As a committed pacifist and a father of six, I tend to follow the events in Ukraine with a splitting sense of helplessness: while glued to the news, one moment my fist clenches into action, the next the same hand is more likely to hold my children close to reassure them that everything will be alright. But there is trouble, indeed. And not just in Ukraine. Also in the minds of many, unfortunately.
Putin’s attack can be called nothing less than a war crime; an aggression of bloodshed against a sovereign state, launched without any real justification. There is no other point of view, no other perspective, no economic interest that requires us to be more cautious with our words. You don’t sit an obvious aggressor down to the nicely laid table of a family dinner just because he was the one to bring the bacon on the cheap. Just like we don’t let an axe murderer go free in exchange for some well-paying (private) business.
There are situations where the question of choosing sides and values simply does not arise. Putin’s war is exactly that. And the dilemmas that have been troubling me over the past few hours show exactly how Orbán has steered our country into an infinitely vulnerable and weakened position. Let us start from the fact that the Hungarian Government has, on at least half a dozen occasions in recent times, obstructed Ukraine’s move closer to NATO, which would provide protection to it; the Orbán-government was the only one to veto this attempt each and every time. The language law and the otherwise legitimate protection of the interests of the ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia were cited, but Russian interests were also known to be served by these moves.
Just one digression: in the past, Fidesz MEPs have repeatedly called for firm EU action and compliance with the Venice Commission’s guidelines on the language law, which violates the rights of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine; the only problem is that it is precisely Fidesz’s brainless policy that has weakened these demands, as it has constantly undermined the credibility of the EU, and called the Venice Commission repeatedly an ‘organization of Soros-agents’ when it has published positions that Orbán and his pals did not like. If Fidesz had spent the last decade working to strengthen the European Union rather than weaken it, it would clearly have been able to act much more effectively and, as such, would have achieved results.
The Ukrainian-Russian war has proved once and for all that Hungary’s place is in the European Union and in the NATO alliance: only this can guarantee our security. Therefore, anyone who works to weaken the EU or NATO in any way obstructs its functioning and shatters its unity and works against the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people. It is no coincidence that Orbán, after the initial flip-flop, was forced to get his act together and stick to European unity, because if he had once again rebelliously stood up for Russian interests (as he has done more than once), he would have betrayed not only Hungary, but the whole of Europe and the EU-Atlantic alliance. This is not a game anymore, not in the least. At the same time, it is useless for the Prime Minister to post likebait posts in support of sanctions against Russia if he apparently no longer dares to use the other means at his disposal. You have to wonder why, though. If he is truly committed to enforcing peace and curbing Russian aggression (although he has never phrased the latter so strongly), he would, for example, immediately review the Paks2 project and suspend the diplomatic immunity of the Russian (spy)bank in Budapest with immediate effect. These would be substantive and significant steps, clear evidence that the Hungarian government is serious when it advocates a united European position.
In recent days, the debate on possible support for the unjustifiably attacked Ukraine has gone astray and has devolved into governmental, lying propaganda. Fidesz has used this situation for its own political ends in the most despicable way possible, and is trying to plant the lie in the minds of the Hungarian public that the opposition would send soldiers and weapons into Ukrainian territory, thus ‘dragging our country’ into war. Fidesz, which has been running its most vile campaign in the last ten years, and has already demonstrated with several examples that it is capable of creating false statements by mutilating the statements of opposition candidates, distorting their meaning and significance. This has happened again: nobody wants war, certainly not with Hungarian participation. The only one who wants war at the moment is Viktor Orbán’s friend and ally, Vladimir Putin, who, let us not forget, has the support of Viktor Orbán’s other friend and ally, Lukashenka of Belarus. The voices of the opposition side have always been clear and direct: as a member of the NATO alliance, we, too, must act along the lines of its decisions and actions. How utterly disgusting, by the way, that it is precisely those politicians and paid whistleblowers who are spreading this lie, who have otherwise been trembling in their efforts to serve Russian propaganda and deny the fact of the expected attack until the last moment. The nobodies who are now posting about ‘staying out of it’ are the same nobodies who used to make wimpy jokes about statements fearing Russian invasion. And yes, it is the same nobodies posting about how this is “a Russian internal affair” and how it is “none of our business”, who take selfies as true Hungarians at the so-called peace rally of Fidesz, but now forget that the Russian tanks are rattling where our Hungarian brothers and sisters who have been torn away actually live. Well, when would we have more to do with this war, if not now, you wretches?! I understand that it must be damn difficult to simultaneously cheer Salvini in a Putin T-shirt and organize a fundraiser to help Hungarians fleeing from Putin. I understand that it must be damn difficult to self-identify – unsolicited and falsely – as the spiritual heirs of the brave heroes of ’56, while watching Putin’s tanks, glorified in accordance with government propaganda, rampaging through the streets of Ukraine. Spine-cracking déjà vu.
Viktor Orbán said at Astoria in 2007 that “the historic challenge for the Western world is the growing forces of the new order in the East, whose breath, presence and radiance we can already feel on our skin (…)” If Ukraine were a member of the EU or NATO, we could do more to counter the belligerent aggression against it. But we must avoid at all costs that this conflict crosses new physical borders. As a member of the European Union and NATO, we must therefore use all the means available to us collectively and individually to force the aggressor to stop the bloodshed and the war. Self-justifying Fidesz advertising posters and Facebook videos will not stop Putin, united and decisive action might. There is less of the latter on the government side so far. In April, we will have to decide what kind of Hungary we want: one that flip-flops its way into the grip of aggressor superpowers, or one that defends the interests of its citizens and the EU as a reliable member of a united, strong and secure European community. Orbanistan or Europe? That will be the question. The events of the last few days have made it even clearer that there is only one sane and wise answer to this.
István Ujhelyi MEP
Member of the European Parliament
27 February, 2022.