Hungary’s Orbán Wants To Bid Farewell to Arms for Ukraine; Says European Governments ‘Collapsing Like Dominoes’
Speaking in Romania at an annual retreat for his supporters, Orbán — who was re-elected to a fourth consecutive term in April — said that Ukraine will never win its war with Russia ‘quite simply because the Russian army has asymmetrical dominance.’
Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has called for a peace settlement in Ukraine and blamed the West’s delivery of long-range artillery weapons to the war-torn country for driving Russia’s quest to annex additional Ukrainian territory.
Speaking in Romania at an annual retreat for his supporters on Saturday, Mr. Orbán — who was re-elected to a fourth consecutive term in April — said that Ukraine will never win the war “quite simply because the Russian army has asymmetrical dominance.”
“We are sitting in a car that has a puncture in all four tires: it is absolutely clear that the war cannot be won in this way,” Mr. Orbán said.
Beyond the bombast that is typical of the populist leader, he also said the West’s strategy was built on a number of pillars that in his view are collapsing, including the notion that sanctions would hurt Moscow more than Europe and misjudging that Ukraine could use NATO weapons to win a war against Russia.
Consistent with a European pattern of distancing themselves from the war, now at its five-month mark, he was also insistent that Budapest would not enter the fray.
Mr. Orbán’s assessment points to a colossal disconnect that is likely more about the divide between Washington and Moscow than the more obvious one between the Kremlin and Kyiv. He dismissed any chance of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine: “As Russia wants security guarantees, this war can be ended only with peace talks between Russia and America,” he said.
The Hungarian leader blamed the arrival of weapons systems like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, that America is providing to Ukraine as fueling the fire and said the West still fails to understand the Russian position on nailing down security guarantees of its own.
In televised remarks last week, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that not only does Russia want to permanently occupy large parts of southern Ukraine — that is by now hardly a secret — but that it wants more territory along the frontlines as a buffer against the HIMARS systems.
In those remarks, Mr. Lavrov said, “It’s not just Donetsk and Luhansk, it’s Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and a number of other territories. And this is an ongoing process, consistent and insistent.”
The Guardian reported that the spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, said Russia was planning to annex more Ukrainian territory possibly in September, to coincide with regional elections.
“Russia is beginning to roll out a version of what you could call an annexation playbook, very similar to the one we saw in 2014,” Mr. Kirby said, in a reference to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
Mr. Orbán maintains fairly cordial ties with President Putin and will continue to be among the European leaders least likely to repudiate Russia as it pursues its goal of the conquest of Ukraine. By most estimations, Hungary’s economy is up to 85 percent dependent on imports of Russian gas — and as most everyone knows in the landlocked country, winter is around the corner.
The EU Observer reported that on Thursday Hungary’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, visited Moscow to shore up deal to purchase an additional 700 million cubic meters of natural gas from Russia in addition to quantities already specified in long-term contracts.
Energy prices in Europe have soared in the wake of the EU sanctions against Russia to which Mr. Orbán is so opposed. He said that the economic fallout of the EU’s flawed strategy was causing governments in Europe to collapse “like dominos” — a likely reference to the recent resignation of Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, who was a staunch ally of Ukraine and President Zelensky.
Hungary’s refusal to join in on the EU’s embargoes of Russian energy has not spared it from the economic pressures wracking the continent. Inflation in Hungary is in the double digits and substantial EU funds are still tied up over a dispute between Brussels and Budapest over democratic standards in the country under Orbán’s rule.
Consistent with a certain European tendency to look to the past while shrugging off an uncertain future, Mr. Orbán also said, “With U.S. President Trump and German Chancellor Merkel, this war would never have happened.”