Hold Your Horses! Hungary’s Orbán Shoots Down NATO Chief’s Claim that ‘All Members’ Back Ukraine Joining Alliance

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - OCTOBER 30: (RUSSIA OUT) Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speeches during a joint press conference on October 30, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary. Vladimir Putin is having a one-day visit to Hungary. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has seemingly shot down claims from NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that “all members” agreed on the admission of Ukraine into the Western military alliance.

Taking to his Twitter account on Friday, populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán posted a short but potentially geopolitically significant message, simply writing: “What?!”

The post from Orbán was in reference to a news article citing comments from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that the 31 member states were in agreement on allowing Ukraine to join the American-led military alliance.

“I said in Kyiv yesterday that Ukraine’s future is in the Euro-Atlantic family, and all NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a NATO member,” Stoltenberg said on Friday at the Rammstein airbase in Germany.

This was apparently news to the leader of Hungary, which as one of the member states of the alliance — having joined in 1999 — is entitled to a veto over any new admission into NATO.

Joining NATO can be a difficult process, given that it requires the unanimous support of all members before a state can be admitted. Due to the collective defence agreement of the alliance that states “an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all allies” and would therefore require all countries to go to war for another member, it can sometimes be a difficult sell to add more countries to the list.

While Hungary ultimately supported the recent admission of Finland into NATO, it has been reticent to extend the same to neighbouring Sweden, which has been a persistent critic of the conservative agenda of Budapest.

Allowing Ukraine to join the alliance may be an even tougher sell for Orbán, who has been one of the few Western leaders to consistently call for peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv and the admission of Ukraine into NATO would likely be a red line for Vladimir Putin, given that NATO expansion was a key justification for the so-called “special military operation” launched by Russia last year.

Commenting on the state of the war in Ukraine last week, Mr Orbán said that while the United States is an “important ally” and friend to Hungary, he said that his country will not be “squeezed” by the Biden administration into joining the war.

He said that “basic beliefs are the same” between Hungary and America such as the belief in peace and prosperity, freedom, a market economy and the values of Christianity. Yet, Orbán noted that the United States is a divided nation, including on the issue of Ukraine, with his long-time friend and political ally former President Donald Trump leading the calls for peace while the Biden administration seems intent on prolonging the proxy war with Russia.

Noting his country’s proximity to the conflict, the Hungarian leader warned of the potential ramifications of expanding the conflict beyond the borders of Ukraine, saying that “if there is a world war, then there will be a nuclear war.”

“That’s why we are on the side of peace, we want to stay there.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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