Despite trailing Joe Biden for the entirety of the campaign period, Donald Trump is the posterchild of “beating the polls”, he proved this when he beat Hillary Clinton in an upset that shocked America and the world. But now “Donnie” has his back to the ropes, and he is fighting to pull off a comeback that would be even more miraculous than his victory four years ago. However, if he wins, and there is currently a 12% chance of that outcome, what will this entail for Hungary?
It is no secret that Orbán Viktor and Donald Trump have become fast friends over the last four years. The president invited Orbán to the White House for a visit, the first time that a Hungarian prime minister was invited to meet a sitting U.S. president since Ferenc Gyurcsány’s meeting with George W. Bush in 2005. According to both leaders, their relationship is much more than cordial, with Orbán recently mentioning how Donald Trump casually called him up while he was reheating some leftovers in the kitchen.
Such a casually positive relationship has not yet existed between a Hungarian prime minister and a U.S. President.
What has this unique relationship produced over the last four years? Overall, the results are moderate. While there has been little direction cooperation between Hungary and the United States over the last few years, the two leaders have had each other’s backs in international politics. Both countries decidedly rejected the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration, and both have been consistent in their unconditional support for Israel, and Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu. More recently, Hungary and the U.S.A. were both vocal co-sponsors of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, a document that, among other things, specifies that there is no international right to abortion.
However, if you replace the word Hungary with Poland this paragraph still rings true. This goes to show that these victories cannot be attributed solely to Hungarian foreign policy, they are part of a broader Trumpian foreign policy targeting certain friendly countries in Eastern Europe and around the world.
One area where Hungary’s ruling Fidesz has absolutely taken advantage of this relationship is with regards to domestic politics.
Orbán’s White House visit was a massive success in Hungary, especially the part where Orbán managed to get Trump to express his support for Christian democracy. In other words, Trump’s support has bolstered Fidesz’s image at home, and this has probably outweighed any sort of formal political cooperation between the two leaders. Being able to brag about phone calls with the U.S. president during dinner is something that Hungarian prime minsters have previously not been able to brag about.
Taking a broader look at Eastern Europe, Trump’s administration has proven to be interesting for the region as a whole. Trump made the news when he delivered a rousing speech in Poland in 2017, and overall,
Trump has definitely supported the region more than usual. U.S. presidents have typically paid more attention to their traditional allies in Western Europe than the East.
One of the largest new initiatives of the Trump administration was Secretary of State Pompeo’s announcement of up to one billion dollars in support for the Three Seas Initiative, a project designed to promote infrastructure development between the Adriatic, Baltic, and Black seas.
However, this support is clearly designed to counterbalance the influence of Russia and China in East-Central Europe. While his approach towards Russia has been questionable at times, Donald Trump has taken a strong stance against China. Considering that Hungary is currently in the process of building the Budapest-Belgrade high-speed railway line with Chinese loans, it is possible that Trump’s anti-China policy could conflict with the Orbán government’s juggling of American, Chinese, and Russian influence in the long run.
At the end of the day, if Trump does win the election, it will be a huge vindication for Viktor Orbán. Hungary’s prime minister placed his bets when he announced a few weeks ago that not only does he support Trump’s re-election, he’s counting on it to happen. Whether or not this would be beneficial for Hungary, in the long run, is not completely clear, but it would clearly continue to provide legitimacy for Hungary’s Fidesz government.
Featured photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI