘lost’ country. You can play a double-game for a bit but perhaps they may wake up one day to find themselves between a dog and a lampost if they choose a particular side A most unenviable position after everything that has occurred in its existence.

Farkas
Guest

However . . . Ukraine did actually made a completely unnecessary rod for its own back with its new education policy. If they had left well enough alone, the Hungarian minority in the Zakarpatia Oblast would have in any case shrunk to virtually nothing within a generation or two, because of their inability to make their way in Ukrainian society due to their ignorance of the Ukrainian language. Most of the younger Hungarians from the Zakarpatia Oblast would have therefore ended up in Hungary in any case, even without the Ukrainians doing bugger all about forcing them to try to learn Ukrainian at school, while the ranks of the older Hungarians would have rapidly hollowed out through natural attrition. But with their new education policy the Ukrainians will achieve those exact same end results, albeit at the cost of a lot of unnecessary aggravation. Idiots.

csermanek
Guest

Hungary might also move its embassy to Jerusalem – finally Trump will meet Orban. Bibi will call Trump and Kushner to finally invite Orban. Let’a not forget that Trump is very popular in Hungary and especially among Fidesz voters they like his ‘autenticity’.

Apparently Hungary vetoed an EU resolution that would have condemned Trump for the decision – but Trump and Pence have friends in the EU now they know.

Orban loves trolling, just like Trump does. If the intellectuals are outraged they will do it more, because this is what they really enjoy. But the EU will continue to appease Orban.

Istvan
Guest
Eva an overall good summary of the situation as it relates to Hungary. But this statement is questionable: “The United States is a strong supporter of Ukraine and is ready to take a stand on the Russian-Ukrainian issue.” I think the perspective of the Trump administration is at best confused on this issue, and at worst seems willing to concede to Russia all of the Crimea and what the Russians call the Donetsk People’s Republic to create a strategic alliance with Russia against China and Islamic terrorism. There has been profound reluctance on the part of the U.S. Army Materiel Command leadership in relationship to deeper commitments of US forces even in a training capacity in Ukraine. This is an area of the Army I still follow closely and I visited Redstone Arsenal where the HQ is for that command not long ago for a symposium. The reason is rather obvious, if the Russians wanted to they could take Kiev very rapidly and NATO would be helpless. The Baltic situation is logistically also extremely difficult, but because these states are part of NATO we have no option but to defend those countries. One officer compared a conventional defense of the… Read more »
Marty
Guest

This is a good article. Schindler is sometimes a bit extremist for me but re Putin’s global plans I totally subscribe to his ideas.

http://observer.com/2017/11/russia-conducts-nuclear-exercises-amid-orthodox-end-times-talk/

wrfree
Guest

Re: Magyarorszag…emboldening Russia..

Sure would seem to guve them one less thing to worry if and when a new Euro ‘adventure’ is to start. And that adventure is an eventuality the West must be primed for. And it’s a fairy tale to think Putin is happy with his ‘boundaries’. To paraphrase a nice Irish saying Putin would steal the eyes out of Europe’s head if they ain’t looking. Dugy and Vlad hate the West with a passion. It’s just a matter of time frustration leads to aggression. Europe needs to worry smart and prepare.

Jean P
Guest

OT
The supreme criminal Professor Moriarty has stepped out of fiction and turned up in Hungary as Professor Peter Polt. President Janos Ader has by decree bestowed the title of professor upon Peter Polt.

Peter Polt is a criminal on the highest level because he, as the chief prosecutor, protects the Fidesz thieves against prosecution.

https://budapestbeacon.com/president-ader-bestows-upon-chief-prosecutor-title-professor/

Observer
Guest

With his 10 year record P.Polt can not only be removed from his “cemented in” position, but can be imprisoned for abrogation of duties, abuse of power, political corruption (together with his wife on the last account). He has been systematically violated his vow to serve the law and has been serving a political party instead.

