Hungary is Russia’s new bastion in Europe

Zsuzsanna Szelényi is a foreign policy analyst and Member of Parliament affiliated with the centre-left Együtt (Together) Party. Ms. Szelényi argues that through Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s war against the West and Moscow’s highly effective use of 21st century hybrid warfare, Hungary is being turned into a colony of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  We are translating Ms. Szelényi’s insightful analysis from the original Hungarian, for the readers of the Hungarian Free Press.

“My dear noble compatriots: the cup is full. We no longer have any business here–let’s return to Asia. Maybe we’ll be given a little space, but hopefully far away from peoples who gravitate to Asian culture.”–Endre Ady

Viktor Orbán has not only gone against what he once stood for in terms of his domestic politics, but he has also apparently accepted author Endre Ady’s admonition: if the Hungarian elite is incapable of accepting European values, then perhaps it’s best if we return to Asia. Ever since 2010, Viktor Orbán’s elite wants to undo a century-long goal, which was reached twenty-five years ago, to see Hungary integrate more fully into the West. Mr. Orbán has taken on the role of a new Koppány, turning the country’s chariot around and making it face eastward.

The prime minister does not fancy Europe–he only fancies European funding, because it is on this that his regime feasts. But after 2020, transfers from the European Union to Hungary are likely to decrease, which means that Mr. Orbán must find a new sponsor. Rather than trying to help the Hungarian economy get back on its feet, Mr. Orbán’s gaze has come to rest on Moscow. President Vladimir Putin, however, does not think from the perspective of solidarity, as do our European partners. He provides funding only in exchange for political and economic services.

A vote for Russia

Viktor Orbán has found his ‘master’ and future sponsor in Mr. Putin’s regime and in his person. The former KGB specialist has correctly detected that Mr. Orbán’s greedy and slighted persona makes the Hungarian leader into a pawn, which he can move on Europe’s chess table, and through which he can exert influence over the decision-making bodies of the European Union and NATO. Gaining influence over a small state the size of Hungary isn’t much of a challenge, even amidst trying economic times. Yet Hungary’s strategic importance is well worth Russia’s efforts, especially in terms of the stationing of American rockets, the tearing up of Ukraine, energy-based blackmail or atomic energy. Hungary can become a fulcrum of Russian expansion. As such, it’s worth their while to buy off the Hungarian government.

Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin.

Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin.

Hungary is a battleground in Russia’s hybrid war

There are examples in Hungarian history, where Hungarian foreign affairs served Moscow, such as during the decades of Soviet occupation. And, of course, even in 1849, there were some “Muscovites,” who served as mercenaries and helped to suppress the War of Independence. Today, there is no longer any Russian occupation in Hungary. As such, different tools are needed, namely: hybrid warfare, television and internet-based propaganda and, of course, money. Fidesz’s greedy and easily slighted leaders are voluntarily walking over to the wrong side.

During his decade-and-a-half rule, President Putin has revived the principle of Russian expansion. With a clear goal in mind, he is bombarding Europe with the methods of 21st century hybrid warfare. Europe is reacting slowly to the threat. Europe’s slow decision-making is making it vulnerable to Russia, just as the treason of some EU member states is doing the same.

With the rise to power of the former KGB hardcore in the year 2000, the activities of Russian state security in Central Europe have intensified. Ever since the occupation of Eastern Ukraine, Russia is conducting ever deeper propaganda and espionage in Hungary. The tools of propaganda in the 21st century are not flyers and posters, but rather electronic and social media. Hundreds of new websites, often linked and shared on fake Facebook profiles, are connected to Russia. These includes sites such as or the site. Additionally, hundreds of internet commentators, responding to online articles, are based on fake profiles originating in Russia. The Hungarian website has uncovered over 100 websites, which list no editors or contributors, that are being run off of Russian servers. The goal of these websites is to destabilize Hungary and to spread aggressive pro-Putin propaganda, as well as disinformation. One must assume that a great amount of money is being poured into these efforts. And Putinist propaganda is being spread endlessly. It would appear as though the Government of Hungary is not making any effort to halt the forward march of Russia’s dictator. Even more disconcerting is the fact that while in neighbouring countries, Russian agents are being revealed on a regular basis, nobody ever seems to be uncovered in Hungary. Even the Jobbik-affiliated Béla Kovács and his connection to Russian state security was only revealed  through Western help.

Putin’s main export is bribery

Russia is exporting a massive amount of money to Europe. The fuel that keeps Viktor Orbán’s propaganda machine running also comes from Russia. The awfully expensive, irrational and terribly risky investment in the atomic plant at Paks is the clearest example of how the Hungarian government has been bought off. While in Western Europe the reliance on nuclear energy plants is being gradually decreased, Viktor Orbán is making Hungary beholden to Russia and is rendering the country increasingly reliant on Moscow, through the secretive deal in Paks and the use of dated Russian technology.

The energy company MET Zrt., affiliated with Mr. Orbán’s friend, István Garancsi, has cemented its ties to Russia. In this agreement, Hungarian and Russia oligarchs have together tapped into profits from the energy sector, amounting to tens of billions of forints. Even the tender put out to modernize the Budapest metro is suspicious. The government decided to accept the Russian offer, even though it was more expensive than that put forward by the Estonians. In Hungary, a ministerial commissioner who once ran a prostitution ring in Moscow, is now involved in agrarian policy development in Hungary and has a joint company with Lőrinc Mészáros, the prime minister’s stooge.  It is true that an investigation has been launched into the activities of Szilárd Kiss, but we have not heard of any developments in over a year. This is yet another indication of just how vulnerable Hungary has become, within the expanding Russian sphere of influence.

Of course, it is entirely possible to do business with Russia. But not in secret. Corrupt business dealings, which is in the interest of government adventure-seekers, may help them personally, but it is effectively holding Hungary hostage.

The Government of Hungary in Moscow’s net

There is still much lack of clarity around the spy-scandal surrounding Jobbik politician, Béla Kovács. The State Prosecutor’s Office, working under the supervision of the government, is silent. In addition, on the airwaves of Hungarian state media, completely uncritical Russian propaganda is flowing from  so-called national security experts, some of whom have a known past as informants (László Földi), or are suspected of possibly having been an informant (György Nógrádi).

As a result of this, in the past few weeks, I have twice addressed János Lázár in Parliament with questions, asking specifically what the government was doing to offer protection against the influence and activities of Russian state security. Mr. Lázár offered no response. It appears as though the Government of Hungary does not want to halt Mr. Putin’s espionage activities in Hungary. As a result, Mr. Orbán is contributing to the dismantling of Europe.

Zsuzsanna Szelényi in Parliament.

Zsuzsanna Szelényi in Parliament.

While Mr. Orbán is preaching about the war of independence against the West, Russia is turning Hungary into a colony.

The Orbán government is likely receiving significant bribes from Russia, which maintain the prime minister’s power. All the while, we Hungarians have much to lose. I am convinced that Hungarians are not supportive of these types of policies. We want to continue to belong to the European Union and to the Western sphere of influence.

Russian propaganda and the export of corruption is destroying the community of shared values that is at the foundation of Europe. The Orbán government is the bastion of this shameful war. The enormous amount of bribe money is opening the way for Russia’s ambitions here in Hungary, in the heart of Europe. It’s time to pull Hungary back to where Hungarians want to belong, namely to Europe, among our real allies.

Zsuzsanna Szelényi

(Translated from Hungarian by: Christopher Adam)

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