“A peace mission” is how Prime Minister Viktor Orbán characterized his visit to Moscow for talks on Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin, saying the European Union was “united”, and not a single European leader wanted a conflict with Russia.
“This is especially true of central Europe,” Orbán said after talks with Putin.
“We can see from history that in times of conflict between East and West, central Europe always lost out,” he said, adding that the Cold War period “brought us great bitterness and suffering”.
Hungarians and central Europeans more broadly have an interest in reducing tensions between East and West and to prevent a return to the Cold War, the prime minister said, adding that this required negotiations and dialogue. Orbán welcomed the “dialogue under way between Russia and our Western allies”.
“What we can offer is the Hungarian model,” he said. Hungary, he noted, is a member of both NATO and the European Union while enjoying “excellent ties” with Russia based on mutual respect.
Calling the situation “serious”, Orbán said there was a “wide gap” between Russia’s security demands and the willingness of NATO member states to fulfill them. But the gap “can be bridged”, he said, adding that it would be possible to sign an agreement guaranteeing peace and Russian security that was acceptable to NATO member states. He expressed hope that such an agreement could be reached through negotiations in the days or weeks ahead.
Responding to a question, Orbán said the Russian economy had coped with sanctions, and he called the policy of sanctions “unsuccessful and doomed to failure”. He added that sanctions had caused Hungary’s economy greater harm than Russia’s as Moscow replaced Hungarian imports while Hungary lost markets. Several western EU members, he said, were in the same boat.
President Putin reiterated that Moscow had carefully studied the US and NATO response to its security demands. “It’s clear by now … that fundamental Russian concerns have been ignored,” he said. The principle of indivisible security involves no one increasing its security to the detriment of others, he said.
Putin said NATO had cheated Russia because it failed to keep its promise not to expand eastwards. Further, against Moscow’s wishes, it terminated an anti-ballistic missile agreement, and “soon” NATO would place strike weapons in Romania and Poland.
The president said NATO was not obliged to admit new members and it should respect the interests of other players including Russia. He noted that Ukraine had made clear that it was prepared to recapture the Crimea peninsula even by force. “Let’s imagine what would happen if Ukraine were a NATO member,” he said.
Respecting the interests of all players is the only way to avoid a negative outcome, Putin said. The Russian president agreed on the need to talk about a resolution but added that he was not yet ready to disclose what this resolution should be.
Featured photo by Vivien Cher Benko/PM’s Press Office