Does Hungary’s Orbán pose a national security risk to western democracies?

Professor Charles Gati, in an interview published in Saturday’s Népszava newspaper, observed that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán faces the toughest decision of his political career as he must weigh Hungary’s future place in the transatlantic community, and whether Hungary is, indeed, on the verge of either exiting or being tossed out of the EU, as László Kövér suggested.  “The historical responsibility on his shoulders is huge,” remarked Professor Gati of the choices that Mr. Orbán must make. “If he stays the current course, he will undoubtedly fall out of power. Yet if he were to renew his politics and decide to govern the country based on western democratic values, his may also see his tenure come to an end. With the first option, the outcome for Mr. Orbán is certain. With the second, it is just a possibility. For this and for other reasons, it may be premature to bury Hungarian democracy” added Professor Gati.

Professor Gati was not the only one weighing Mr. Orbán’s limited and difficult options, following the ever-growing diplomatic row and rift between Budapest and Washington. Index, one of Hungary’s most popular news sites, drew up various scenarios for Hungary, none of which are easy and few of which are positive for the country. Botond Feledy–the Director of Saint Ignatius Jesuit College–argues that the current row has little to do with corruption and all the more with the fact that the Orbán government has managed to disturb America’s geopolitical interests, and — indeed — the interests of western liberal democracies, as such. Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has, over the years, become comfortable and complacent with the government’s stable two-thirds majority in parliament and failed to recognize the many concerns and warnings from Hungary’s transatlantic partners. Additionally, Dr. Feledy argues that for many of Mr. Orbán’s closests advisors, developing a rational and coherent foreign policy simply wasn’t a priority. “In their own heads, they simplified and divided the world into ‘good’ and evil’, much like in the Lord of the Rings ,” observed Dr. Feledy. Some of the warning signs may never have even reached Mr. Orbán’s insulated inner circle.

Prime Minister Orbán at crossroads. Photo: MTI

Prime Minister Orbán at crossroads. Photo: MTI

Dr. Feledy suggests that Mr. Orbán’s dilemma is similar to that of the late World War II Prime Minister Pál Teleki, who had to weigh whether Hungary would side with Nazi Germany or with the West. Mr. Orbán must now decide whether Hungary will remain in the Transatlantic community or if it will gravitate further into Russia’s sphere of influence.

Dr. Feledy points out that since it is now clear that Washington had gathered intelligence on Angela Merkel, then they also certainly engaged in the surveillance of the Orbán regime. As such, the Americans likely have gathered devastating information on corruption in government circles and among Mr. Orbán’s oligarchs. At the right moment, leaking this information could lead to the implosion of Mr. Orbán’s rule.

The State Department, in Dr. Feledy’s reading, sees Hungary as a security risk for the West and for American interests, especially in light of the conflicts in Ukraine, Georgia and proxy wars in the Middle East. Washington is concerned that Hungary will become the gateway into the transatlantic community for the agents of Russian intelligence. Hungary’s deal with Moscow on the expansion of Paks, as well as its views on the South Stream (Déli áramlat) pipeline (a project that is in non-compliance with EU energy legislation) further puts Hungary at odds with western interests.

Dr. Feledy believes that it is possible that Mr. Orbán will be forced to come to some type of an agreement with the West. Mr. Orbán’s advisors may inform the prime minister that Washington knows too much about the government’s corrupt business dealings and that the Americans may begin to leak this damaging information to the press. Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s newly minted 36 year old foreign minister and the strongest proponent of the country’s anti-western foreign policy, may be sacked and replaced by a more pro-western figure. János Martonyi, the previous minister, was certainly much more of a Europeanist than Mr. Szijjártó. Mr. Orbán may even be willing to scrap Russian financing of Paks and perhaps even the South Stream.

If Mr. Orbán cannot come to some type of agreement with the Obama administration, the Fidesz oligarchs may launch a coup against Mr. Orbán, depose the current prime minister and find someone who is more palatable to Washington. They would do all this, in order to save their own skins and avoid having America leak devastating information on corruption-related matters. The BBC had already suggested that this is a possibility.

