Hungary’s NATO allies raised security concerns as they condemned Prime Minister Viktor Orban for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, laying bare widening divisions over Budapest’s ties with Moscow.
(Bloomberg) — Hungary’s NATO allies raised security concerns as they condemned Prime Minister Viktor Orban for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, laying bare widening divisions over Budapest’s ties with Moscow.
Ambassadors to Hungary from members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization convened a meeting in Budapest on Thursday to discuss the concerns after the Hungarian leader’s encounter with Putin in Beijing on Tuesday, according to a US embassy spokesman.
Orban became the first European Union leader to meet the Russian president since an international arrest warrant was issued against him in March over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The Hungarian premier has undermined Western unity by sealing energy deals with Russia, trying to limit aid to Ukraine, delaying NATO expansion and publicly calling on the EU to scrap economic sanctions imposed on Moscow.
“We consider Hungary an ally, but at the same time we see that Hungary is deepening its relationship with Russia despite its brutal war against Ukraine,” US Ambassador David Pressman told Radio Free Europe, which first reported the meeting. He added that NATO allies have “security concerns” about Hungary’s ties with Russia.
The meeting in Budapest was also attended by the ambassador of Sweden, the EU country whose accession to NATO Orban has delayed, along with Turkey’s envoy.
Hungary has insisted that it will maintain ties with Russia, partly to keep lines of communication open with Moscow and work toward a “peaceful” solution for Ukraine, government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said. He said the Orban-Putin meeting took place in that context.
Read More: Orban Is First EU Leader to Meet Putin Since Arrest Warrant
“This is one of the main reasons why Hungary maintained diplomatic relations with Russia, alongside the obvious economic reality of energy reliance,” Kovacs said on X, the social website formerly known as Twitter.
But the assessment of NATO leaders was in part scathing. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas called the exchange “very, very unpleasant,” particularly in the context of Hungarian history.
“How can you shake a criminal’s hand, who has waged the war of aggression, especially coming from a country that has a history like Hungary has?” Kallas told Reuters.
–With assistance from Ott Tammik.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.