“Hungary is in the peace camp,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said during a visit to Berlin, adding that he supported an immediate ceasefire and peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. At an event organised by German papers Cicero and Berliner Zeitung, the Hungarian prime minister said 200 ethnic Hungarian conscripts, who were also Hungarian citizens, have died in the fighting. Orbán said it was a “big problem” that “this time, unlike the Crimean conflict, the conflict could not be isolated”. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately initiated peace talks, thus avoiding an international crisis, he said, calling it a “mistake” that while he had made a “peace mission” to Moscow before the war broke out, “nobody in the West thought they should negotiate”, despite the fact that he had briefed the NATO Secretary-General of the impending threat.
As to his own approach regarding the conflict, Orbán said he prioritised Hungarian interests. “The country, in the immediate vicinity of the war, feels threatened,” he said. While Hungary is doing everything in its power to promote peace, it will not aid Ukraine to the detriment of Hungarians, he said.
“The international debate is too focused on Putin,” Orbán said, adding that his own focus was “Hungary and Europe, and the war’s consequences for us”. The Hungarian government’s stance on the war is in line with the EU’s; it sees it as aggression, and Russia is in breach of international law, he said. The prime minister also said that according to the “realities of power”, a ceasefire in the war in Ukraine should be negotiated not between Russia and Ukraine but between Russia and the United States.
Orbán said the war was determined by resources. And while Russia has a near limitless supply of energy, troops and human resources, Ukraine only has enough resources because it is receiving help from the West and the United States, he added.
Orbán said US President Joe Biden “went too far” when he labelled Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and a “mass murderer”. He said that the “hope for peace” was therefore invested in former US president Donald Trump. He said one consequence of the conflict in Ukraine was that “our weakness has become clear”, arguing that there were several international players like China and India that had not sided with the Western community.
In response to a question, Orbán said at his talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz he had asked the chancellor to “be tolerant over issues on which the two countries are not in agreement”, such as Hungary’s rejection of migration, its opposition to multiculturalism and its insistence on a traditional family concept. “While former Chancellor Angela Merkel consistently rejected that request, Scholz now listened,” Orbán said, adding that he hoped his next official visit to Berlin, planned in two years’ time, when Hungary is the next rotating president of the European Council, would result in further progress. He said ties between Hungary and Germany were “special”, adding that “in any event, they serve as a good basis for further developing bilateral cooperation”. Concerning economic ties, the prime minister highlighted the automotive and defence industries, and welcomed that more and more German researchers were drawn to Hungary.
Orbán also said that there was a “line of division” in Europe on issues such as migration, gender, the family and national interests. Those to the east of this line think in terms of a traditional family model, they oppose migration, and national pride is their most important “buoyant force”, he said. Orbán added that it was important for the countries of the Visegrád Group to defend this stance. “Over the course of history there have always been great powers that wanted to tell us how to live,” Orbán said. Today, although under democratic conditions, they still want to decide what a Hungarian family should be like and what the ethnic composition of Hungary should be, he added, pointing out that he had been “fighting against this” since the beginning of his political career. Orbán also touched on the negative effects of Brexit. Britain never accepted the concept of a federal Europe, either, but their departure means that the federalists are now predominant, he added. If the UK had not left the EU, the dynamism seen over the last 30 years would have been preserved, the prime minister said.