Guest

Kind o’ funny:
The Hungarian gov’s website on the “witch hunt against Hungary”:
http://www.kormany.hu/en/government-spokesperson/news/there-is-a-ruthless-witch-hunt-going-on-against-hungary
Everybody is against us …
And then this picture:
comment image

Aida
Guest

I am afraid I have not yet been able to read Eva’s article.
It promises to be a gem, as ever.
The downside is that it leads us to discuss a topic which has been flogged to death and on which little new can be said.
The simple facts are, and I may make them over simple to make my point, that the current borders around Hungary are neither unlawful nor oppressive. They are the product, not of the so called Trianon treaty, but of the Treaty of Paris made after WW2. I leave alone the obvious question whether the policies of the Horthy regime seeking the restoration of the earlier borders were not in fact counter productive.
Listening to Hungarians on this topic is like being plunged into the hell of a gathering of Brexit lovers.

The inhabitants of the so called occupied territories have the freedom in most cases of travel of the EU. They can travel the length and width of Europe. I ask them the same question that I ask the Brexit mob, how does all this stop them being English/Hungarian? I have yet to have answer to the question. Guess why.

Zoli
Guest

If I am not mistaken, NATO membership would require a candidate state to have a treaty of mutual borders agreement with all neighbors. That alone would disqualify Ukraine, unless it solves the East Ukraine crisis and signs Crimea over to Russia. Other than that, I find it interesting that Eva does not see fault with Ukrainian chauvinist-nationalist policies in all this, but rather with Viktor Orban for trying to stand up for minority rights. What a villain! How dare he? This is why most Hungarians can no longer stomach the Hungarian political left, which is evident in most opinion polls.

Guest

Orbán has a similar soul in Turkish president Erdogan who visited Greece for the first time – and astounded with talk about revising the borders. The treaty of Lausanne 1923 was unjust!
Like minds/lunatics …
Now it would be funny if Greater Hungary and the Great Osman/Turkish Empire would clash – wouldn’t it?

Zoli
Guest

Please be my guest and show us where and when Orban ever talked of changing borders? Historical injustice? Yes! I don’t think there was anything just about drawing borders that saw 1.7 million ethnic Hungarians in Romania, and only 23,000 Romanians in Hungary. A partition of Transylvania more along ethnic proportions would have been more just for instance, where some Romanians would have ended up in Hungary, and some Hungarians in Romania. Perhaps some voluntary population exchanges would have also helped. Of the 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians condemned to live as a minority in neighboring countries, about half lived in areas where they were in the majority, along Hungary’s current borders. So, yes it was very unjust, and there is nothing wrong with saying it. But that was not the subject of this conversation. The subject is minority rights! One can tell who is a rabid anti-Hungarian whenever ethnic Hungarian minority rights are mentioned, and one starts accusing Hungarians of wanting to recreate “Greater Hungary”. Minority Rights! Understand?

Guest

So who put up those Trianon97 placards with the borders of Greater Hungary?
In Germany e g you’ll never see “Großdeutschland” – except in Nazi circles …

Zoli
Guest

That on its own is not a call for border changes. It is simply a recollection of Hungary’s history. And once more I ask: What does this have to do with the issue at hand, namely minority rights, Ukraine’s trampling of them and Hungary standing up to it? That is what we were talking about here. But you cannot, because that is a subject about Hungarians being victims, and Hungary being in the ethical right.

Guest

Yes, recalling Greater Hungary’s history must be great for you!
And if we mentioned the hundreds of thousands of Jews (and other groups/minorities …) killed would you also applaud?

Member

Wolfi, see my answer above about the poster. You can read at the bottom, that it is an invitation for a trip to Trianon/Paris around the 4th of June this year starting from Budapest..

I think there were just some left overs, that were not needed anymore. I do not think, that they have printed new posters of a past event.

Guest

Winston, didn’t you see them too in Keszthely?
I still think it’s interesting that they appeared right now – wonder who put them up everywhere in the pedestrian zone.

Member

I haven’t been there since a week. I asked my wife yesterday, but she didn’t notice any.

Ferenc
Guest

Zoli just to keep you well informed. Did you know?
Your full name Zoltán is adopted and originates from the Turkish word soltan, sultan, which was borrowed from the Arabic sultan, sharing a root with the Arabic infinitive “sultah”.

Zoli
Guest

And what does any of this have to do with the subject at hand, namely minority rights and Hungary’s policy of standing up for those rights?

Ferenc
Guest

Standing up at the wrong place is pretty stupid!
And not helpful to any minority whatsoever!