Interviews / Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning Hungary”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning Hungary”

Zsolt Törőcsik: In recent days several countries have decided to allow Ukraine to fire on Russian targets with the weapons it’s been given, and this is what the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has demanded. Tension over these plans is mounting, as the Russian leadership has said that these decisions won’t go unanswered. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orban to the studio. Good morning.

Good morning.

Here in the studio week after week we’ve been discussing new pro-war statements. Yesterday, for example, President Macron announced that France is handing over warplanes to Ukraine, and the Russians said that they could supply weapons to any enemy of the United States. What do you think could be the path from this situation back towards peace?

We’re now at the end, nearing the end of the possibilities open to us. I think that there’s a point, which is difficult to define, but in the history of every war – in the history of every preparation for war – there’s been a point which has offered the last opportunity to turn back. This is the “point of no return”, after which it’s not possible to turn back. Military analysts know this state of affairs. I think we’re very close to it, because what you’ve just quoted aren’t simply statements, but reports on action being taken. So it would be good – or even a blessed thing – if they were just talking; but they’re not just talking, they’re taking action. So the fact that the French president has said that the aircraft will be handed over is a fact. When the Russians say that from now on they’ll supply weapons to America’s enemies all over the world this isn’t just an announcement: it’s information about a fact. It’s not propaganda. Russian ships will soon be arriving in Cuba, I believe. There are conflicts in Africa, which some European Union Member States and the United States are involved in, up to their necks; the forces opposing them will suddenly strengthen, and the number of European victims will increase. Everywhere the situation’s becoming increasingly tense. This is because we didn’t immediately isolate a conflict that started as a regional conflict. We made it – I mean the pro-war people made it – a European conflict, it became an East–West conflict, and now it’s leaving the European continent and the US zone or sphere of interest, and it’s appearing in all the other parts of the world. This is how regional wars develop into world wars. As to the question of whether it can be stopped, well, hope springs eternal; but every day that hope is fading. Now, the European Parliament elections are crucial in this respect, in terms of the feedback that national governments receive in these elections. These European elections are conducted within national frameworks. On the other hand, what kind of European institutions will be created? For example, what will be the proportion of pro-war and pro-peace representatives in the European Parliament? So now here this weekend we’ll get a chance, and then we’ll have a difficult few months to survive – which will last until November, when the US election will be held. So we should really survive this summer and the first half of the autumn. If the war doesn’t spread out before then, if it doesn’t spread out beyond the Russo-Ukrainian front line, then in November – if Donald Trump returns – we can, with a good European election behind us, create a transatlantic peace coalition for the whole West and stop the war. Today this seems to be the realistic scenario for the pro-peace forces.

We’ll talk about the European Parliament election in a moment; but if we look at it from the European Union’s perspective, the possibility of sending Western troops to Ukraine is constantly on the agenda. Most recently, for example, the President of the German Parliament said that this is a possible scenario. In this respect, how determined do you think the West is to fight alongside Ukraine if necessary?

