US expects Orbán to confront Russian influence and keep “ironclad commitment” to NATO

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently invited representatives from 79 countries to an all-day meeting on defeating Islamic State and other enemies of the US-led coalition in the Middle East. President Trump and State Secretary Pompeo spoke to the guests. Pompeo called the withdrawal of US troops from Syria as a “tactical change” that does not change the US mission.

Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister of Hungary and Pavel Klimkin, the foreign minister of Ukraine were both present and spoke on the sidelines. Photos Klimkin published on social media show them having a “passionate” exchange and both were summoned to the White House to meet with John Bolton, US National Security Advisor.

Klimkin and Szijjártó – passionate discussion

After meeting with Szijjártó Bolton tweeted: I welcomed FM Szijjarto of Hungary to the White House today where we discussed defense cooperation, energy diversity, confronting Russian malign influence, & maintaining our ironclad commitment to NATO. A great preview of our 2019 goals & Secretary Pompeo’s trip next week.

Szijjártó and Bolton

After meeting Klimkin: Had a productive meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin, discussing regional security, Russian interference, and expectations for free and fair elections. Confirmed our mutual commitment to realizing a prosperous Ukraine, whole, free, and at peace. Bolton also attached a smiling photo with Klimkin.

The back-to-back meetings with Szijjártó and Klimkin indicate serious US concern that Hungary as Putin’s ally opened a “Western Front” against Ukraine. Orbán earlier told U.S. diplomats that he wants his country to be “neutral, like Austria.” Hungary also maintains uncomfortably friendly relations with Russia, China and Iran when Washington pushes for a tougher line. (Read WSJ reporting here.)

Klimkin and Bolton – all smiles.

James Kirchick has written in the Washington Post that Hungary is becoming a rogue state in the center of Europe. Orbán is not considered a reliable US ally anymore because he is toying with idea of leaving NATO.

The State Department earlier said that Pompeo plan to travel to Poland and Slovakia; no Budapest stop was included. Now Bolton indicated that Pompeo will visit the Hungarian capital early next week.

György Lázár

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