Orbán on the war in Ukraine: this is a military operation, it will be a war when Russia declares it

December 21. 2023. – 03:30 PM


Orbán on the war in Ukraine: this is a military operation, it will be a war when Russia declares it


Copied to clipboard

The Hungarian government's last press briefing of the year was held on Thursday, with a special guest, the Prime Minister in attendance. Viktor Orbán traditionally appears before representatives of the domestic and foreign press on this one occasion each year to answer questions for approximately two hours. Otherwise, however, he avoids the independent press altogether, and has not given an interview to such an outlet for thirteen years, claiming that an interview is not a bullfight and that there are other ways of reaching the electorate.

Right before the briefing started, Orbán shared a post on his social media page with the message: “Let the questions pour in!”

One of the first questions was from Hungarian public television M1, about the EU’s Pact on Migration and Asylum, adopted on Wednesday. The Prime Minister said it wasn't a good thing and added that "things were not looking good". Orbán said that even the starting point of the package was flawed: "We spent long hours and I tried to explain this to them" he added, explaining that he believed there was only one way to stop migration: those who want to enter the EU should wait outside the EU until a decision is made.

“...to open the eyes of Brussels”

Speaking about the EP elections, which will be a central theme in 2024, the Hungarian Prime Minister said, "Brussels bureaucrats live in a bubble, that's why Brussels is blind, they aren’t able to see real life: the purpose of the '24 elections is to open Brussels' eyes".

On the Article 7 procedure

What a haystack you’ve put together for me here", Orbán said in response to questions from the Financial Times, some of which were about the Article 7 procedure. According to the Prime Minister, this procedure is not a threat to Hungary but it is simply a process the country is undergoing, and besides, they have just received confirmation that the functioning of the country’s judicial system is considered adequate. He then said that the EU expressing that they have a problem with Hungarians by punishing Hungarian children is far removed from the Hungarian attitude, and he considers it despicable. He added that Hungary considers the EU budget good as it is and that the Hungarians' money is part of that budget, which is why they always say "We are entitled to it".

The EU is blackmailing Hungary

Commenting on the funds still being witheld from Hungary over rule of law concerns, the Prime Minister said that the European Commission was in fact blackmailing Hungary over these funds.

Orbán said the blackmail is “a fact,” that even members of the European Parliament themselves admit to.

“In our view, Hungary fulfils all the qualities of the rule of law, and when the European Commission expresses specific needs, we implement them, and we are cooperative".

“In the end, the Russians will make a deal with the Americans over Europe's head”

The BBC asked Orbán about Putin and the Russian President's desire to see a demilitarized, neutral Ukraine. What are the things about which you agree with Putin and what are the things you disagree about? – the Prime Minister was asked.

Orbán said the question is two steps ahead of where he is standing. He does not want to talk about the kind of peace agreement needed after the war – he assumed that was what the BBC was referring to. The right order, in his view, is to have a ceasefire first and allow time for discussing what the peace talks would be like and what their main framework would be. "Hungary will only go so far as to say that there should be a ceasefire as soon as possible," he said.

If the Europeans don't start negotiations, "in the end the Russians will make a deal with the Americans over Europe's head".

The Prime Minister added that this danger had been avoided at the time of the Crimea crisis, "which was a great feat", and is known today as the Minsk agreement.

According to the BBC journalist, Orbán did not answer the question: what is his vision for the future: having a neutral zone on the eastern border of Hungary or having an allied NATO member? Orbán replied that "Hungary has no vision for any country other than itself".

Ukraine's NATO membership would mean we would have to send them soldiers the next day

Orbán said that he considers the sovereignty of each country, including Ukraine, important in relation to EU and NATO matters, but he does not want Hungary to be dragged into the war. He said it is not in Hungary’s interest to be in alliance with a country that is engaged in open military aggression with another country.

"If Ukraine were to join NATO, it would mean that we would be obliged to send in troops the next morning. And that is something we do not want," he said.

On the war between Russia and Ukraine: this is a military operation, it will be a war when there is a declaration of war

Orbán was also asked if he had told Putin during their meeting in Beijing to stop this "military operation"? He said that he had asked whether Putin was ready for ceasefire talks. He doesn’t have the habit of using such strong language as the journalist who asked the question, he said, especially not with Putin.

Why did he call the war between Russia and Ukraine a military operation instead of a war in Beijing? – was the next question, to which he replied: because

it is a military operation, since there was no declaration of war, there was no full conscription. Once that happens, there will be a war. "Let us be happy as long as there is no war," he added.

Telex asked Orbán if he "really meant what he said, that this (what’s going on in Ukraine-ED) is not a war?" Orbán said he meant what he said when he spoke about Russia not considering what it was doing as war. According to the law there, if there is a war then there is full mobilization, "so we should be glad that it hasn't happened yet". The Prime Minister said that him calling the war a military operation while sitting next to Putin in Beijing wasn’t about conforming to him. "I will be happy to use the word war the next time I meet him, if that’s what he would like".

The Hungarian Prime Minister explained that he is able to avoid any meeting he wants to, but in this case both sides had expressed their intent to meet in Beijing. Incidentally, the meeting was initiated by the Russian side. "I don't act under compulsion", and I don't conform to anyone, Orbán added.

A few minutes later, although he had previously called the war between Russia and Ukraine a military operation, while answering the last question of the day, the Prime Minister said: "Ukraine is at war. One may call it a military operation, but the reality is that it’s a bloody war. And during a bloody war you cannot live as you do in normal times".

For more quick, accurate and impartial news from and about Hungary, subscribe to the Telex English newsletter!