Ukrainian-Hungarian relations during the Orbán years

Today I’m going to survey Hungarian-Ukrainian relations over the course of the last four years, since Viktor Orbán won the election. You may recall that the new prime minister began his diplomatic rounds with a trip to Poland, which was supposed to signal a foreign policy that would put the emphasis not so much on relations with western Europe as on relations with other central and eastern European nations. Of course, he also made several official visits to Brussels, but they were quick trips related to Hungary’s membership in the Union. There is a handy list, compiled by MTI, on Orbán’s foreign visits, showing that Ukraine was one of the first countries he visited. It was on November 12, 2010 that he traveled to Kiev. Shortly thereafter, on November 30, he went to Moscow.

Ukrainian-Hungarian flagsSo, let’s see what Orbán had to say about Hungarian-Ukrainian relations at the time. He claimed that former Hungarian governments hadn’t paid enough attention to Ukraine, but from here on everything would change because “the current Ukrainian leadership stabilized Ukraine” even as he is “working on stabilizing Hungary.” He was looking forward to cooperation between two stable countries, and he expressed his appreciation that Viktor Yanukovych’s government had withdrawn some legislation that was injurious to the Hungarian minority in Subcarpathia. A few months earlier, during one of his visits to Brussels, Orbán had a meeting with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of NATO, during which he commented favorably on the new Ukrainian government (Yanukovych became president of Ukraine on February 25, 2010), which he considered to be a “reliable” partner.

Since 2010 Ukrainian-Hungarian relations have been friendly. In fact, behind the scenes they were quite close. Here I will give just one example of how close: the story of Oleksandr Shepelev, former member of the Ukrainian parliament. Shepelev belonged to Yulia Tymoshenko’s party from 2006 until December 2012. The Ukrainian government charged him with three contract killings and one attempted murder. In addition, he was alleged to have embezzled one billion dollars of government funds which, they contended, he pumped into Rodovid, an ailing bank with which he was associated. He fled Ukraine, fearing for his safety. The Ukrainian government went to Interpol asking for his arrest. He and his family were found in Budapest in July 2013 where he was seeking political asylum. The Ukrainian online newspaper Kyiv Post triumphantly announced on September 30 that “the Hungarian authorities have denied refugee status to former Ukrainian member of parliament Oleksandr Shepelev, a diplomatic source told Interfax-Ukraine.” The Hungarian judicial system ordered the Shepelev couple to be incarcerated until the immigration authorities decided their fate. Half a year went by and there was still no decision about the Shepelevs.

According to Indexthe Hungarian government that was asked to extradite the Shepelevs to Ukraine was quite eager to oblige. Vitali Zakharchenko, the just recently dismissed minister of interior, came to Budapest several times to confer with his Hungarian colleague, Sándor Pintér, about the fate of Shepelev. Viktor Pshonka, the prosecutor-general of Ukraine whose garish house we admired online, who since was also dismissed by the Ukrainian parliament and is currently in hiding, also paid a visit to Budapest to confer with Hungary’s own chief prosecutor, Péter Polt. In fact, the Hungarian government was certain that Shepelev would be in Kiev soon enough, and they leaked the impending extradition to reporters. The Hungarian courts, however, intervened. In a December 9 hearing the judge ruled that the reasons given by the immigration office for a denial of political asylum were insufficient. Shepelev, who might have been thrown into jail for life in Ukraine, was temporarily saved by the Hungarian judiciary despite the best efforts of the Orbán government.

The immigration office had to make a decision by January 6 but nothing happened. At this point Galina Shepeleva threatened the prison authorities with a hunger strike. Shepelev’s lawyer, after looking at the documents submitted by the immigration office, came to the conclusion that the office was following the explicit orders of the Hungarian government. In brief, Viktor Orbán was effectively assisting Yanukovych’s thoroughly corrupt government go after a political opponent, possibly on trumped-up charges.

As long as Vladimir Putin and Viktor Yanukovych were both in power Viktor Orbán’s situation was easy. He could have excellent relations with both. But now Yanukovych, who according to Orbán brought “stability to Ukraine,” is gone and Putin has sent troops to the Crimea. Orbán, as prime minister of a country that is a member state of the European Union, is supposed to follow the lead of the European Union. The prime ministers or presidents of most European countries, including Hungary’s neighbors, have openly condemned the Russian military action. Viktor Orbán is silent.

