Statement of the former anti-communist Democratic Opposition on the Russian military threat against Ukraine

We call on the Hungarian government that until now has been seeking its own political and economic benefits and has tried to adjust its policies in line with Russian interests to take an unequivocal stand on the side of its allies and give up its hitherto shameful behavior. We call on the government to behave as a member state of the European Union committed to transatlantic ties and as a member of NATO.

While no one is threatening the physical wellbeing, rights or property of Ukraine’s Russian minority, the Kremlin, making allusions to the defense of the Russian minority, is preparing to attack a neighboring country, threatening its territorial integrity, prompting the danger of war. Events of the last few months had no ethnic components. The demonstrators demanded only politically and economically fair governance. At the same time it is true that they rejected the introduction of the kind of oligarchic and authoritarian system that has developed under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.

An imminent Russian military intervention is unacceptable because:

1. In violation of international law it attacks a sovereign state.

2.This attack will take place after the Kiev street battles died down and with international assistance social peace was achieved.

3. In addition, intervention might cause ethnic conflicts the consequences of which will most likely have to be endured mainly by the Russian minority in Ukraine.

For all these Moscow and President Vladimir Putin personally are responsible.

The legitimate government of Ukraine and the legitimately elected interim leaders remain at the helm and are trying to manage the crisis caused by Moscow’s political pressure and the treachery brought about by Viktor Yanukovich, who turned out to be a willing instrument of the Kremlin. Russia is planning to turn against Ukraine with the same aggressiveness as its predecessor, the Soviet Union, did in 1956 during the Hungarian revolution or in 1968 when it and its minions ran down Czechoslovakia. The pretext then was protection of the social order; today it is assistance to the Russian minority. But behind both only naked Russian imperial interests are at work.

European governments and institutions must use their influence to bring about the immediate withdrawal of the Russian military units.

Budapest, March 1, 2014

Attila Ara-Kovács, former diplomat
György Dalos, writer
Gábor Demsky, former lord mayor of Budapest
Róza Hodosán, former member of parliament
Gábor Iványi, Methodist minister
János Kenedi, historian
György Konrád, writer
Bálint Magyar, former minister of education and culture
Imre Mécs, former member of parliament
László Rajk, architect
Sándor Radnóti, philosopher
Sándor Szilágyi, art writer

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77 comments

  1. Is it just me, or history is repeating himself, and fueled by its real or imagined grievances, Hungary is once again choosing the wrong side of history?

  2. On a second thought, of course this is not that clear, history has shown that for the permanent members of the UN security council, anything is allowed. The price Russia will have to pay for this is not going to be much more than the US had to pay for the Iraq invasion.

  3. US intervention in Syria was never on the table Marcel it would require too many boots on the ground. The French intervention in Africa only involved 10,000 troops and no tactical forces or heavy armor. It should have no impact on NATO’s strategic consideration via the Ukraine because the potential conflict already beyond the stage of special forces because Russia has already landed 6,000 airborne troops at several airports within the past few hours.

    NATO and the EU are terrified of Putin if he wanted to take Kiev he probably could do so easily at this point. In my opinion Orban’s overtures to the Russians in face of EU capitulation will look brilliant once people realize EU and NATO are paper tigers in relation to Central Europe.

  4. Jano :
    Is it just me, or history is repeating himself, and fueled by its real or imagined grievances, Hungary is once again choosing the wrong side of history?

    The other way around.Actually you can predict who will lose based on Hungary’s choice.
    If I were Putin I would be worried, the Turul bird is circling for another carcass.

  5. Jano :
    Spectator: Exactly. Plus I don’t expect them to take it any further than the Crimea, unless Kiev does something stupid.

    Everything seems set for more, but I guess we’ll know very soon.

    By the way, Turchynov has blocked the publication of the law cancelling the 2012 language reform. And I may be wrong, but I’m under the impression that the anti-maidan movement in the East hasn’t been met with much support.

  6. Actually I was thinking of the Orbanist foreboding: anybody he has visited so far managed to go down pretty well right after Orban’s visit.
    Be honest: he is the real secret weapon of Hungary, he proved it numerous times – his latest offer Janukovitch.
    Who’s next?

