Former Hungarian diplomat Géza Jeszenszky spoke out in defense of the United States at a recent conference. The first Orbán government’s ambassador to Washington believes that anti-American rhetoric in Hungary is being spread by the right-wing media, but that it is not in Hungary’s interest to fall out with its most important ally, even if it is trying to pressure Hungary on various matters. Jeszenszky believes Hungary should follow the road that leads to prosperity, otherwise “we will be confronted with tragedy.”
The former foreign minister, who served as ambassador to Washington, Norway and Iceland, studied Central European history in California between 1984-1986 on a Fulbright scholarship. Since then thousands of Hungarian natural and social scientists have travelled to the US on Fulbright scholarships to research and teach. Fulbright scholars met at a conference on Saturday. Unable to attend, Jeszenszky sent a message stating his conviction that for those who know America it is obvious it is a good country despite its many defects.
A public mood has formed in Hungary according to which the United States is “Satan itself” and responsible for the Ukraine conflict. This is simply ridiculous, which is why we have to adopt the opposite point of view, says Jeszenszky. Despite the events of the past few weeks and the sharp declarations, he believes the Hungarian government considers America to be a friend and ally and anti-US sentiments to be the creation of the right-wing press.
The former ambassador believes Hungary is not “a black sheep” in the eyes of foreigners and the popular notion that Hungary is being attacked is mistaken. He says it is not in the interest of Hungary or Hungarian society to “pull America’s finger” and that furthermore there is no basis for doing so. Plus if it were true that the US was trying to exert pressure, there would still be no point in arguing with our main ally and “pillar of NATO.”
Jeszenszky is certain that the Hungarian government is not aligning itself with Russia. Rather, he thinks this is a kind of game. However, he calls “a pointless and hopeless undertaking” any attempt to use the Russians to muzzle American criticism.
“If we look at which country works well, which has a strong and stable economy, and which is in trouble, then it is clear where our place is and where we belong. America is in the Hungarians’ best interest. Of course, if possible we should trade with and befriend the Russians, but I do not at all agree with positioning ourselves somewhere between the two.”
He says that if Hungary does not return to the right road it will lead to tragedy. “We need to follow the road that leads to prosperity.” If the Hungarian government did not change, then Hungarians would become worse off.
Budapest Beacon correspondent Benjamin Novak interviewed Jeszenszky in November 2014 shortly after he resigned as Hungary’s ambassador to Norway. The interview can be viewed here.