Budapest has resisted pressure to sanction Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he is “proud” to maintain good relations with Russia, accusing other European nations of pursuing a “war strategy” that will only stoke more conflict.
Speaking to reporters after arriving for an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels on Thursday, Orban explained that his country’s approach differs from the “majority” of the bloc, which has adopted a range of hostile policies targeting Russia since Moscow sent forces into Ukraine in February 2022.
“We keep open all the communication lines to the Russians. Otherwise, there will be no chance for peace. This is a strategy. So we are proud of it,” he said, adding that while most EU members follow “a war strategy,” Hungary has “a peace strategy.”
The PM’s remarks followed a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing last week, which Orban defended while in Brussels. “We are the only one who is speaking on behalf and in favor of the peace which would be the interest of everybody in Europe,” he continued.
The Hungarian leader has faced criticism over the sit-down with Putin, with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel saying it amounted to a “middle finger” to Ukrainians. Estonian premier Kaja Kallas also said she would discuss the issue with Orban.
While Budapest condemned the Russian military operation in Ukraine soon after it was launched last year, Orban has refused to take part in the US-led sanctions campaign against Moscow, and refused to provide arms to Kiev. The PM previously argued that Western sanctions had “backfired,” saying that Brussels had “shot itself in the foot” following a spike in energy prices across Europe.
Orban has been highly critical of the EU in the past. Speaking to mark the anniversary of Hungary’s failed 1956 uprising against the Soviet Union earlier this week, Orban slammed the bloc as a “bad contemporary parody” of the USSR, saying it has worked to impose a model of liberal democracy that the Hungarian people have rejected.
“We had to dance to the tune that Moscow whistled,” Orban said of Hungary’s decades under Soviet control. “Brussels whistles too, but we dance as we want to, and if we don’t want to, then we don’t dance.”