  7. Spectator :
    Actually I was thinking of the Orbanist foreboding: anybody he has visited so far managed to go down pretty well right after Orban’s visit.
    Be honest: he is the real secret weapon of Hungary, he proved it numerous times – his latest offer Janukovitch.
    Who’s next?

    Putin, please be Putin the next 🙂

  8. Istvan :
    The ny times quote is as follows
    Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday called Russia’s action as “an act of aggression that is completely trumped up,” suggesting that Russia was “possibly trying to annex Crimea.”
    But while saying that Russia was “in direct, overt violation of international law,” Mr. Kerry, in an appearance on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” tempered his vigorous denunciation by saying that “the last thing anybody wants is a military option in this kind of a situation.”
    Russia, Mr. Kerry said in one of three Sunday television appearances on the crisis, could pay “a huge price” for its behavior, including the possible cancellation of the Group of Eight meeting slated for June in Sochi. If this continues, he said, Mr. Putin “is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8.”

    This is laughable stuff. Worse, this just encourages a leader like Putin. Next, he’ll send ‘help’ to Venezuala, I suppose.

  9. The entire Ukraine navy has now effectively defected to the Russians, the government in Kiev has now ordered the commander of the Ukrainian navy arrested. Which they have no power to do.

    The Russians have from a military perspective made fools of NATO. I have no doubt many books will be written about this in the years to come. I personally believe that the EU are such cowards there will not even be economic sanctions against Russia because cutting the oil flow would hurt the freedom loving EU capitalists.

  10. The picture of progression of events in the Ukraine, as it stands presently is likely to be EXACTLY as the USA would handle such a situation if it were occurring in Mexico or a Central-American state.

    It will use the minimum force necessary to assure its influence to turn the Ukranian govenment into a Russia-respecting PUPPET ally. It will say that it was made necessary in order to safeguard the large Russian ethnic and Russian citizen population living there and to retain the smooth functioning of legally established Russian naval bases there.

    The size of the troops sent will be sufficient to try to minimize the likelihood of a Ukranian rebellion. In material terms Russia will provide the necessary financial support to maintain finacial stability.

    In retrospect the Budapest Agreement of 1994 to denuclearize Ukraine served the USA and Europe very well since the fewer countries have nuclear warheads the safer the environment.

    Nobody should really think in terms of usage of nuclear weapons in this instance or even nuclear saber-rattling. The more you talk about it the more real it could become.

    America and the EU knows that a physical wrestling match using large masses of soldiers on both sides would be suicidal. All conflicts since Korea have proved this plentifully. Vietnam, Irak, Afghanistan. The USA knows only too well that these conflicts do not lead to a happy end without MILLIONS of dead persons.

    The US and Russia have a TACIT agreement of spheres of influence. Its more malleable than it was after WWII and both sides still respect these undefined but mentally well defined lines. Ukraine is an area basically that the EU and the USA have not come close enough to in investment and political terms to consider it “their” territory over which they have inalienable rights. It IS accepted despite agreements to the contrary that when push comes to shove, large neighbors can protect their interests with the immediately surrounding countries. Hence Russia will play according to rules: minimum interference, in as short a period as possible to obtain what it wishes which is psychological and adminstrative cooperative behavior on the long-term.

    Putin knows that Obama is less of a sabre-rattler because Obama is an intellectual and doesn’t like to shed blood unnecessarily. Obama is not a Bush or a Reagan who saw themselves as inheritors of the old Cowboy-Indian fighting routine.

    Some people are going to be on the losing side. The Ukranian nationals are not going to be able to escape from their geopolitical bad luck to have been born so close to Russia, the center of the ex-Soviet Union. It will haunt them for some time more.

    But life will go ON. And I believe shedding enormous pools of blood is not an option in THIS case. Despite the 1994 Budapest agreement. I think those that signed it must have foreseen just this kind of eventuality and had envisioned exactly the current denouement. For the sake of getting Nuclear weapons to be located and under the control of one less country.

    Anyone thinking otherwise is not dealing with political reality.

    Just remember, had Saddam stayed head if Iraq, millions of people would NOT have had to die. If the rebels in Syria retained their fighting efforts at bay, millions would not be dead or maimed for life and their lives in ruins, families dismembered.

    Sometimes its just useful to be a little bit realistic in dealing with options and use less bravado. However there comes a time when you may indeed have to make a stand. THIS is NOT the time. Russia will ultimately try to arrange the affair to its own advantage with the least amount of commotion.

