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Thread: Viktor Orban Steers Hungary Toward Russia 25 Years After Fall of the Berlin Wall

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    Default Viktor Orban Steers Hungary Toward Russia 25 Years After Fall of the Berlin Wall


    Viktor Orban Steers Hungary Toward Russia 25 Years After Fall of the Berlin Wall

    November 7, 2014

    A quarter-century ago, as Hungary helped ignite the events that would lead to the collapse of communism, the ferment produced a new political star.

    Viktor Orban was 26 then and a longhaired law graduate. In June 1989, five months before the Berlin Wall came down, he lit up a commemoration of the failed 1956 revolt against Moscow with a bold call for free elections and a demand that 80,000 Soviet troops go home.

    Now, as the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is commemorated Sunday, Hungary is a member of NATO and the European Union and Mr. Orban is in his third term as prime minister. But what was once a journey that might have embodied the triumph of democratic capitalism has evolved into a much more complex tale of a country and a leader who in the time since have come to question Western values, foment nationalism and look more openly at Russia as a model.

    After leading his right-wing party to a series of national and local election victories, Mr. Orban is rapidly centralizing power, raising a crop of crony oligarchs, cracking down on dissent, expanding ties with Moscow and generally drawing uneasy comparisons from Western leaders and internal opponents to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

    “He is the only Putinist governing in the European Union,” said Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister.

    Some other Eastern European countries, especially Poland, have remained oriented toward the West and still harbor deep suspicions of Russia long after the Cold War ended.

    But Hungary is one of several countries in the former Soviet sphere that are now torn between the Western ways that appeared ascendant immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union and the resilient clout of today’s Russia. Money, culture and energy resources still bind most regional countries to Russia as tightly as to Europe. Mr. Putin’s combative nationalism is more popular here than what many see as Western democratic sclerosis.

    Mr. Orban has laid out a philosophical vision and justification for his authoritarian-leaning approach that suggests a long-term commitment to turning Hungary into something quite different from what the West anticipated when the Iron Curtain collapsed and the Berlin Wall came down.

    In a speech this summer, Mr. Orban declared liberal democracy to be in decline and praised authoritarian “illiberal democracies” in Turkey, China, Singapore and Russia.

    He traced his views to what he portrayed as the failures of Western governments to anticipate and deal adequately with the financial crisis that started in 2008 and the ensuing deep recession. He called that period the fourth great shock of the past century — the others being World War I, World War II and the end of the Cold War — and the impetus for what he called today’s key struggle: “a race to invent a state that is most capable of making a nation successful.”

    Western democracies “will probably be incapable of maintaining their global competitiveness in the upcoming decades and will instead be scaled down unless they are capable of changing themselves significantly,” Mr. Orban said in the speech, according to an English translation on the government’s website.

    Hungary, he said, will be “breaking with the dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West” and will instead build a “new Hungarian state” that will be “competitive in the great global race for decades to come.”

    Achieving that vision will require tougher stances toward outside forces, including nongovernmental organizations, the European Union and foreign lenders and investors, he said.

    As recently as 2008, Mr. Orban was a fierce critic of Mr. Putin. But the tone has changed, and the two have grown friendly, with Russia investing heavily in Hungary.

    “Orban is a populist who acts, doesn’t just talk,” said Peter Kreko, director of the Political Capital Institute in Budapest, an independent research organization. As a result, he added, Hungary “can serve as a role model in Eastern Europe,” enticing countries like Romania and Bulgaria to follow an authoritarian path.

    The only difference between Mr. Orban and authoritarians in other countries, Mr. Kreko said, is that “when they turn to the West, they try to smile, and Orban doesn’t even try.”

    The grand center of Budapest, with its floodlit palaces flickering in the Danube, its sophisticated cafes, crowded theaters and the tourist-choked streets, betrays little sense of authoritarian unease. Yet behind the designer boutiques, young and struggling artists worry about when their state financing might be cut off if they fail to hit the proper note, and government watchdog groups suffer attacks in the state-controlled media while waiting anxiously for the arrival of investigators.

    In the west of Hungary, German auto plants and other foreign investments create the semblance of a Western European lifestyle. But the feeling is quite different in the rural east, where destitute families, many of them Roma, either toil in one of Mr. Orban’s public works projects or languish in hopes the economy will improve.

    Even the iconography of Budapest has taken on Mr. Orban’s stamp, exemplified by a much-derided statue unveiled last summer near Parliament showing a German eagle attacking an angel, meant to represent the Hungarian people — widely seen as an attempt by Hungarian nationalists to whitewash the country’s alliance with the Nazis during World War II.

    Mr. Orban’s subordinates in the ruling party, Fidesz, which he firmly controls, say that he is unchanged from the anti-communist rabble-rouser of the past and that charges of incipient dictatorship are left-wing fantasies.

    “He is the same guy he used to be 25 years ago,” said Zoltan Kovacs, the prime minister’s international spokesman. “He wants to get rid of the attitudes, the remnants of the former system — get rid of the attitude that people live on social aid rather than work.”

    Even his harshest critics concede that Mr. Orban has gone to nowhere near the lengths of Mr. Putin in silencing opponents. No one has been tossed in prison for criticizing the government. There has been no overt censorship. Recent mass protests against a proposed Internet tax were allowed to proceed and ended up forcing a retreat by Mr. Orban.

    Nonetheless, foreign criticism is mounting. When President Obama recently listed states that are silencing civil society groups, Hungary was the only European country named. Washington has barred six unidentified public officials, deeming them too corrupt to enter the United States.