“There are growing divisions in the right-wing party over Mr Orban’s steps to turn Hungary into an “illiberal democracy”, despite a third election victory this year,” writes Nick Thorpe. “The mood in the corridors of power is wretched. In a country where backbench rebellions are almost unknown, politicians contend themselves with hints of dissent in anti-government media, and more open attacks on Viktor Orbán’s policies in pro-government media,” adds Mr. Thorpe.

The third option, in Dr. Feledy’s mind, is truly disastrous for Hungary. America sees Hungary as nothing more than a buffer zone between the West and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but ultimately loses all trust in the country’s government. Russia, for its part, sees no further geopolitical potential in Hungary and the country gets completely marginalized. In this scenario, Dr. Feledy suggests that Hungary would likely get suspended from the Schengen zone, which in itself could have a disastrous economic and political impact on the country.

But Orbán’s real problem will be if, like the Americans, the Russians also collected information on the crooked business dealings of Fidesz oligarchs and government officials and  threaten to make this public. The prime minister will then face an impossible situation and will be squeezed from both sides.

4 Comments

  1. Might pose as a national security risk to western democracies or serves as a shield from something worse happening, the rise of the Jobbik. Leastways in the eyes of the EU.

    Whatever it is the U.S. acted the EU is still waiting. Orban is waiting too, impatiently, to the impeachment and removal of Obama, Abe, Netanyahu and Ban Ki Moon, and the collapse of the U.S. dollar. And the political surfer hopes for getting a chance to ride on a fresh new wave, and is trying to survive until it will come. Then he will quickly betray Putin, hunt down some old friends and all of those who disagreed with his policy. A political gambler, and he is looking for followers, for the time being working for Putin — a complete shill.

    “But Orbán’s real problem will be if, like the Americans, the Russians also collected information on the crooked business dealings of Fidesz oligarchs …”

    I think it’s about more, they must have more. It’s more than business. I don’t want to be vulgar and my apologies for the low simile, but Orban is a political prostitute, entertains anybody who pays him and now he has had too many customers and no one likes the prostitute getting too risky and transmitting STD.
    Just simile. Sorry for that.

  2. There must be a positive scenario out there encouraging Orban to lead this country the way does. Maybe he dreams to rebuild big Hungary, God knows.

  3. Re: “the government’s stable two-thirds majority…”

    FIDESZ’ PHONEY 2/3 “SUPERMAJORITY”

    Thanks to “Tappanch,” the Hungarian Spectrum’s superb statistician http://hungarianspectrum.wordpress.com, here are the 2014 Hungarian election’s voting percentages (again), for those who keep repeating or believing the Fidesz refrain about having earned a 2/3 mandate from the Hungarian populace for its increasingly monstrous machinations:

    Fidesz 43.7%

    (of which 2.5% were from non-tax-paying citizens of adjoining countries some of whom have never even set foot in Hungary, enfranchised for the purpose: only 0.1% voted for other than Fidesz)

    Left coalition 26.8%

    Jobbik 20.8%

    LMP 5.5%

    rest: 3.7%

    In other words, not only did Fidesz get nowhere near a 2/3 “supermajority” of the popular vote, it did not even have a 50% majority of the vote, just a 43.7% plurality.

    So the Fidesz law-making/breaking 2/3 “supermajority” (133/199) was purely an outcome of the Fidesz gerrymandering of electoral districts, the number of seats, and the citizenship rules, using the law-making/breaking powers of the 2/3 supermajority of 2010.

    And even that would have fallen short of the 2/3 threshold without the 2.5% enfranchised non-Hungarian vote.

    That, on top of the Fidesz media monopoly, signpost oligopoly, arbitrary campaigning-rule control and relentless press and police FUD campaigns against all opposition.

    (And this is all assuming that the Fidesz voting figures are themselves honest ones, which, in light of all the other Fidesz foul play, is highly unlikely.)

    Any government in any country in the world could create and entrench a dictatorship with foul means like Fidesz’s at its disposal.

    (The only element they other countries may be lacking is an apathetic populace with a petty, xenophobic minority, ready to believe every self-pitying, self-aggrandizing lie fed them by their corrupt leadership.)

    (In the US, as long as it remains a 2-party system, no government short of at least a 50% majority is possible.)

  4. What does come close to a 2/3 supermajority Fidesz + Jobbik: 64.5%

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