The Russian military move is clearly illegal. The reference point is the so-called Budapest Memorandum of 1994 signed by Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin, and Leonid Kuchma, who was then the president of Ukraine. The complete text of the Budapest Memorandum is available on the Internet. The parties agreed, among other things, “to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of kind.” In this light, Putin’s economic pressure on Ukraine was already a violation of the agreement. Point 2 of the agreement states that “the United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”

The ineffectual János Martonyi did go to Ukraine with the Czech and Slovak foreign ministers. Poland sent only an undersecretary. They went to Kiev and the Donetsk region where they held most likely absolutely useless talks with Ukrainian leaders. Martonyi subsequently visited the Subcarpathian region where he conferred with leaders of the Hungarians living there who hold conflicting political opinions. Ever since Orbán won the election in 2010 the Hungarian government has given financial help to one faction while it has ignored the other. It looks as if the main difference between the two groups is their attitude toward the Yanukovych government. The Yanukovych government, most likely as a sign of its appreciation for Viktor Orbán’s support, lifted some of the discriminatory pieces of legislation previously enacted. That made some of the Hungarians supporters of the Yanukovych regime. Others sided with the supporters of the European Union. Throughout his visit to the region Martonyi kept emphasizing the need for unity. However, under the present circumstances I’m not at all sure what this means. Supporting whom? The parliament in Kiev rather foolishly abrogated the language law enacted in 2012 but thanks to the intervention of the acting president it is still in force. Therefore it is also difficult to figure out what Martonyi’s silly motto, “Don’t hurt the Hungarians,” which he repeated on this occasion, means in this particular case.

For a good laugh, which we all need today, here is what the sophisticated deputy prime minister, Zsolt Semjén, said about the Ukrainian crisis last night in an interview on HírTV. “It is a good thing to have something between us and Russia.” Let’s hope that this statement, however primitive, means that Hungary stands behind the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

84 comments

  1. “The present anti-Russian government in Kiev which rather foolishly abrogated the language law enacted in 2011?”

    Details: the bill in question was passed in August, 2012. It’s the Rada (not the govt) who repealed it, but the acting President has blocked publication so it is still in force.

  2. Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :

    “The present anti-Russian government in Kiev which rather foolishly abrogated the language law enacted in 2011?”

    Details: the bill in question was passed in August, 2012. It’s the Rada (not the govt) who repealed it, but the acting President has blocked publication so it is still in force.

    Thank you for the correction. I will fix it.

  3. andy, I know a better reference. Orban is a lawyer, and his entire posse consists of lawyers and it takes one to know one.

  4. An, It’s a bit funny. A couple of days ago I read about scientific methods, that there is a huge effort going on to ‘scientifically’ confirm or disconfirm various behavioral characteristics of dogs. It’s a complicated process, with scientific journals accepting and rejecting articles. But many of these scientific debates actually concern questions which have long been clear to dog-owners. They just know it, because they have seen it. They do not need the published papers for that.

    I kinda have the same feeling with this TNR article. Maybe it is now written by a well-regarded magazine, so it is credible, but this has been obvious as it was mentioned on this blog several times too.

    Putin was gonna invade Ukraine and occupy the Eastern half where he hopes the ethnic Russian majority will support annexation, or rather they will vote to join Russia, so it will be a democratic process. In fact Russia can even occupy Western parts with clear Ukrainian ethnic majority, because these people would still be diluted by the Russian majority of the Eastern parts in a referendum.

    Self-determination is important, you know, it’s in the UN Charter. So it is a legally sound argument, at least on paper, but for a security council member this more than enough. When was it the last time that anybody dared to go against a nuclear power?

    This is the reason why Iran will not give up its program. Maybe Iran will suspend it for 10 years, but it is not a time frame the Iranians really care about. They believe their civilization has been existing for 4,000 years, they can wait 10-20 years if necessary, then they build it. No problem.

    So, anybody who thinks Russia will back off when all internal circumstances actually support the invasion is naive. Putin badly needs a nationalistic victory and he genuinely believed all along that Ukraine is not a sovereign country, actually the entire Russia political elite thinks that Russia is entitled to Ukraine, at least to its Eastern half. So even without Putin’s relatively low poll ratings the case would be a no brainer for the Russian elite. You can’t ‘occupy’ something that is already yours, right, you just make it clear now the situation what has been the case so far: that it is yours.

