Viktor Orban defends Hungarian model of cosy ties with Russia during talks with Vladimir Putin

Viktor Orban defends Hungarian model of cosy ties with Russia during talks with Vladimir Putin
Orban has been a regular visitor to Putin and is one of his biggest admirers in Europe.
By bne IntelliNews February 2, 2022

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban described his trip to Moscow as a "peace mission" amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, and called for dialogue and a peaceful resolution.

In a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Orban also blasted the ineffectiveness of the EU’s punitive sanctions following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. “I have to say that sanctions against Russia have done more harm to Hungary than to Russia”, he noted.

The talks focused on economic issues, boosting Russian gas deliveries and the possible transfer of Russian technology to make the anti COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik to Hungary, rather than Russia's military build-up on Ukraine's borders.

Hungary’s self-described illiberal strongman was met with a cordial welcome at the Kremlin during his 12th visit with the Russian president. He called it the "most important" one since he came to power in 2010 due to the ongoing geopolitical tensions.

Seen as Putin’s closest Western ally, other Western leaders were nervously watching Orban’s visit. The US and EU have condemned the Kremlin’s aggressive military manoeuvres and UK PM Boris Johnson warned Russia of the consequences of attacking Ukraine from Kiev. Ironically, Orban's close ally, Poland's Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, was visiting Ukraine to offer support at the same time as he was offering succour to the Russian dictataor. 

Orban has remained quiet about the military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and on Russian demands to withdraw military technology from Nato countries not members of the military alliance before 1999. Before the meeting, he called for a de-escalation of the crisis.

"We're prepared to reach a reasonable agreement," he said, adding that no European leader wants war. Then he went on to defend Hungary’s close ties with Russia, even though it was an EU and Nato member, dubbing it the 'Hungarian model', which could be followed by others. 

"It is possible, there are examples of it, Hungary’s of all countries. It is true that this requires mutual respect," he added.

Russian-Hungarian ties are positive and constructive, and Hungary is committed to continuing this in the future.

Orban's Facebook page proudly displays his meeting with Putin, focussing on Hungary's gas deals with Russia.

At the joint press conference after the meeting, Putin recalled that Hungary meets 55% of its oil and 80% of its gas needs from Russia and despite the "difficult" situation caused by the coronavirus epidemic, bilateral trade had increased by 30% to $5.5bn in the first 11 months of last year.

Orban said "meaningful talks" could start on raising the volume of gas Hungary gets from Russia by 1bcm a year to 5.5 bcm. Putin noted that Russia needs to see how its gas delivery situation develops, but added that an additional 1 bcm will "not be a big problem for us".

He added that Hungary is a "dependable partner" as a transit country for Russian gas.

Under Hungary's renewed long-term gas contract, signed last September, Hungary is getting 4.5 bcm a year from Gazprom, including 3.5 bcm delivered from the south, through Hungary's interconnector with Serbia, and 1 bcm via the pipeline running from Austria.

Preparations for the construction of two new blocks at Paks are in the final phase, adding that when the last permit is obtained, which is expected to happen soon, the investment will enter "the implementation phase", Orban said at the joint press conference. The project has suffered a delay as Russian state-owned energy giant Rosatom has failed to receive the final license due to safety concerns.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow for an hour and a half on Tuesday. In a statement issued by his ministry, Szijjarto said the sides approved a joint seven-point action plan on cooperation in such areas as the food industry, energy, space research, and healthcare.