    After the first free elections in 1990, Mr. Orban was one of several figures who had helped topple communism to jostle for power and influence. Most Hungarians, like others in Central and Eastern Europe, had unrealistic expectations of a quick, good life under democracy and capitalism.

    They embraced NATO membership, which in 1999 came with the immediate duty to oppose Russia and fight in the war over Kosovo. They chafed at long negotiations, but like seven other former Soviet bloc nations welcomed European Union membership in 2004.

    Hungarians perhaps felt the hardship of transition more bitterly than most because they had lived better than many others in the Soviet bloc under communism.

    Hungary had “goulash communism,” said Balint Ablonczy, domestic political editor of the pro-government journal Heti Valasz. Liberal democracy brought freedom of speech, but also the loss of jobs and of a sense of security, he said.

    In 1998, voters threw out the Socialist government and handed power to Mr. Orban and his party.

    But as prime minister in that first term, “he overdid the nationalist ideology,” said Julia Lakatos, an analyst at the Center for Fair Political Analysis, a research group in Budapest. In 2002, the Socialists won back power.

    In 2010, though, voters turned back to Mr. Orban, who appeared to have learned from his previous mistakes.

    Critics contend that the government uses its purse strings to control the arts and make the news media compliant. Dissent is attacked in the official press and sometimes investigated by the government.

    Even some conservative supporters are slightly wary of the extent to which Mr. Orban has systematically assembled power: packing courts and the chief prosecutor’s office with loyalists, altering the Constitution and laws so his party dominates.

    “He ran as someone who would bring the two sides together in Hungarian politics, but when he got in he said, no, it is the time of the right, the time for revenge on the left,” said Mr. Ablonczy, the editor. “For him, politics is fighting. I am a man of the right, but my deepest disappointment with this government is this logic of always fighting.”

    Fidesz won a second consecutive four-year term in April, its coalition again eking out a two-thirds majority in Parliament that essentially allows it to pass whatever laws it pleases. The party also won the European Parliament elections in May and local elections Oct. 12, a rare triple in fractious Europe these days.

    Signs abound of the distance Hungary has traveled since communism’s fall.

    Laszlo Magas helped organize a Pan-European picnic in Sopron on the Austrian border that, in 1989, provided a first death knell for the Berlin Wall. Hundreds of East Germans used the occasion to pour across the once-sealed frontier.

    Now a Fidesz member of the Sopron City Council, Mr. Magas refused to discuss politics at all, he says, because foreigners do not understand the country. Western news media, he says, seek out only opponents of Mr. Orban, who are a tiny minority in today’s Hungary.

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    Default Re: Viktor Orban Steers Hungary Toward Russia 25 Years After Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Read this admittedly long article;

    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/09/28/a...ade_in_russia/

    And you'll see that Hungary is one of those countries that has a serious KGB infiltration problem.
    "God's an old hand at miracles, he brings us from nonexistence to life. And surely he will resurrect all human flesh on the last day in the twinkling of an eye. But who can comprehend this? For God is this: he creates the new and renews the old. Glory be to him in all things!" Archpriest Avvakum

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    Default Re: Viktor Orban Steers Hungary Toward Russia 25 Years After Fall of the Berlin Wall


    Russia's Relations With Hungary Warm As Ties With West Chill

    November 19, 2014

    President Vladimir Putin hailed Hungary as one of Russia's most important partners on Wednesday, giving his seal of approval to a budding relationship with a Soviet-era ally that is worrying some of its European Union allies.

    While the Ukraine crisis is straining ties between many EU capitals and Moscow, Hungary - which relies heavily on Russia for natural gas supplies - is enjoying a rapprochement with the Kremlin.

    "We share the attitude of the Hungarian leadership aimed at growing constructive dialogue, jointly carrying out planned very large investment projects," Putin told a Kremlin ceremony at which Hungary's new ambassador presented his credentials.

    He said Russia considered Budapest "one of the most important political, trade and economic partners".

    A senior Hungarian official told Reuters on Wednesday that the country aimed to start building its stretch of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline next year.

    By contrast Brussels and Washington, which have slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and businesses over Ukraine, say the pipeline will entrench the Kremlin's energy stranglehold on eastern Europe. They worry Budapest's support for the project is a sign Hungary is drifting into Russia's orbit.

    Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto also struck an upbeat tone after talks on Wednesday in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, calling for a restoration of "pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation between Europe and Russia".

    Szijjarto pointedly said the South Stream pipeline would contribute to energy security in central and eastern Europe.

    PRAISE FROM MOSCOW

    The West imposed the sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea in March and tightened them over its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Budapest has said it will stand by the sanctions and stick up for Ukraine's sovereignty.

    However, it has also stopped shipping gas to Ukraine that was helping Kiev to evade a Russian blockade, and has signed a 10 billion euro ($12.5 billion) deal for a Russian-designed nuclear power plant.

    Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he is not returning Hungary to the orbit of Moscow, which exerted considerable power when the country was part of the Soviet bloc. Instead, Orban says he is being pragmatic, as Russia is Hungary's main trade partner outside the 28-nation EU. Polls show a majority of Hungarians back his policies.

    "Our common task is to prevent a split of Europe and prevent a situation in which we have rivals, not allies, in Europe," Szijjarto said.

    Lavrov said it was reasonable for any country to follow "its national interests first and foremost", praising Hungary for not promoting "Russophobe" policies in the EU and NATO.

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