    The only thing NATO could do is to sign a pact with the Kiev government to protect it, but only from further attacks beyond the status quo at the date of such agreement (ie. the NATO could not be used to retake territory already occupied by Russia, that is obvious). But I doubt that NATO (or US or the UK) would do that. Why would they care really? Would they care about Belorussia, which has always been on the verge of joining Russia and given its economy soon it will have no choice anyway?

    Without these guarantees It is up to Russia to decide what part of Ukraine it wants to annex. Ukraine is Russia’s for the taking. It is also a powerful reminder for the countries around the South China Sea that China can do whatever it wants, nobody, like the Philippines, Vietnam, even Japan can stop it. We can just sit and watch.

  5. @Nap: Yes, I agree, this is nothing new to anybody from Eastern Europe or with any knowledge of Russia. But here on the other side of the Atlantic this may not be obvious for a lot of people, including some political analysts. As the article notes, today’s Russia, and authoritarian regimes in general, operate on a different logic than most people in democracies are used to.

  6. Thanks An for posting the link to the Julia Joffe New Republic article on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. There are some insights into Putin and great Russian chauvinism. I think Ms Joffe does not totally get how US power is restrained by a wavering European NATO that is fundamentally risk adverse. She indicates that Russia “perceives . . .a large and growing NATO threat.” No it’s actually an EU economic threat, NATO as we can see right now is no threat at all.

    However, while the EU wants to economically encroach on Russia, it wants the US to carry the brunt of the defense burden. Even then the EU leaders waffle. US makes its worst miscalculations when it goes it alone, but as a military force we project our greatest power when we are bold. The US has appeared weak in the face of Russian aggression, Obama is terrified of going it alone and the EU leaders are fundamentally cowards. The US needs to pay little further attention to the German windbags who preach free markets and stuff their pockets.

    The US military establishment is furious that Putin has gotten away with this and the lesson is the same as always those who hesitate are lost. If Hungary, Poland, Germany, France, and the rest want the US nuclear umbrella then it’s threat has to be used or else wise it is worth nothing.

  7. @Istvan: Getting the vibes around here from my circle of friends and acquaintances, Americans don’t like the idea of another military intervention in some far away country they don’t care about. They are tired of being involved in military conflicts that have very little to do with the US, as they see it. No wonder Obama doesn’t want to go at it alone.

  8. Hungary has been the great leadership crisis until now.
    The Tavares report was a historical document.
    The Ukrainian event is another problematic development.
    These cases can destroy the EU and Europe, will be very costly affairs.
    Wake up Obama, Merkel, Cameron…

  9. Istvan, An,

    this is exactly why this is a great time for Putin. Putin realized that Obama retreated in Syria because, among others, the American public was against a military intervention.

    However, real leadership is not just about popularity and this is also about letting Russia (and by implication China) get away with conquests.

    Where will they stop?

    The “issue” with Hitler was that he wanted everything very quickly (and did not have the nukes). So it was appeasement but then it turned out quickly that it did not work and the West got angry. If Russia does it smartly every annexation is a “new game”, as governments in the West will come and go, nobody will remember about previous policies vis-a-vis Russia. At every major turn of events the West will start its policy debates anew and start with appeasement toward Russia. So slowly, in a decade or so, Russia, in addition to Ukraine, will have annexed Belorussia and Moldova. This process actually started with Georgia and now Ukraine is a new game as we see it.

    Russia could certainly also annex Finland and even the Baltic states within a couple of days, as the NATO can not realistically be expected to bomb Russia once Russia is sitting on these countries.

    The Cold War is over. Then there was a balance, because politicians seriously expected that a nuclear war could broke out. It was an internalized reality. Now everybody understands that nobody (i.e., among the nuclear powers) will actually risk nuclear war. And there is no appetite for proxy wars either in the West. Those became extremely costly and the economic reality in the West is far different from the fantastic growth years of the Cold War era.

    So those with the nukes can do whatever they want vis-a-vis those countries which do not have it. We better get used to this.

  10. Coup in Ukraine, proof:

    Constitution of Ukraine:

    Article 108. The President of Ukraine shall exercise his powers until the assumption of office by the newly elected President of Ukraine.
    The authority of the President of Ukraine shall be subject to an early termination in cases of:
    1) resignation;
    2) inability to exercise presidential authority for health reasons;
    3) removal from office by the procedure of impeachment;
    4) his/her death.