These aren’t threats, these are facts. So your profession is about making news out of everything, or to make such words out of facts – that’s what you do for a living. But actually there are facts first, and then there’s reporting on them. So when you talk about something as a possibility, by the time you’re informing people about it, it’s essentially already a fait accompli. Well, only a blind man is unable to see that in Europe there is war psychosis – the logical outcome of which will be the arrival of military units from Western European countries on Ukrainian territory. At best, they won’t be on the front line. But no one in their right mind can doubt that this will happen. Well, I’m also watching these unfortunate Hungarian left-wingers being ground between the positions of war and peace; because the Hungarian people, even left-wingers, want peace. And those who pay the Left – from Soros, to Brussels, to Washington – want war. I see them being ground by this thing, and then trying to resolve this dilemma by saying, just like with migration: “Oh no, it’s not true, you’re exaggerating, it’s not that dangerous!” Claptrap! Everyone should think back to where we were two years ago, in February 2022, and what a long way we’ve come in two years. In February 2022, when the war broke out, the Germans told us that they’d only send helmets. There was no way Europe was going to deliver weapons capable of killing people to the Ukrainians! They said that, well, of course, in some areas economic relations had to be restricted, but sanctions on the energy sector were out of the question! Well, today we’re cut off from Russian energy sources! So if you look back, not just at the daily media, not just at the daily news, but if you look back and assess the path we’ve travelled in two years, you can easily see that we’re moving forward, that we’re moving into open conflict at an ever-increasing pace. So anyone who claims that there isn’t an imminent threat of war is trying to hoodwink people. And they’re trying to silence the peace advocates: Fico, Prime Minister Robert Fico, has been shot; internet coverage of the Budapest Peace March was suspended or removed; and our anti-war posters have been attacked. So they’re trying to silence the pro-peace forces. The European Union has taken a decision – but in my opinion a decision without any legal basis, an outrageous decision – which says that the Member States of the European Union cannot receive Russian broadcasts and cannot retransmit them. So the Hungarian people and the citizens of the other countries of the EU are being deprived of the opportunity to watch the Ukrainian news and the Russian news, and then to decide where they think the truth lies. This is forbidden! It’s outrageous! So we’ve already taken steps which are the preparation – the most immediate preparation – for war, for direct military conflict. So this isn’t something to be taken lightly. And the Russians aren’t a third-rate country. Because although their economy and technological level in the civilian sector may lag behind that of China and the US, though that’s not true in all areas, it’s generally safe to assume that they have the largest military technology, military industry and reserves of raw material resources in the world. And when it comes to the background reserves needed for fighting a war, they have more than anyone else in the world. So one mustn’t poke the bear. Every move by the West will be met with a response. And any Western move that provokes a response will bring with it expansion of the war. These are the days we’re living through. We’re in the last moments, and centimetres away from reaching the point of no return. We must act now: we have three days, and then four months.

It’s in this situation that a recent opinion poll was published this morning, according to which 83 per cent of Hungarians don’t agree with sending soldiers from EU Member States to Ukraine. This poll was carried out in several countries, and everywhere the proportion is between 70 and 80 per cent. 

Well, there were so many of us at the Budapest Peace March that the crowds were just flooding everywhere. Of course, I suppose, they were basically people with civic, national and Christian values, but the whole Peace March was a friendly environment. Even our opponents don’t want Hungary to get involved in the war. I’m not talking about their leaders, I’m talking about the rest of the Hungarian people – because I think that even a large section of left-wing voters are still in their right minds, and haven’t lost their senses. It’s only their leaders who want this, and they’re doing this because they’re carrying out the orders sent by their masters who finance them. And since it’s in the interests of America and some of the big Western European countries that this conflict should continue, the leaders of the Hungarian Left are in favour of the conflict. I don’t know whether you saw the ten minutes or so of Robert Fico’s televised speech from the hospital. We could have replaced the word “Slovakia” with “Hungary”. It was an interview that I think every Hungarian should see if they want to understand what’s happening behind the scenes in their own country. It’s exactly as Robert Fico described it. Here we’re facing a flood of attempts at infiltration. Here they’re funding opponents, they’re funding organisations that claim to be representing civil society, but in fact are political. And they’re funding pro-war media. The Western countries, particularly America, are engaged in power projection; and most Western European countries are unarmed against this. Robert Fico fought against it, and this is why there are bullets in him. Here we’ve built a defence system, because we saw how these things worked during the migration crisis. So the reason that Hungary’s able to resist all kinds of war pressure today – for the time being and I hope for a long time to come – is that we’ve built up a defence system against such attempts at power projection by the US and Brussels. Much of my work has gone into organising this defence system. Why did we do it? Because when migration started, we saw that we were under pressure to let migrants in. I note that back then the Left said that this was an imaginary problem. Well, this “imaginary problem” has killed thousands of people in Western Europe in the form of terrorism. And we’re the only lucky ones who had the right idea and didn’t let anyone into Hungary. But at the time – back in the days of Merkel – I saw that there was a system in operation in which they wanted to force us to let migrants into Hungary. They used every means possible. And I know the identity of the NGOs, the media and the politicians who represented the voice and the interests of Western European and American influence in Hungary. And then we built a system which is constantly being attacked by the Left, even though it’s Hungarian democracy’s most important self-defence system: from the intelligence services, through border defence legislation, to the strengthening of our communication capabilities, to defending ourselves against disinformation. There’s this system, at the heart of which, of course, is the fact that there’s a very strong, stable government majority. Because the incursions that are made against the sovereignty of countries are mainly possible because in Western Europe there are coalition governments, and they can be divided. Divide and conquer! This isn’t a new rule. So it’s possible for the sphere of different political actors and different interests to be penetrated. This isn’t the case in Hungary: one camp, one flag. We’ve been empowered by the people, and we can defend the country’s independence. This is why I say that in this European election the most important thing is that we can strengthen the Government’s efforts to defend Hungary’s sovereignty, and not allow Hungary to be dragged into war. Robert Fico’s interview, I repeat, is something I think every Hungarian should watch.

