The widely felt consequences of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine could be alleviated far sooner with an immediate ceasefire and brokered peace negotiations instead of further sanctions, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told listeners of Hungary’s national radio station on Friday.
Speaking to Kossuth Radio’s “Good Morning, Hungary” program, the Hungarian leader said that while everyone rightly sides with Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country on Feb. 24, the economic and humanitarian consequences of the war are being felt regionally and it is imperative that nations like Hungary are not dragged into the conflict.
Orbán warned that the war zone could end up much closer to Hungarian territory than anyone currently thinks is possible, and used this argument to justify an increase in defense spending, specifically an increase in the speed of Hungary’s military development by two to three times, as well as the establishment of a new border force to counter the rising migratory pressure being felt on Hungary’s external EU border, a move that had been announced on Monday.
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Tensions between Hungary and Ukraine were already strained before the war
Hungary has consistently opposed another sanctions package against Russia, with Orbán previously reiterating that the ongoing conflict should not be paid for by Hungarians. The Hungarian position was once again reaffirmed by Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó at a European Council meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, telling press he had arrived at the meeting “with a clear mandate, whereby Hungary doesn’t want to hold talks on a (Russian) gas embargo.”
“That would practically incapacitate our economy and the entire country,” Szijjártó said at the time.
The cost of living crisis now being experienced across Europe has previously been labeled by Orbán as “war inflation.” He told Hungarian state radio following this week’s NATO summit in Madrid that everyone must slowly start to face the reality that a protracted conflict in Ukraine would harm millions across the continent; furthermore, NATO as a defense alliance should remain on the side of peace, he said.
“This is a war between two neighboring Slavic countries,” Orbán said, adding in reference to the NATO summit in Madrid: “I came home with alarm bells continuously ringing in my head.”
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The Hungarian prime minister noted that his government naturally wanted to push for peace in Ukraine, and despite comments from his critics, he has on the whole prioritized EU unity with his government’s approach.
“In areas where the situation is not vital for Hungary, our country will concede, but we will not concede on life-and-death issues,” Orbán said.
He stressed that what is happening in Ukraine is terrible, and this is precisely the reason why Western nations must be on the side of peace, as peace is the only way to end war inflation.
Hungary and all countries have an interest in peace, the prime minister said, adding that now is the time to defend his government’s achievements — pensions, cuts in rationing, family allowances — and not let the war drag his people and the Hungarian economy back down.