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Orban sulks over Sweden’s entry into NATO. Budapest’s policy is extremely contrary to Poland’s interests – commentary by Jacek Stawiski

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It would seem that this matter concerns only Turkey and Sweden, maybe also America. Blocking Sweden’s membership in NATO for months, previously also blocking Finland’s accession, poisons relations within the Alliance and gives satisfaction to Putin and Russia. We must not forget how Hungary, governed by the “right wing”, behaves in this matter. Commentary by Jacek Stawiski.

Viktor Orbán, perceived for years by the Polish “right wing” as a real signpost on how to transform the state and its system, stands almost completely against the security policy that favors Polish interests. The enlargement of NATO with Sweden and Finland is one of the best news we have received since the beginning of 2022. But the attitude of Hungary, which is reluctant to ratify the enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance, and previously sabotaged Western support for Ukraine, is a real failure of the policy of European alliances that the ruling Polish “right” has been creating since 2015.

Hungary has been a model for the Polish “right” for about a decade. Viktor Orban was seen as the new leader of the anti-establishment revolt, which dared to throw off the “yoke” of the domination of the European Union and those devilish Brussels-Franco-German elites that hold Poland in their grip and block the construction of a new state system based on the national-Catholic ethos. In the opinion of the Polish “right-wing” political elites and today’s powerful “right-wing” media elites, Orban was a living proof that the existing formula of the European Union’s functioning was reaching its end. Orban’s revolution in the EU was bet on, the permanent effect of which was to be the “re-nationalization” of European policy, the weakening of political ties between states and limiting integration to the dimension of a common European market at most.

Viktor OrbánPAP/EPA/VIVIEN CHER BENKO

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Viktor Orban was cherished not so much as a visionary, but as an effective implementer of his concepts. He was invited to Poland for ceremonial and private meetings with the leaders of the Polish “right wing”, applauded at congresses as the author of the European revolution and a reliable ally of Poland ruled by the “right wing”. At one point, he seemed to be the only ally of the Law and Justice government in Europe.

Orban was delighted not only by European far-right parties, such as the French National Front or the Austrian Freedom Party. Orban was praised, among others, in the Bavarian Christian Social Union as a tough politician defending the EU’s borders against waves of immigrants from countries outside the Western cultural circle. He was admired by a large part of the American Republican Party, especially politicians gathered around the new leader of the American right Donald Trump.

The basic concept in European politics, which was presented by the Polish “right” after taking power in 2015, was the creation, with the support of Washington and Donald Trump personally, the so-called The Three Seas Initiative, i.e. a group of EU countries which, ideally, were to oppose the domination of Germany and France and obedient Brussels. In this way, a new center for creating European policy was to be created. The driving force of the new Three Seas Alliance was to be the Warsaw-Budapest axis. The latter still remained the systemic model according to which it was planned to transform the system of the Polish state.

However, cracks appeared in this idealistic image. Viktor Orban, the creator of the national-conservative rebellion in the EU, turned out to be a great admirer of another rebel with a nationalist-conservative profile – Vladimir Putin. Despite the Russian aggression against Ukraine in the Crimea and Donbas, the “right wing” in Poland has not abandoned its fascination with the key Hungarian partner. Crowds of PiS supporters made pilgrimages to Hungary, and in some cities benches of Polish-Hungarian friendship were erected. This political pilgrimage ended only at the moment of Russian aggression against Ukraine, when Viktor Orban began to publicly declare his understanding for the Kremlin and torpedo the joint anti-Putin front of NATO and the EU.

The Polish “right” hoped that the Three Seas project it will change the balance of power in the EU, weaken Germany’s influence and allegedly increase the role of Poland. America was expected to play a great role in the construction of the Three Seas Initiative. In this sense, the project was certainly an Atlantic project, but here too Warsaw did not receive support from Hungary. Budapest’s policy, despite Orban’s close relations with Trump, has long been against increasing the US’s share in Central Europe. Moreover, the Hungarians did not join any initiative to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank as a response to Russia’s neo-imperial policy. The key ally of the Three Seas Initiative turned out to be deaf to the American dimension of this project.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban poses with Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki Twitter/PM_ViktorOrban

Orban’s transformation from a politician of anti-communist origin, strongly supporting Hungary’s strong roots in Western European and Atlantic alliances, into a cynical representative of Russia’s point of view, is one of the greatest mysteries I have observed in Europe in recent years.

Years ago, Orban announced the end of Western-model democracy and a new fascination with authoritarian regimes along the lines of Russia and China. He did so, at the same time creating himself a defender of Christian culture, which was allegedly threatened more by the secular and liberal traditions of the contemporary West. Similar tones were also struck by Vladimir Putin, who for some time effectively promoted the image of Russia, which he ruled, as a new conservative-Christian power, ready to take over the leadership in Europe after the collapse of the Western cultural and social model, announced every now and then.

It is worth asking the Polish “right wing” how it happened that similar content about the fall or twilight of European civilization, symbolized by the contemporary European Union, allegedly managed by Berlin and Paris, was so eagerly proclaimed in Poland. At least they were in line with Putin’s propaganda. Poland also did not consider that Orban’s Hungary was and has been for a long time a transmission belt of this propaganda in Europe and America.

Orban and his “right-wing” admirers defend that not only Hungary, but countries such as Germany and France have been seduced by Putin’s Russia. This is true, but both of these countries quite quickly revised their Russian policy. Today, Germany and France are in the vanguard of economic, military, intelligence, diplomatic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The revision of the policy of Paris and Berlin seems to be serious and real. This is not the case in Budapest.

And here we come to the case of Sweden.

The admission of this country to the Atlantic Alliance will be one of the greatest successes of the West in the competition with Putin’s Russia. The Baltic Sea, which is of paramount importance for Poland’s security, will become the internal basin of the Alliance. Moscow will lose its influence there, outside the Königsberg enclave. The NATO character of the Baltic Sea strengthens all Polish political and geopolitical concepts formulated after 1989, and not only the concept of the Three Seas Initiative, about the need to strengthen the Baltic and Nordic dimensions of Poland’s security. The entry of traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland into the Alliance increases the dimension of the American presence in Europe, which is fundamentally in line with Polish national interests. Sweden and Finland in the Atlantic Alliance is a great strengthening of the security of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Finally, this is a strong signal for Moscow that it does not and will not have any veto power in deciding who chooses its alliances and on what basis, even if it is a neighbor of Russia. Today Sweden and Finland, tomorrow Ukraine in NATO. This is the motto of all serious political forces in Poland.

But Hungary thinks otherwise. And they still haven’t ratified Sweden’s entry into NATO. They are supposedly waiting for Turkey. Orban’s stance looks like showing Putin that he is doing his best to delay NATO enlargement to include new Scandinavian countries.

It is a pity that the Polish authorities are silent. The strategic, fraternal, ideological and practical alliance of “right-wing” governments and media circles in Warsaw and Budapest, referred to until recently, has not turned out to be immune to a scenario in which Orban’s Hungary will act against the interests of the West. The Polish authorities, so closely associated with the Orban government and imitating its slogans about the need for a national-religious rebellion in the European Union, should speak out and demand that the Hungarian “nephews” behave properly. At least in this one important case.

Jacek StawiskiTVN24

author of programs “Horizon” and “The Summit Conversations” on TVN24 BiS and TVN24 GO.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/VIVIEN CHER BENKO



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