Is this what it takes for Hungary to stay out of the war? Because in the village of Geszt, at the dedication of the Tisza Mansion, you said that in the period before the First World War we were chained to an empire that reserved for itself sole discretion over the question of war and peace. Now, even if we’re not part of an empire, we are part of two alliance systems, NATO and the European Union, the leadership of which you’ve often described as being pro-war. 

This is the most difficult question. What I see now is that we’ve learned how to resist the pressure from the European Union, from Brussels. So as far as I can see, financial blackmail hasn’t led to results for them. Hungary knows how to defend its independence against the imperial ambitions that Brussels undoubtedly has in the European Union. NATO is a more difficult matter. Now there will be a NATO summit. The NATO Secretary General is coming here after the elections. I can see that Hungary will definitely have to stay out of what NATO calls the “NATO mission in Ukraine”. If we even put a toe into it, even if we’re only involved in the planning phase, we’ll be sucked in. Because when NATO really launches its military mission in Ukraine, control over the territory of Hungary and over the Hungarian military units offered to NATO for its participation will be transferred from national jurisdiction to the NATO commander. If this happens, we’ll have lost a very important part of our sovereignty, or we’ll have surrendered an important part of our sovereignty. And from then on we won’t be able to keep Hungarian troops out of the war. This is the point when we have to withdraw from any NATO action that prepares us for involvement in Ukraine. That time is very close. We now have to negotiate this with the current Secretary General, the future candidates for Secretary General, and the future Secretary General. We must get this accepted politically. We must make it clear that Hungary has the right to adhere to the NATO treaty to which we’re a party, which defines NATO as a defence alliance, and that no one can force us to take part in military action outside the territory of NATO member countries. Nor can we be forced to put money into such action, because now NATO is demanding 40 billion dollars a year from the member countries – something which so far I’ve been unwilling to approve.

In relation to these negotiations, what will be the significance of the type of mandate or the level of support that the Government receives in this Sunday’s election? 

Well, when the members of the Government and I took office, when we took on this job, we took an oath. This oath is to the Hungarian Constitution and to the preservation of Hungarian sovereignty and independence. We must hold ourselves to this. We must stand by our oath to the end, even if we’re under international pressure to do the opposite. Therefore, regardless of the election result which is expected this Sunday, the Hungarian government will independently stand up for peace for as long as it can. The question is how long it can. How long we can hold out is linked to the outcome of the election this Sunday. If we’re strengthened, we can hold out more easily and for longer; but even if we’re not strengthened, we shall commit ourselves to our duty, and then we’ll see how long we can maintain our strength. But we also need to refuel. We also need metaphorical weapons: political tools with which we can represent pro-peace Hungarian policies on the international stage. But behind this, the voters are our backing in gold. If there isn’t enough gold backing our words and actions, then we can appear to be weak. And the question of staying out of war is a question of strength. One doesn’t need strength to take part in the war – that’s the simplest thing, you just have to swim with the others, to follow the pack. It’s simple. Opposing it and staying out of it – now that’s hard, that’s what takes strength. In the First World War under Prime Minister István Tisza and in the Second World War under Governor Miklós Horthy, what was lacking was not the will, but the strength. They also wanted to stay out, but they didn’t have the strength to do so. The difference between then and now is that the question isn’t how long the Hungarian prime minister will last, but in fact what the people say. Because now the question of war and peace won’t be decided by leaders at the negotiating table, although that won’t be irrelevant, but basically with a free and fair election, in which people can say what they want or don’t want. And this is good for us, good for Hungarians: for those who want to stay out, a popular mandate is the most powerful tool. This is why there’s a direct correlation between this Sunday’s election result, the strength of the Government, and staying out of the war. 

Many historical parallels have been drawn here in recent weeks. We haven’t yet talked about the period before the First World War in the sense that from the 1867 Compromise up until then there was an amazing economic boom in Hungary, which was broken in two by the war. What would Hungary have to lose from a war now?

