Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is slowly changing his position on the crisis in Ukraine. In his weekly address today on Hungary’s state-run Kossuth Radio, Orbán admitted that the situation in Ukraine is starting to look like a war. Regardless of what’s happening next door, he continues to believe that Russia’s presence in the region is good for Hungary. Fortunately for Hungary, Orbán is confident his personal opinion is shared by all Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin.
“A lot of people have died. The numbers are different but even the most favorable estimates say that around 5,000 people have died…. Civilians are suffering and most recently several thousand Ukrainian soldiers were encircled in a remote area and their lives are at risk. We’re talking about a kind of war which is unusual in European history. We’ve seen things like this before, for example in eastern Romania and in Georgia. These are called frozen conflicts but a frozen conflict can easily melt and turn into a real war. Here we’re talking about huge countries. Ukraine has very serious military arms and fighting units, not mention Russia’s. There are a number of atomic reactors in Ukraine. This entire situation is incredibly serious,” Orbán said.
He continued by saying that peace is something he personally wants because it is in the interest of the 10 million Hungarians living in Hungary.
“It is also in the interest of all Hungarians who live beyond the borders,” Orbán said. “Not only is it in the interest of the 200,000 Hungarians who live in Ukraine that there be no military conflict in this region, but also every Hungarian who lives in the Carpathian Basin.”
“Differing interpretations of history” is why European leaders are skeptical
In response to a question about how EU heads of state see the latest ceasefire agreement, Orbán said everyone is hopeful but “different interpretations of history” have resulted in there being optimists and pessimists.
“[E]veryone is glad that there is an agreement. Everyone is glad that there is hope. Everyone is eager to do everything to keep hope alive,” Orbán said.
“But at the same time there are differences in opinion based on everyone’s different understanding of history. There are optimists and there are pessimists. I personally spoke to the French president and the German chancellor. I felt that I should thank them on behalf of Hungary for their efforts because, after all, Hungary is a neighbor to Ukraine. A war in Ukraine poses a much more immediate threat to Hungary than it does to France or Germany. So we have to appreciate the efforts made by these two leaders which were done also in the interest of Hungary.”
Orbán did not elaborate on what the differing interpretations of history actually are.
Orbán: Hungary needs good relations with Russia, I’m happy Putin’s coming
“Hungary needs reasonable and orderly relations with Russia. The day-to-day debates that dominate the European public discourse are important, but we need to look beyond the day-to-day debates and cut into the meat to understand the fundamental national interests.
“Hungary has national interests, serious national interests with regards to Russia. And we can best serve these interests if our relations are orderly, predictable and respectful of the mutual benefits. This isn’t easy. Collaborating with Russia is an emotional question for many Hungarians.
Russia and Hungary go together like a horse and carriage
“We always feel conflicted about Russia because we lost the Second World War to them and they crushed our freedom fight in 1956. I personally was among the first in 1989 to wish them a good journey home. So there’s always been a sort of inner conflict with regards to our relations with Russia. But we have to control these feelings, and it’s something that I, too, work on. We’re not talking about emotional questions here. Hungary obviously has interests, these are partly based on security, partly based on economic factors and partly based on energy-related issues. This is how we have to serve our nation and our national interests by maintaining an orderly relationship with Russia.”
Orbán wants a real relationship with Putin, which is why he is happy Putin is coming
“Our geographical location is fixed. We can’t choose our neighbors and we can’t choose who the big powers are. The situation is that we live where we live. There are two big countries, two big powers, both of which have the military power, economic power and influence that will always be present in Central Europe. This can’t be turned off. It can only be cleverly managed. One of these powers is Germany, the other is Russia. If Hungary’s foreign trade and foreign affairs in both directions are not smart then we will have problems and losses. That’s why I’ve always said that the proper thing is for the leaders of these two big powers to have a good relationship with Hungary and whoever the prime minister is. That’s why it’s important that we welcome them, that we visit them and that we have a real relationship. I invited President Putin. I am happy he is coming. We’ll always be happy to host in the future as well.”