In the second of a four-part interview with Andras Simonyi, the former Hungarian ambassador to NATO and the United States tells the Budapest Beacon that Washington views Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as “the troublemaker in the family” and that siding with Russia in its war against Ukraine is harmful to the interests of ethnic Hungarians living there.
Putin conquers Hungary
Simonyi calls Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest in February a victory for the President of the Russian Federation.
“Of all places in Europe, he is invited to Hungary that has suffered so much from Russian occupation for so long. . . . No other city in Europe would have made (Putin) more happy than the capital of Budapest where the 1956 revolution was broken by Russian troops.”
Simonyi opines that Orbán is “living in a dream world” but remarks that he is “not a significant leader internationally.”
“It’s not good to be a leader when you are a troublemaker. . . . The way this comes across in Washington . . . is that he is a troublemaker in the family.”
Simonyi says Orbán likes to be in the international spotlight but that “it’s important to come across as a leader who helps solve problems and does not create more problems”, adding that “this is not the way [Orbán] is viewed today.”
Blackmail is not a policy
Simonyi says Orbán is using Hungary’s membership in the European People’s Party “not as a bargaining chip but as a means of blackmail.”
“He is using his position within Europe and the European Union, which is a consensus-based community, to blackmail. Blackmail, long term, is not good diplomacy. Co-operation, solidarity, respect for your allies, support for majority allied views, even if you disagree . . . will buy you a lot of influence long term. Being constructive and helpful is what is expected of Hungary.”
He says Hungary’s allies don’t know how to deal with Hungary, because “of all places this is coming from a country that used to be the leader of the pack in terms of transatlantic relationships, in terms of embracing European values, in terms of turning away from the past, turning towards democracy, transparent market economy.”
Simonyi believe’s Putin’s visit to Budapest will give Hungarians “second thoughts” and he remains hopeful that “Hungarians will turn away from this.”
A Hungarian nation without borders
Simonyi says it is important for the Hungarian government to care about Hungarians living abroad in terms of human rights and protecting their dignity, but points out that Vladimir Putin is building on the same logic.
The former diplomat believes “the real responsibility of the Hungarian government should be for those who live within the Hungarian borders, who pay taxes there, who are looking to build a future in the country, and who are looking to build a country that is modern, prosperous, strong and respected.”
He says ethnic Hungarians living in Transylvania “don’t want the Hungarians taking care of them” and “aren’t asking for support from Budapest.”
Ukrainians feel let down
He says Hungary has done a lot of damage to the future of Hungarians living in Ukraine by siding with Russia, which is waging a war against Ukraine.
“If we want to make the life of Hungarians living in Ukraine better, if we want to improve their autonomy, if we want to help them get more rights . . . then we should approach this issue differently.”
Simonyi says Ukrainians feel let down because Hungary has wrongly embraced a superpower attacking their country, and this sends a “very bad message.”