We’ve already lost a lot. People are perhaps largely unaware that they’re financing the war against their will, but this is how it is. The prices in the shops now aren’t peacetime prices – this isn’t what these sort of prices look like. They’re wartime prices! We’re paying a war premium because, when a war starts, the interest on the loans that companies need to operate goes up, and the price of energy goes up – especially if we compound the problem with a bad, completely misguided sanctions regime, as Brussels has done. The price of energy rises, transport costs rise, the security costs of operating companies rise; and everyone who’s an entrepreneur, who manages capital and investment, will say that this isn’t the time for development, and they become cautious. All in all, this leads directly to the price of everything going up, to life becoming more expensive. This is because the economy isn’t working as it should. So even now, although we stand outside this whole war psychosis, we’re part of the international economy, and therefore we’re paying the cost of war through prices. In addition, there’s the problem that we have to keep paying sums into the coffers of the European Union that Brussels then sends to Ukraine. My most frequent fight is that the money due to us from the European Union shouldn’t instead be sent to Ukraine: that if money is sent there, to be fair it shouldn’t be sent from the Hungarians’ money, but everyone should send some of their own money, contributing a separate sum for this purpose. And then there’s NATO’s demand that we commit ourselves to an annual sum of 40 billion dollars. But since the future course of war is unforeseeable, an amount of money that seems to be enough today always turns out to be too little tomorrow morning, and so more and more will be needed. It’s a Moloch, which eats up everything: war devours everything. This is a well-known psychological situation: “We shouldn’t have entered the war, but we did, and we’ve already made sacrifices: financial, economic and human sacrifices. To withdraw from the war now would mean that these sacrifices were pointless.” Well, the pro-war people can’t admit that! So for them, stopping in midcourse is out of the question. They’re constantly throwing new money and new resources after money that’s already failed. Well, this is the cause of the war. On the one hand there are the speculators who are making a killing, led here by George Soros; and then there are the governments, who – serving their own interests – are putting forward political arguments like, “As we’ve invested so much in the war, let’s not allow what we’ve invested so far go to waste, and let’s invest more.” And this never ends – or it ends when millions of people have died. So this has been the logic of all wars – but not only in the modern age: it was the same in the Middle Ages and in antiquity. It’s an old wisdom in all military literature, or military history, that a prolonged war has never been good for any country – not even the victors. It’s an iron law that still applies today.

Let’s talk about one more piece of news, one of the most important pieces of news from yesterday: that the Government has bought back Budapest Airport, the company that operates Budapest Airport. This concludes a long series of negotiations. What’s the significance of the fact that the airport is once again in Hungarian ownership: majority Hungarian, majority state ownership?

There’s also a somewhat more abstract strategic significance to this. After all, there’s a war, and it’s better to have the airport – the country’s only serious international airport – under our direct control. Secondly, it’s almost a monopoly, so it’s one of a kind. Of course we have smaller airports, but they can’t be compared with Ferenc Liszt Airport. So we’ve regained an asset of which there’s only one; and what there’s only one of must never be given to someone else – it must always be kept. Thirdly, the news is also good because I can congratulate you: your assets have increased. Someone has calculated that you now have over a hundred thousand forints more than you had the day before yesterday, because the airport has become Hungarian state property.. Our plan is to increase its value quickly, and the value of the assets or the share of the assets in your name will also increase. You know, we’ve brought in French people, a company called Vinci – in English they might say “Vin-chi”, or “Ven-si” in French – which is one of the largest, or perhaps the largest, airport operator in the world. I have no illusions, I don’t believe that the state can do particularly well in the economy. Of course, there are economic segments where safety is more important than profitability and economic results, and where perhaps there’s a place for state control – perhaps in the energy sector. But there’s a finite number of such areas. The good thing is if the state doesn’t manage it but owns the property, which is important, then it should involve professionals who understand these things: not state bureaucrats and managers picked up from here and there to run a huge asset, but people who are among the best in the world. This is what the French are like. We have plans to bring in Qataris later on, but we definitely want to keep the majority. So congratulations on your increased wealth!

In the last half hour I’ve been asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about the Russo-Ukrainian war, the stakes in the upcoming election, and the buyback of the airport.


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