The NATO Summit, which Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also attended, approved the deployment of new NATO forces in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia. Previously, the Baltic States and Poland had such corps, so now there will be eight in total from the Baltic to the Black Seas.
Today, before the decision was made, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said:
“If there is a proposal on this, we will of course be ready to discuss it in detail. One of the duties of Hungary, of the Hungarian government, is to protect Hungary and the security of the Hungarian people. We are currently able to do this with the Hungarian Defense Forces.
The Hungarian Defense Forces have significant forces massed on the eastern border of the country, and they are capable of protecting Hungary.”
“This is the position we will take. If there are proposals to strengthen the eastern and south-eastern wings, we are ready to discuss them.”
Previously, Szijjártó expressed several times that he thinks additional NATO military groups are not needed in the country as the Hungarian Defense Forces are enough protection.
Now it seems that the NATO partners have convinced the Orbán government of the need for extra NATO troops in Hungary.
The strengthening is happening as the NATO Summit approved the deployment of new NATO forces in Hungary, as well as in Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia.
In a March 7 government decree, the Hungarian government already allowed
NATO to pass through Hungary by land and air because of the war in Ukraine. According to the document, the cabinet also authorized the deployment of NATO response forces in Hungary, including the Trans-Danubian region (Baranya County, Fejér County, Komárom-Esztergom County, Győr-Moson-Sopron County, Somogy County, Tolna County, Vas County, Veszprém County, Zala County, the area of Pest County bordering the Danube Line, and Fejér County). However, the transport of military personnel and forces directly to Ukraine across the Hungarian border was and as of now is still prohibited.
Before the meeting, a video message was shown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking NATO for one percent of its planes and tanks to defend against Russian aggression. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that they are trying to give Ukraine all possible assistance and are supplying equipment for its defense, but that they cannot risk the war spreading.
NATO is also providing cyber defense support to Ukraine and helping to build defenses against nuclear and biological threats. Stoltenberg said it would “completely change the nature of the conflict” if the Russians used chemical weapons. He is concerned that the Russians have repeatedly made this baseless accusation against Ukraine and NATO, which could be used as a pretext for their own attack. Stoltenberg also called on China not to provide economic or military support to Russia, but to use its influence to promote peace.
NATO’s statement is
In response to Russia’s actions, we have activated NATO’s defense plans, deployed elements of the NATO Response Force, and placed 40,000 troops on our eastern flank, along with significant air and naval assets, under direct NATO command supported by Allies’ national deployments. We are also establishing four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. We are taking all measures and decisions to ensure the security and defense of all Allies across all domains and with a 360-degree approach. Our measures remain preventive, proportionate, and non-escalatory. We will now accelerate NATO’s transformation for a more dangerous strategic reality, including through the adoption of the next Strategic Concept in Madrid. In light of the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades, we will also significantly strengthen our longer term deterrence and defense posture and will further develop the full range of ready forces and capabilities necessary to maintain credible deterrence and defense. These steps will be supported by enhanced exercises with an increased focus on collective defense and interoperability.
Featured image: A tank in a US military convoy participating in the Brave Warrior 2015 multi-national exercise on the M15 motorway near Hegyeshalom on September 16, 2015. Photo by Csaba Krizsán/MTI