    And “freedom and liberty” will indeed suffer as a consequence.

    Indeed “freedom and liberty” is a god-given right to everyone, but in practice we are still very very far away from that. That will take an evolution in human intelligence. For now it’s just very nice to have.

  11. Andy wrote: “In retrospect the Budapest Agreement of 1994 to denuclearize Ukraine served the USA and Europe very well since the fewer countries have nuclear warheads the safer the environment.
    Nobody should really think in terms of usage of nuclear weapons in this instance or even nuclear saber-rattling. The more you talk about it the more real it could become.”

    The issue is not the use of nuclear weapons in this immediate scenario. It is the precedent it sets for the reliability of great powers in entering treaties. By signing the Budapest Protocol, Russia agreed to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine in return for Ukraine giving up its weapons. Now, by breaking the protocol, Russia has effectively destroyed any possibility for any new nuclear non-proliferation agreements throughout the world. This is a tragedy and could well lead to catastrophes in many theatres.

    Again, if Russia feels that it is unilaterally able to render its agreements null and void, then all agreements it has entered into are in question. Hungary must get out of Paks now and pursue alternative gas pipelines.

  12. It now appears that pro-Russian forces are taking over control of several cities beyond the Crimea in the Ukraine. The Russian news media is also spreading stories that American and German military operatives are working openly with the Ukrainian Right Sector party in
    Kiev. Towns were these take overs have occurred are Kharkov, and Lughansk.

    As to Andy’s comment about nuclear saber rattling, since Hungary is part of NATO the people should know that the use of tactical nuclear weapons against any Russian invasion force has been assumed since at least the 1980s. We are talking about battlefield level nuclear weapon that can in fact be used even in artillery shells or by tanks. Hungarians also should know that the theory of so called mutually assured destruction is no longer adhered to by the US military. It is now not presumed that the use of tactical nuclear weapons by NATO forces would lead to an intercontinental nuclear war. I know that seems crazy and maybe it is.

    To be honest I don’t think Central European nations fully understand what it means to be part of NATO. The price of this protection is the use of nuclear weapons against any Russian invasion force. Putin believes NATO is terrified of playing the big card in any military confrontation with Russia, and what is taking place in the Ukraine is reinforcing that belief.

  13. Istvan :
    Putin believes NATO is terrified of playing the big card in any military confrontation with Russia, and what is taking place in the Ukraine is reinforcing that belief.

    Putin is going to lose this one big time.By creating tension he only managed to radicalize even the Russian speaking Ukrainians.There are anti-Putin demonstration now in Odessa-(usually a pro-Russia area in the east)
    He was stark-mad because the West/CIA engineered this coup in Kiev (with the help of the Lvov ultra-nationalists and the widespread antipathy for the corruption of Yanukovich-regime).However this response, these spectacular army deployments, will fall back upon Putin head as soon he loses steam and has to stop from them.

  14. I offer a more clearly redacted version of my previous comment No 10 (effectively Comment no 60)

    The progression of events in the Ukraine, is EXACTLY as the USA used to handle similar stiuations occurring within what it considered its own area of influence in Mexico or a Central-American state.

    Consequently I predict that Russia will use the minimum force necessary to assure its influence to turn the Ukranian govenment into a Russia-respecting PUPPET ally. It will say that it was made necessary in order to safeguard the large Russian ethnic and Russian citizen population living there and to retain the smooth functioning of the Russian naval bases there.

    Russian military action will amount to what it considers sufficient to to prevent a Ukranian rebellion. In finacial matters Russia will provide the necessary financial support to maintain a semblance of finacial stability. This may not necessary prevent a default if that is not necessary for Russia’s short-term aims.

    Let us keep in mind that the Budapest Agreement of 1994 to denuclearize Ukraine was mainly intended to get nuclear warheads and equipment out of the Ukraine without a fight which served Russia, the USA and Europe very well. The signatories of the Ukranian weapon de-nuclearisation in Budapest in 1994 MUST have envisioned this current scenario. The agreement had a very important component — It took out nuclear weapons from one more potentially unstable country and consequntly helped avoid the source of another potential nuclear conflict and consequently made the world a safer place. Ukraine is indeed more vulnerable without it but the silos belonged to the Soviet Union and Moscow.

