Hungarian defense minister: Give first, ask later

Hungary must first deliver its dues to NATO's collective defense system before asking anything, defense minister Tibor Benkő told news and opinion portal Mandiner in an interview.

"We are members of NATO's alliance system. But Hungary cannot be vulnerable: it must develop and maintain capabilities to help other members of the alliance. This mutuality is what Article 5. of the Washington Treaty is about. Article 3. says capabilities must be developed. First one must develop its defense capabilities and ask only afterwards," Benkő told Mandiner.

Benkő has been a career officer for 43 years, his last assignment was Chief of Staff of the Hungarian Armed Forces for eight years until 2018 when he was appointed Minister of Defense.

He said that Hungary - as all other NATO members - must increase its military spending in order to close the gap between them and the United States, which currently bears the majority of the costs of European defense.

On the other hand, European Union member states must also reinforce regional cooperation, allowing them to solve European problems without the help of the U.S.

Asked about the potential replacement of its JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighter aircraft - the lease of which will expire in 2026 and the jets will become Hungarian property - Benkő said a complex assessment of the Air Force's future was underway but no decision has yet been made.

"Anything is possible. We must weigh what brings more advantages to Hungary, what challenges we must respond to and what our soldiers are expected to do," Benkő said.

Some press reports suggest Hungary is considering replacing its Swedish Gripens with Lokcheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II multirole fighters.

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