GOP senator blocks arms sale to Hungary over stalling Sweden's NATO accession

June 14. 2023. – 01:45 PM



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Senator James E. Risch, the Republican leader of the Foreign Relations Committee, has halted a $735 million arms sale to Hungary. Risch was clear about the decision to the Washington Post: Hungary must let Sweden into NATO if it wants to receive the arms package, which includes 24 HIMARS missile launchers and more than 100 missiles with associated parts and support.

The decision to halt arms sales is a good illustration of the growing resentment of NATO supporters like Risch towards Hungary – something America only does very rarely, in exceptional circumstances. "I have for some time directly expressed my concerns to the Hungarian government about the lack of progress in the vote on Sweden's accession to NATO," Risch said.

"It is now June and it still hasn't happened, so I have decided to suspend the sale of new US military equipment to Hungary," he added.

All major arms sales require approval from the Senate and House foreign affairs committees before the sale is publicly announced by the State Department. Risch's objection prevents the State Department from moving forward with the sale process.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the matter, and a spokesman for the Hungarian government didn't respond to requests for comment.

Later on Wednesday, the Hungarian Ministry of Defence sent a statement to Index in response to the news, stating that it has no intentions to purchase HIMARS missile systems.

The defence ministry says the Hungarian government had requested information about the missile system last year, but since it did not receive a reply from the Americans, it considered the matter closed.

"In the previous administration, the government's procurement commissioner sent a letter requesting information on the HIMARS missile systems with a March 2022 deadline. No reply was received from the US side, so the ministry considered the matter closed.

The MoD has no intention of purchasing HIMARS missile systems".

Sweden's and Finland's applications for NATO membership were widely seen as a serious problem for Russian President Vladimir Putin. US officials say Putin did not expect the West to unite in support of Ukraine as it has, but their concerns are increased by the decision of Hungary and Turkey to delay the ratification of Sweden's application.

David Pressman, US Ambassador to Hungary, said, "The United States continues to work tirelessly for closer cooperation with our ally, but we have concerns about the strategic decisions Hungary is making – and these concerns are widely shared."

Radio Free Europe recently reported that Hungary may allow the Swedish NATO accession to pass by July. The proposal to ratify the latest enlargement of the North Atlantic Alliance was submitted to the Hungarian Parliament last July. Finland's accession was voted through by the Hungarian parliament after a long delay as well – the governing faction announced its support two days after Turkey did – but the vote on Sweden's has been delayed ever since. The proposal has been on the table for a remarkably long time.

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