Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (l) - Photo: PMO

Orbán: US ‘our friend’ but Hungary resisting attempts to force it into war

The United States is "our friend and ally", but Hungary will not "allow it to force us into the war", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public radio in an interview on Friday. Orbán warned of the dangers of an escalation of the war in Ukraine, adding that "if there is a world war, it will be nuclear".

Commenting on punitive measures announced by the US embassy, he said they were not sanctions against Hungary. The list announced by Washington includes 34 private individuals, including a single Hungarian and others from countries including Cyprus, Austria and Liechtenstein, he said, adding that the action focused “basically on finance professionals”.

Orbán said Hungary never agreed with the usefulness of sanctions but did not question anybody’s right to introduce them. “They have been acknowledged and will be respected,” he added.

The Budapest-based International Investment Bank (IIB) could have played an important role in developing central European economies, he said, but ever since the outbreak of the war it was clear the bank’s potential had been circumscribed and the recent sanctions “destroyed it”. Under these circumstances, he added, Hungary’s participation in the bank’s future activities had become senseless, and it therefore withdrew its delegates from the bank and quit the IIB.

Orbán said called the US “a friend and an important ally”, primarily in defence with the countries “members of a joint military defence alliance”.

There are similarities of thinking between the two countries, with “basically identical beliefs”, and “we also believe that in order for people to live in peace and wealth, freedom and a market economy are needed”, he said. Christianity is another shared area, while economic relations present “the image of a success story”, he added.

“Everything is given so that we can have good and friendly relations,” Orbán said.

At the same time, he said the US was not unified and showed an image “of a more divided country with large party political differences”.

“When it is a Democrat president in the White House, then relations are more difficult and when there is a Republican, then they are easier,” Orbán said, adding that the Republican point of view was closer to the Hungarian government’s views on basic issues.

“It is not our job to select between the players of American political life,” he said, adding that Hungary cooperated with any government that the American people elected.

“US ambassadors are typically political appointees and therefore we must accept that the ambassador stands close to the Democrats,” he added.

At the same time, he said it was “unusual that the US embassy uses street billboards to represent the American opinion.”

Orbán also said that the billboards with the slogan “Russians go home” seemed to suggest “that they are one step behind” because “we have already sent them home”. “We have already settled this issue”, and Hungarians need not be reminded of their own history, he added.

The US is not abandoning “its plan” to force everyone into a war alliance, Orbán said, adding that Hungary would not “allow them to force us into the war”.

Orbán said the US appeared “a safer place” on the map, “but you can’t say this about the Carpathian Basin”, and global political risks were different in Berehove (Beregszasz) and Budapest compared with America.

“Justifiably, we expect the United States to take Hungary’s special situation into consideration,” he said. “We’re on the side of peace, and that is where we want to remain,” he said.

The prime minister said that if there were a world war, it would be nuclear. Orbán said the situation in Ukraine was deteriorating every week, while the danger of the war escalating was growing. He added that reports suggested that Britain was sending depleted uranium ammunition to the front in Ukraine, while Russia was deploying tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

“This is of course not a nuclear bomb, but it is one step closer to the world of the nuclear toolkit,” he said.

“The fear that works its way through all of us, that the further escalation of war could result in the involvement of some sort of nuclear weapon, is not literary exaggeration,” he said. “God save us from that!” he added.

Meanwhile, Orbán said the pro-war left wing had a fraction of the support of the national government representing peace and security.

Orbán said he strove to find points of agreement in dialogue with the left in the interest of unity. “[I]f a country agrees on big things, we are all the stronger,” said, adding that it was regrettable that the left wing was not in the Hungarian peace camp.

He said the government was trying to offer “a bridge to the pro-peace camp”, and this is why the ruling parties submitted a parliamentary resolution expressing Hungary’s unwillingness to take part in the war in Ukraine or supply weapons.

Orbán said the international community should focus its energies on working for negotiations that lead to a ceasefire and peace.

“The left did not cross this bridge…” he said, adding that “hope dies last”.

Orbán said Ukraine financially was “a non-existent country” as the EU, including Hungary, financed its operations. “This is ruining Europe,” he added.
He said European public opinion was not yet at the point where European leaders would change their position on the war and sanctions, “but the moment of truth will come”, adding that Europe’s security and economy were being “ruined” in the meantime.

Orbán said the war would be over the moment Europe and America “answers ‘no’ to the question” of whether they would continue supporting Ukraine financially. With tens of billions of euros missing from the European economy, “this cannot continue indefinitely,” he added.

Meanwhile, the prime minister called the French president’s visit to China “very important”, saying a “different voice” had appeared looking for potential partners rather than potential enemies, and he likened this to “Hungarian common sense”. Hungarian foreign policy’s aim, he added, was to gather friends, not enemies.

The prime minister said that Emmanuel Macron’s talk of European strategic autonomy also pointed in this direction, and it “degraded Europe’s spirit” to take over the foreign policy of other countries. “Europe must start from its own interests,” he said.

France, he said, was Europe’s only leading power able to raise questions in a historical framework, and, he added, if only the French president were called de Gaulle everyone would agree with him on almost all issues.

Orbán said that Macron was honourable, though he did not conceive of Europe’s future in the same way as Hungary, “as we believe in a Christian renaissance”, while Macron saw the need to make a liberal Europe globally competitive.

On the subject of the economy, Orbán said inflation was expected to fall noticeably in April before seeing a more decisive drop in May and June, adding, however, that measures to reduce inflation so far had not had a sufficient effect to warrant removing the price cap. The prices of some products, especially food, are affected by competition for customers, but so far these are few and far between, he added. The government, he said, was waiting for its inflation “vaccine” to work, and it would continue to focus on reducing inflation.

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