Hungarians in North America condemn Putin’s visit to Budapest

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his delegation arrived to Budapest on one of three identical planes, which left from separate locations at separate times. Putin’s Iljushin-96 presidential aircraft was escorted by Hungarian fighter planes in Hungary’s airspace – truly a presidential welcome.

The security measures were extremely tight, almost unprecedented. Budapest’s streets were empty, police lined the intersections. No anti-Putin demonstrators were allowed close to the motorcade. Several different routes were secured from Ferenc Liszt International Airport to downtown, one of which was picked by the Russian president’s security chief after the planes had touched down.

Hungarian Police lined the streets, no anti-Putin demonstrators were allowed close to Putin’s motorcade.

Viktor Orbán’s friendship with President Putin, the ex-KGB agent turned authoritarian Russian president shocked Hungarians in North America. I have yet to meet a Hungarian-Canadian or Hungarian-American who welcomes this new closeness, a virtual Hungarian-Russian alliance. In a rare show of unity most Hungarian Americans and Canadians object Orbán’s pro-Russian turn and his “love affair” with the Russian president.

Russian President Putin was warmly welcomed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Budapest

Several organizations claim to represent Hungarian Canadians and Americans yet none of them protested Putin’s Budapest visit The Hungarian American Coalition has a new leadership: Andrea Lauer Rice is the new president and Agnes Virga in the chairman. The two women are mum, not one word about the Putin visit.

The American Hungarian Federation is led by Frank Koszorus, a staunch anti-Communist who is proud that his father fought against the Soviet Union in Horthy’s pro-Hitler army. Yet, not one word from him about Mr. Putin, the onetime communist secret service agent. In Canada, Hungarian Diaspora Council leaders, Anna Szenthe and Tibor Ábrahám have not raised their voice either.

All these organizations receive direct or indirect support from the Orbán government, they do not publish their finances and publicly never criticize Budapest. Who do they represent?

According to Stratfor, Mr. Putin singled out Hungary’s willing Eurosceptic PM Viktor Orbán to break the West’s unity. With Europe increasingly divided and the Trump administration in Washington less adversarial toward Moscow, Hungary is wasting no time building close ties with Russia. Moscow fully intends “to seize the opportunity” and build a beachhead in Hungary against the West. (Read the Stratfor analysis here.)

There is one Hungarian-American group that openly expressed its disappointment with Hungary’s new closeness to Putin. 82-year old Béla Lipták, a prominent 56-er and founder of the Hungarian Lobby internet group demonstrated against Mr. Putin’s growing influence. I generally disagree with Mr. Lipták and his lobbying activities but this issue is an exception. I have a feeling that the majority of Hungarians in North America are solidly behind him.

Béla Lipták, founder of the Hungarian Lobby demonstrated against Putin in New York.

We do not want close political ties between Putin’s Russia and Hungary and condemn the pro-Putin adventurism of the Orbán government and their North-American surrogates who pose as leaders of the Hungarian community.

György Lázár

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