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US calls NATO meeting in Budapest after Orbán-Putin talks

NATO ambassadors and their Swedish counterpart met on October 19 in Budapest to discuss the Hungarian-Russian relationship amid a meeting between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing.

US Ambassador David Pressman noted the importance of the US NATO allies meeting against the background of concerns about the deepening relations between Russia and Hungary amid the war in Ukraine.

“It is worrisome that Hungary has chosen to engage with Putin in this way. As is the language used by the prime minister to describe Putin’s war in Ukraine. Both of these needed to be discussed. If we have legitimate security concerns, we take these to our allies and we expect them to be taken seriously.”

The Beijing meeting showed that Hungary’s radical right-wing leader continues to ignore the position of NATO and the EU, which may spark a backlash. Hungary is the only country in the bloc that continues to meet with Russian leaders.

This could be the latest warning for Orbán, who has blocked EU support for Ukraine. Pressman reacted to the Hungarian leader’s meeting on X, formerly Twitter:

Hungary’s leader chooses to stand with a man whose forces are responsible for crimes against humanity in Ukraine, and alone among our Allies. While Russia strikes Ukrainian civilians, Hungary pleads for business deals.

German ambassador Julia Gross stated that while Russia was attacking Ukrainian citizens, Hungary pleaded for a deal. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto claimed that the country intended to maintain co-operation with Russia in all areas that could be salvaged from sanctions.

Hungary is one of the EU’s most reliant countries on Russian energy supplies. Despite promises from officials, it has done little to reduce the dependency.

The fact that the Swedish ambassador was also invited to the meeting is meant to show Orbán’s government that NATO considers the country a full member, despite the fact that Hungary has not ratified its accession.

At the same time, a 40-second social media video of the meeting between Orbán and Putin, taken by Russian media, shows the Hungarian leader looking “distracted and upset”. Some critics pointed out that Orbán might have been confronted with some negative news, while others raised questions about Orbán’s physical and mental capacity to continue as prime minister.

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