We Need Peace! But What Kind?

A year ago, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, 365 days of guns blazing, tanks rumbling, innocent lives perishing, and harmless families turning into fractured communities. There is no excuse or justification for Putin’s bloody aggression. There is no extenuating circumstance.

By crossing the Ukrainian border a year ago – once again, this time declaring all-out war – the Russian President attacked not only the neighboring nation-state but everyone who believes in democracy, the rule of law, national sovereignty and solidarity between nations. Putin’s aggression is clearly and unequivocally a crime against humanity that must not go without consequences. At least if we all still believe in humaneness, democracy and the rule of law.

„(…) If Europe allows sovereign states in its neighborhood to fall victim to unconcealed imperial despotism, it is also endangering its own security. Only united can the European Union take effective action against Russia openly proclaiming its expansionist ambitions once again, and only united can it strengthen its international role in a multipolar world, thus guaranteeing the security of its citizens (…) Membership in the Union is both a protection and an opportunity for us. It is outward protection against the adverse consequences of globalization in an increasingly high-risk international environment, and it can also be seen as a crisis management mechanism in times of international conflict and crises (including economic and financial crises, foreign and security policy threats, and global problems ranging from climate change and demographical situations to energy security).

These problems can only be tackled by the Member States acting together; individually they are vulnerable (…) Russia, as the main energy supplier, successfully divides the European countries; the majority of decisions are still taken by the Member States individually, overshadowing the need for united Community action” – these strong, firm and true sentences – in different chapters, but all of them – are included in Fidesz’s last written election programme, its collection of commitments for the 2009 European elections.

This Fidesz still offered civil democracy, and pro-European, conservative right-wing governance, in contrast to today’s Fidesz, which has slowly become a pawn and a servant to the oligarchic Russian regime, an avowed and extremist enemy of the European Union, and which not only tolerates but explicitly supports in its ranks voices that openly ‘root for’ the Russian aggressor in a war that has claimed thousands of innocent lives, including Hungarian victims.

The current Fidesz, the openly pro-Russian Fidesz, is calling for peace as soon as possible in words, but for the time being, words have not been followed by credible action. When Viktor Orbán – just a few days before the invasion began – crouched at the long table with Putin in Moscow, official reports say that he was on a kind of ‘peace mission’ to visit the Russian leader, but those in the know now take it for granted that the Hungarian prime minister was in fact informed of the imminent arrival of the murderous Russian troops, rather than being on a mission.

Experts believe that Putin may have involved his EU ally in his blitzkrieg plan – which later failed in this form – precisely so that Orbán could prepare for the situation and use it to his own advantage in the upcoming Hungarian elections. No, the victory of the governing party in last year’s parliamentary elections was not, of course, solely due to the vile and deceitful warmongering campaign, but it had a substantial contribution to the achievement of another two-thirds majority, and it is no accident that this nasty tool was used – there is no denying that.

After a year of war and incalculable human and immeasurable economic damage, it is a disgrace to the world that Viktor Orbán and his government, in this escalating situation, are spectacularly playing to Russian interests on the chessboard, breaking the unity and strength of the European Union. Of course, political opportunism is not necessarily all evil, and sometimes it is even beneficial, and the head of the Fidesz government is very good at it.

However, there are historical situations in which one cannot be a maverick, and cannot take advantage of the situation with „smart” solutions. There are historical moments when only morality and decency should guide our decisions. Just as we do not punish and blame the victim for being raped. Just as we do not turn our heads away when our innocent compatriots are herded into wagons. Just as we do not take off the watch of the dead’s wrist, we do not do business with mass murderers. And especially not by allowing ourselves to be cheated out of the deal.

Indeed, it is true that Ukraine is not and has not been ready to become a member of the European Union and we cannot turn a blind eye to the measures taken against minorities, corruption or other – although constantly improved during the war, but still undoubtedly present – deficiencies in the rule of law in a future accession process much hoped for. But when an innocent man is being savagely beaten in the street, we do not report him for disturbing the peace because he is shouting too loudly in pain. There is time for accountability. There will be a time for accountability. In time of peace. When the imperial aggressor is no longer ravaging our neighborhood.

The most repulsive thing about Fidesz’s attitude is once again its immense hypocrisy. Like when it calls something „national”, but does not want to refer to the greatness and prosperity of the nation as a whole, but simply labels what belongs to it. „I own this,” my little libs. The vocal desire for peace and pacifism of Fidesz is also nauseating because, in the meantime, the leaders and representatives of the governing party are serving the war interests of the Russian aggressor. Just to use an example close to me: in almost every recent case in which it was possible and necessary to take a stand against Russian aggression in the European Parliament, the Fidesz MEPs abstained or went to the toilet during the vote.

Fidesz proclaims peace, but at the same time tolerates and even supports, and in some cases even finances, the institutions of the Putin regime that have been planted in our country. Fidesz, which proclaims peace and wants to stay spectacularly out of the war, is in fact financing Putin’s aggression by buying natural gas from the Russians, for example, at a much higher price than the market price, at a surcharge that is profitable for who knows who and how. Fidesz disingenuously boasts about the large quantities of humanitarian aid it is providing for the Ukrainians’ war in defense of their homeland, but in the meantime it turns out that a large proportion of the medical supplies being delivered from our country are actually being donated by the European Union, only being transferred from EU warehouses in our country with funding from the European Community.

Fidesz says it wants peace as soon as possible. On this we agree. All normal people agree on that. The only thing that the government party leaders have yet to answer is what kind of peace they want and at what price. There is a saying: if the Russians lay down their arms, the war is over; if the Ukrainians lay down their arms, Ukraine is finished. If we agree with this (and it is difficult to refute the truth of the statement), the only question is what the powerful leaders of the pro-peace Fidesz will do to make the Russians lay down their arms. Because they were the ones who took them up, so they must lay them down.

Fidesz says that the government is working for early peace by all means. I suppose this also means that the current Hungarian Government, precisely through its well-established and active contacts, is keeping the Russian leadership under constant pressure and persuading the decision-makers in Moscow, who are called friends, every day to stop the madness and retreat to their own land. But, surely, no one really thinks this is happening.

It is a disgrace that, while the genuinely pro-peace countries are united in making every possible effort – making good and bad decisions, but at least genuinely working to make the Russian aggressor withdraw – Fidesz, which a few years ago was calling for united European action against Russian expansionism, today stands for one thing only: immunity for Putin’s oligarchs and cronies. It is really quite astonishing. Or rather, blood-curdling.

A year ago, the Russian invasion of our neighbor began. The history of Hungarians is full of wonderful heroic deeds, superhuman achievements and role models who strengthen our proud patriotism. Those who know our common nation’s past well also know that our leaders have always had a special ability to get on the wrong side of history. In fact, all our wounds and national traumas that still hurt us today stem from the fact that our leaders misjudged the situation or were simply pitiable people who turned their heads away from the call of decency.

This is happening now, too. Viktor Orbán and Fidesz are on the dark side of history and, tragically, they are dragging us all down with them. Even if they believe in what they are doing, they have lost their sanity for good. If they throw away what remains of the integrity of our common country for a few glass beads (because theirs have apparently long run out), they will surely be remembered in the history books as scoundrels.

„If Europe allows sovereign states in its neighborhood to fall victim to unconcealed imperial despotism, it will also endanger its own security”, warns Fidesz in its last written election manifesto, as quoted above. The good news is that Europe will not allow imperial despotism to run riot. And the bad news is that Orbán is currently dragging us out of this Europe.

Let there be peace soon! Let there be a peace for which we do not have to pay a new price time and again.

MEP István Ujhelyi


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