    Conflicts involving ground troops since Korea have proved the futility of warfare using ground troops on foreign soil. Vietnam (for France, and the USA), Irak (for the USA and the British), Afghanistan for the USA and for NATO have been counter-productive and debilitating to all sides involved. MILLIONS of victims and charred remains innumerably WORSE than at the beginning!!!

    The downside is that Ukranian nationals are NOT going to be able to escape their geopolitical misfortune however life at least will go ON.

    It is worth noting that our world is very far from achieving the notion of “freedom and liberty for all” That however will still take many major advances in the evolution of human (and perhaps artificial) intelligence.

  15. In my opinion Andy has a few viable point indeed. One do have to be realistic, however righteous the cause is.
    One more aspect which may reflect to petofi’s much earlier comment too: as I see it the present Ukrainian government is rather inexperienced to handle even common tasks, let alone crisis-situations as is in the the present. It is proven one more time, that enthusiasm by itself is far from enough when it comes to governing. Unfortunately without solid knowledge in politics and perhaps cunning diplomatic sense and experienced staff but with blue-eyed innocence and all the guardian angels in your side, the adversaries – like Putin – can take you for breakfast and they wouldn’t even blink.

    One of the realities of life in politics, one of the reasons, why the “relics” couldn’t be discarded so easily with all of their knowledge and experience in stock.

    No, it isn’t right in the moral sense, but what are the options?

  16. “Quite a few” should have been, o course!.
    (I’m on a pad in the last couple of days, sorry about the typo’s!

  17. The issues brought up by GW regarding the sorry state of affairs if nuclear agreements are not kept are well taken.

    The above question dovetails well with the comment of Istvan regarding Tactical Nuclear Weapons.

    Like so much in politics, in practice, keeping agreements often depends on the stakes involved. If its an oil-rich nation needing Western protection the involvement may be more intense than the defense of a nation finacially broke and on its knees, where a mammoth beast on its border however is ready to assume the headaches involved…

    The decision as to how to react is a very complex ethical one where the decision-maker has to evaluate a huge number of detailed elements and organize these in his/her mind according to their perceived relative values.

    I just have my own value system to go by, GW and Isvan each have theirs. Each has positive and negative consequences.

  18. I think Putin may be biting off more than he can chew here. Not only is he creating a situation where he will have to deal with yet more internal ‘terrorism’, but economically he is taking a huge gamble.

    Firstly, he will have to bale out a failed state, as Ukraine is not only effectively bankrupt, but its industry, etc is so inefficient that it can’t pay for itself. Analysts here (in the UK) think that Russia simply isn’t rich enough to take this burden on (until recent events, it was assumed thee would have to be a joint EU-Russian bale-out of Ukraine, as the money needed was so huge neither side could do it on their own).

    Secondly, for all the rise of China and the vast resources of Russia, the US is still the most powerful country in the world, not just militarily, but, more importantly, economically. Add to this the economic power of the EU (and, who knows, China?) and the Russians don’t stand a chance. Remember, the Cold War wasn’t won on the battlefield, the USSR (Russia) was defeated because its economy simply couldn’t compete with the West.

    Russia may be better organised and richer than then, and no longer burdened by political committees and State-run centralisation, but it is still a long-way from being a major first-world power like the States – or even, economically, the EU.

    Putin may (probably will) win this round, but ultimately, he will lose because of this mad gamble.

  19. By the by, we learned tonight of at least one young Ukrainian who has fled to the West for fear that he will be conscripted.

    I wonder how many others are leaving?

  20. Moreover: As in Lybia, Irak, Afganistan, ‘Syria’ or potentially ‘Iran’, once you enter as a ‘savior nation’ you find yourself surrounded by inter-sectoral religious and/or ethnic factions intent on blowing each other to bits. And suddenly, you the kind liberator find yourself in the way of the locals who want to fight it out among themselves…

    Remeber the Yankee go Home phrase… That notion of having “worn out your welcome” is very fast on your heels…

    So are you sure you want to be using tactical nuclear weapons to gain ‘freedom’ for those who cant wait for you to get out-a-the-way and leave’em alone?

  21. @Paul: “Remember, the Cold War wasn’t won on the battlefield, …” – it wasn’t lost there, either, at least in Europe. Crimea is a terrible blow.

