President Trump called me in the kitchen…and other tales

Namedropping, exaggerating influence and political connections are hallmarks of Hungarian foreign policy.

Let’s face it, Hungary is a small country with less than 10 million people; it is one of the poorest countries in the European Union with a GDP close to Cincinnati’s.  Hungary’s political gravitas and strategic importance are insignificant. (And please don’t be offended.)

Yet, according to its government controlled media Hungary is a beacon of illiberalism and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán a conservative thought leader; his advice and wisdom are widely respected and followed by world leaders.

This is what pro-Orbán media sells to the Hungarian public.

On September 11, Orbán gave an interview on Kossuth radio and casually mentioned that the previous night he was in his kitchen when he got a call from President Trump.  Yes, Trump called Orbán to have a lengthy conversation about virus control measures, the presidential election and cooperation between the US and Hungary. Orbán explained that Trump “is good for Central Europe” and he was rooting for him in the presidential election.

President Trump and Prime Minister Orbán met in Washington in May 2019 (TV news screenshot)

Interestingly, the White House has not confirmed any communication between the two leaders.  Yet the Hungarian public got the impression that Trump somehow relies on Orbán’s advice.

Hungarian media also reported that Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó travelled to Washington to attend the signing ceremony of Israel’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, he was the only EU foreign minister attending the event.  In Hungary they didn’t report that he was one of 700 guests crowding on the White House lawn.  Szijjártó declared that the country “will continue to support the United States in its efforts to bring peace in the Middle East” and this got him a 2-minute photo op with Jared Kushner.  Secretary of State Pompeo had no time for him.

Orbán recently said that President Trump is his key ally in the battle for “illiberal democracy” against “loopy liberals” in the EU who support mass immigration.  I wonder if Trump knows about this because he never indicated that he wishes to be a “key ally.”  I would be surprised if he would even know where Hungary is located; hopefully he remembers Orbán since they met.

Lately the White House released only one official communication related to Hungary.

September 10, 2020. Today, First Lady Melania Trump met with U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Cornstein. Ambassador Cornstein and Mrs. Trump discussed Hungary’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the relationship between the United States and Hungary. Mrs. Trump thanked the Ambassador for his continued service to the American people.

President Trump had no time to say goodbye to Ambassador Cornstein so the First Lady handled the issue.  Hungary is insignificant in Washington and Viktor Orbán is not that important either.

György Lázár

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