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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Fyodor Lukyanov: Why did Viktor Orban apparently defy the EU to visit Moscow?

Hungarian PM clearly decided it was worth offending many of his allies in order to focus minds on possibility of peace

The sudden appearance of Viktor Orban in Moscow this week shows how firmly everyone is entrenched in their positions. Something that is, in principle, normal and natural becomes a sensation, even a scandal. A personal visit by a third party to actors engaged in conflict, to explore all possibilities for resolution, is a practice that guarantees nothing, means nothing special, and is totally normal. However, the moralizing fervor of the liberal international order sees such a tried-and-tested approach as unacceptable. It is not an about solving the problem, it’s about punishing the guilty.

The end result with this week’s shuttle diplomacy became much ado about nothing, as the outcome of the Hungarian prime minister’s trips showed.

Orban decided to use his formal position as head of the EU’s rotating presidency to give his visits a flavor of a peacekeeping mission rather than a personal initiative. There are whispers in Budapest that Orban must have done some groundwork with key EU figures behind the scenes. Yet, it’s is very likely that nothing of the sort happened; he simply made up his own mind and set off. 

It is worth noting that he is not afraid of making arbitrary moves; he does not have a mandate, although it would be better if such things should somehow be agreed within the framework of the EU. But Orban, looking at what is happening in Western Europe (elections to the European Parliament, the circumstances in France and Britain) and in the US (the collapse of Biden’s campaign), apparently believes that he is in no danger. And it could pay off in certain circumstances. As a seasoned political animal, he senses that everything has gone wrong and is trying to use this as an opportunity to strengthen his position, to try something that no one else has been able to do, and to hell with it.

It is probably wrong to reduce everything to selfish considerations – just in case something does emerge. Orban has long and consistently said that Europe is being drawn blindly and thoughtlessly, and without any understanding of the realities, into the vortex of a great war, and that this must be stopped. And his main task is to prevent his country from being dragged into a dangerous crisis. It is rather strange to have to even explain that this is a reasonable position.

As for the results of the negotiations, Orban himself summed them up clearly: after his trips to Kiev and Moscow, it was clear that the positions of the parties are far apart. He could have avoided traveling to find out, but hearing it from the horses’ mouths has its own value.

July 06, 2024 at 03:02AM

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