Tibor Benko – Photo: MTI

Hungary must carry on with military reform, border protection, minister says

Defence ministry orders servicemen to east Hungary

In view of escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Defence Minister Tibor Benko on Tuesday ordered the deployment of Hungarian servicemen to the east of the country. Benko told a press conference after a meeting of the national security committee that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had instructed him to task the army with preventing any possible armed incursions into Hungarian territory.

He added that the situation in Ukraine may escalate and affect Kiyv and Transcarpathia, in the west of the country, so Hungarian servicemen at the border must also prepare to handle the arrival of refugees and see to other humanitarian tasks, he said.

The minister said that while in the next few days “residents in various parts of Hungary could see convoys heading for the east”, in western Hungary the military would carry out exercises jointly with NATO forces.

Benko said it was not yet clear how Russia and Ukraine would proceed, but added that “it is a fact that there is a war conflict in a neighbouring country”.

“Hungarians need not be concerned in Hungary, but the Hungarian military must be prepared for any development,” he added.

“Hungary wants peace,” the minister said, adding that Hungary believed in finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. However, the Hungarian Armed Forces must be prepared to carry out border protection and humanitarian tasks, he said.

As regards the tasks ahead for Hungary, Benko said the Ukraine-Russia conflict would call for specific tasks that would have to be carried out “today, tomorrow or in the coming days”.

The minister called for the development of a national military that could guarantee peace and security for Hungary.

The Hungarian military “can handle the current situation both as an integral part of NATO and using its own capabilities”, Benko said.

Hungary must carry on with military reform, border protection

Benko also emphasised the importance of providing military assistance to the police officers stationed at the country’s borders. Hungary’s troops have been contributing to the country’s border protection efforts since 2015, the minister said, adding it was clear that migration pressure was on the rise.

He said NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer had not helped to improve the migrant situation on Hungary’s border. He added that the pullout of troops had not been “prepared or executed the way it should’ve been”.

Benko thanked the soldiers for their efforts in the evacuations from Afghanistan, their roles in protecting Hungary’s borders and their assistance in the pandemic response measures.

The minister praised the military’s reservist recruitment push, noting that they now had more than 11,000 reservists compared to just 17 in 2010. He noted that the aim was to have 20,000 volunteer reservists by 2028.

Meanwhile, he said Hungary would raise its defence spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

Detailing Hungary’s past achievements and the tasks ahead, Benko highlighted the increased military budget and the pay hikes given to soldiers. He said that the country’s military development programme is planned to be completed in 2032.

Benko said that while Hungary was a member of NATO and had to meet the alliance’s expectations, national military capabilities would remain the top priority. He called for the development of a national military that could guarantee peace and security for Hungary.

Opposition parties call on defence committee to discuss Ukraine situation

The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK), Jobbik, and Socialist parties have proposed that parliament’s defence and law enforcement committee put the Ukraine-Russia situation on the agenda of its next meeting.

In a statement on Tuesday, representatives of the three parties said that Russia was violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by deploying Russian troops in eastern Ukraine’s separatist regions.

They noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had granted recognition to the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, which the international community does not recognise as independent states.

Referring to international press reports, the statement said that Russian troops had entered the two regions in the early hours on Tuesday.

“In the current situation it is a legitimate expectation that members of the committee receive official information from the defence minister rather than learning about a war taking place in a neighbouring country from the press,” the statement said.


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