The security situation in NATO’s eastern border region is deteriorating as Russia exerts pressure on Ukraine and continues to back separatist forces, Hungary’s army chief said after a two-day meeting of NATO army chiefs in Brussels. Military action has intensified in the region around the Ukraine conflict zone, Tibor Benkő told MTI. Russia, meanwhile, is ramping up its military capabilities, he said.The meeting of army chiefs scheduled with their Ukrainian counterpart for Thursday had been cancelled, he noted, adding however that Hungary regards continued support for Ukraine important. He noted that Hungary has so far provided rehabilitation treatment for 20 wounded Ukrainian soldiers as well as NATO standard language training for another 20 soldiers. A decision has also be made on assigning a Hungarian officer to serve in the NATO Liaison Office in Kiev.
On NATO’s southern wing, in North Africa and the Middle East, “conditions have created the possibility for extremist organisations to carry out their activities and spread their ideology,” Benkő said. “Fighters returning home after gaining military experience in terrorist groups … could influence the security situation in the regions in question over the long term.” On the first day of the meeting, the army chiefs reviewed tasks related to the implementation of NATO’s Readiness Action Plan, Benkő said, adding that he had reaffirmed Hungary’s commitment to contribute. He noted the planned upgrade of the military airbase at Pápa which could serve as part of the strategic infrastructure required for the deployment of NATO forces. He also announced Hungary’s offer of a training field at Várpalota for NATO exercises. Hungarian troops will actively participate in NATO’s primary exercises this year, Benkő added.
Meanwhile Defence ministers Csaba Hende of Hungary and Bratislav Gasic of Serbia discussed defence cooperation and topical security policy issues in Belgrade. Stabilisation in the western Balkans is on the right track but has not become irreversible. Some countries in the region still face tough challenges, and for this reason Hungary advocates the region’s Euro-Atlantic integration as a long-term solution, Hende said. Hungary has an interest in the best prepared countries joining the Euro-Atlantic organisations, he added. Opportunities for bilateral cooperation abound in training and the defence industry, he said. Bratislav Gasic said the UNFICYP mission, involving both Serbian and Hungarian soldiers, was the highlight of defence cooperation between the two countries. He praised Hungary’s role in NATO’s Kosovo Force, and identified military educational and pilot training as prospective fields of cooperation.
via hungarymatters.hu photo: NATO Flickr