US senator blocks arms sale to Hungary over stalling Sweden’s NATO accession, but Hungary says it doesn’t want them anyway

FILE - Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, listens during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget in Washington D.C., Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (Bonnie Cash/Pool Photo via AP)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

A U.S. Republican senator is halting a $735 million arms deal to Hungary over the European nation’s delay in ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership, according to a report by The Washington Post.

James E. Risch, the Idaho senator who sits as the top-ranked Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the newspaper he would only sanction a deal to provide Hungary with 24 HIMARS rocket launcher batteries, in addition to other ammunition and accessories, once the Hungarian parliament has voted through Sweden’s NATO membership bid.

All arms sales must be approved by the chair and ranking members of both the House and Senate foreign relations committees in order to be given clearance to proceed.

“For some time now, I have directly expressed my concerns to the Hungarian government regarding its refusal to move forward a vote for Sweden to join NATO,” Risch said in a statement.

“The fact that it is now June and still not done, I decided that the sale of new U.S. military equipment to Hungary will be on hold,” he added.

However, a statement by Hungary’s Defense Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, published on social media by Hungary’s Secretary of State for International Communication Zoltan Kovacs, revealed the department had no intention of purchasing the aforementioned military equipment from the United States.

“The Ministry of Defense will not purchase HIMARS missile systems,” Kovacs’ tweet read.

“In the previous government term, the Government Commissioner for Procurement sent a letter requesting information on HIMARS missile systems, with a March 2022 deadline. No reply was received from the U.S. side, and the ministry considered the matter closed.

“The Ministry of Defense has no intention to purchase HIMARS missile systems any longer,” he concluded.

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Hungarian media has reported the country’s parliament may seek to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid next month, having dragged its heels on the matter for much of this year. Only Budapest and Ankara have yet to approve the accession process, although Hungarian government officials insist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s administration is in favor of Swedish membership.

Speaking to Newsmax this week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó explained that many Hungarian lawmakers are lukewarm to the idea due to a history of Swedish government officials criticizing what they perceive to be the declining state of Hungarian democracy.

“The government supports the ratification process. (…) It’s up to our MPs who constitute two-thirds of the majority in the parliament when they would like to put this issue on the agenda,” Szijjártó told the U.S. media outlet.

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“We have been under constant accusations and allegations by the Swedish politicians saying Hungary is not a democracy, that we are a dictatorship. (…) Very similar to the criticism, by the way, towards
President Trump.

Our MPs take this as an insult,” Szijjártó explained. “They are fighting for the votes of the people in the electoral campaigns, they do their best in order to improve the living standards of their constituents, and then, all of a sudden from another country, they are being considered as not democratic or dictatorial.

“So therefore, since they have taken it as an insult, they are not ready yet, as far as we understand, to make this decision. Whenever they are ready, they will take the decision,” the foreign minister added.

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