    I was a soldier for a while in West Berlin, in the mid-eighties. At the time I sometimes wondered what it would be like to wake up suddenly surrounded – I mean the barracks, since the city was already. Beyond the ‘last stand’ mythology of the career légion and airborne officers, there’s nothing we could have done. Didn’t think anybody would send nukes over it either. I feel for the Ukrainian troops in Crimea right now.

  22. Paul :
    By the by, we learned tonight of at least one young Ukrainian who has fled to the West for fear that he will be conscripted.
    I wonder how many others are leaving?

    @Paul May I ask what does your wife and his family think of the Ukrainian crises, and more so about the Hungarian government’s silence?

  23. Some1 :

    Paul :
    By the by, we learned tonight of at least one young Ukrainian who has fled to the West for fear that he will be conscripted.
    I wonder how many others are leaving?

    @Paul May I ask what does your wife and his family think of the Ukrainian crises, and more so about the Hungarian government’s silence?

    The answer is rather confused, I’m afraid. There is (or was) an element of pro-Putin feeling (the Fidesz supporters wishing Orbán had the chance to be more like him), and there is a strong dislike of Yulia Tymoshenko and some support for the ousted president (along similar lines to their support for Orbán and Putin – the fabled ‘strong leader’).

    To begin with, the general attitude to the protests was that they were troublemakers. But it had nothing to do with Hungarian Ukrainians, so best ignored – keep your head down, hope it goes away. But that has been replaced by unease and, in some cases, fear, as to what might happen to Ukraine in general and the Hungarians in particular (either just caught up in the trouble, or singled out because they are a minority).

    The older relatives in the Ukraine won’t leave (although there is some talk of them coming over to Hungary if things get really bad), but the younger ones are far more likely to cross the border to safety (in some cases families are already trying to persuade them to do this – especially the men).

    I have heard absolutely nothing about Orbán’s silence on the subject, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that he hasn’t said anything or should say anything. To Fideszniks, everything he does is right, whatever it is, or how little sense it makes, so there is this general assumption that he is playing a clever game and will win. The only news re Orbán was that he paid a surprise visit to Nyíregyháza today (apparently a child wrote to him, so he went to see this child), and there was general excitement amongst the family that those of them living or working there might have met him (none did).

    As I keep trying to explain on here, real life in Hungary (especially in the East and/or especially in Fidesz circles) is nothing like most people on HS imagine it to be. Our concerns on here are of no interest to them, they live in an entirely parallel universe, which almost never touches ‘ours’. They don’t worry (or even think) about democracy, civil rights, etc. They believe things that I find abhorrent (anti-Semitism, anti-Roma, anti-Gay, etc), or just weird (e.g. the old ‘Hungarians are best, but always unlucky’ thing), and these things are never questioned or challenged (or even thought about).

    They are also quite convinced that things are seriously wrong in the UK, US, etc, and they are lucky to live in Hungary and have OV running things. They don’t appear to notice that their standard of living is steadily declining, or if they do they just take it for granted. They grumble all the time about foreigners, big businesses, the banks, ‘outside forces’, etc, but never seem to complain about the government. And they are overwhelmingly ignorant (and uncaring) of the world outside Hungary. All they ‘know’ about the US, UK, etc is what Fidesz tells them and those daft stories abut life in other countries that you always get on the TV news in Hungary (my wife is for ever being told things by her mum about the UK, that I’ve never heard of!).

    This is of course a huge generalisation, there are people who do know and care, and there are plenty that think things ARE getting worse – but even these people don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.

    As I’ve often said – these are the people who voted Orbán in, these are the people who (generally) still support him, and these are the people who will vote him back in again in just over a month’s time. They are not mad or bad, they just live in a different world to us and see things differently.

  24. Guys, do you realize that what Putin does is something like Hungarian army entering Brassa, and Hungarians in Romania streaming out into the streets with Hungarian flags? In case when the Romanian state and economy collapsed, which is never going to happen. It’s not Ukraine. Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian, they never wanted to be Ukrainian, they tried to secede to no avail. Hungarians in Ungvár and Beregszász are living fearing reprisals from the Ukrainian nationalists. They voted for Yanukovich too, just like Russians, thinking that he was better for minority rights.

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