    Article 111

    Article 111. The President of Ukraine may be removed from the office by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in compliance with a procedure of impeachment if he commits treason or other crime.
    The issue of the removal of the President of Ukraine from the office in compliance with a procedure of impeachment shall be initiated by the majority of the constitutional membership of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
    The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall establish a special ad hoc investigating commission, composed of special prosecutor and special investigators to conduct an investigation.
    The conclusions and proposals of the ad hoc investigating commission shall be considered at the meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
    On the ground of evidence, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall, by at least two-thirds of its constitutional membership, adopt a decision to bring charges against the President of Ukraine.
    The decision on the removal of the President of Ukraine from the office in compliance with the procedure of impeachment shall be adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by at least three-quarters of its constitutional membership upon a review of the case by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, and receipt of its opinion on the observance of the constitutional procedure of investigation and consideration of the case of impeachment, and upon a receipt of the opinion of the Supreme Court of Ukraine to the effect that the acts, of which the President of Ukraine is accused, contain elements of treason or other crime.

    The Verkhovna Rada did not establish any investigative commission at all. let alone get any opinion or any consultation of the supreme court of the ukraine… What happened in the Ukraine was a straight up coup.

  11. No matter what you thought of Reagan, when he came to power Iran’s belligerence immediately ended. You need a western leader of some ‘gravitas’ to be able to suggest a ‘threat’ that is viable. A bowing, aw-schucks kind of leader like Obama is totally misplaced as the leader of the Western world.

  12. The illegal coup government are trying to command Ukraine military right on Russian border. This : extreme military provocation and war threat to Russia.

    The illegal coup government are giving illegal orders to military units. Russia must be strong in face of such war threats, the illegal coup government of thugs must be arrested. Coup government must not threaten Russia with military

  13. Istvan :
    The US military establishment is furious that Putin has gotten away with this and the lesson is the same as always those who hesitate are lost. If Hungary, Poland, Germany, France, and the rest want the US nuclear umbrella then it’s threat has to be used or else wise it is worth nothing.

    France has its own nukes, remember ? If I may, you seem a bit obsessed by this issue. There’s plenty NATO could have done, such as :

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/01/nato_needs_to_move_now_on_crimea

  14. jaka, oh my, now we have even Russian or Yanukovich-loyal trolls on this site.

    This is a proof that Hungarian Spectrum became an internationally influential blog.

    jaka says “Ukraine is now a military threat to Russia”.

    I mean this is a ludicrous proposition even to a toddler. Russia with the biggest pile of nukes on earth is now supposedly “threatened” by Ukraine??

    Although this “argument” is important to take note of because it shows Putin might use it.

    I am sure the Russians have a laundry list of other “arguments”, like they are not actually invading Ukraine, but are only “called in” by the “lawful leader Yanukovich” (like the Soviet army was “called in” in 1956 to Hungary or to Prague in 1968) so it is only a military assistance or whatever.

    Also note the legalistic arguments. They obviously use military force, but will not give up on “legal” arguments either.

  15. btw: the smarter Baltic people already feel that they are next. It may be a couple of years, but Russia is coming to get them. Hitler was not satisfied with Czechoslovakia and neither will Putin or his successor silovik be with Ukraine, and not even with Belorussia.

  16. Another reminder that this is a “dog-eat-dog” world and the hungrier and more motivated animal will grab the spoils.

    The West should no longer trust Putin and Russia, and KEEP THEM AWAY FROM THE BUSTLING WESTERN ECONOMY !!!!!!

    The Putin maneuver EXPOSES Hungary’s ORBAN for what he IS.

    “Admit it, Mr ORBAN your GANG has just been SHAMED by the company you keep !!!!!

  17. TIME FOR OPPOSITION CAMPAIGN TO POST PAKS ORBANA IMAGES ON EVERY LAMP-POST

  18. Above left out the img code. Here’s another try:

    TIME FOR OPPOSITION CAMPAIGN TO POST PAKS ORBANA IMAGES ON EVERY LAMP-POST

  19. I object strongly to Europeans being called “risk-averse”.

    It’s fine for the US to talk like this when the worst that’s ever happened to them is 9/11 (and look at their reaction to that!). Over here we have been through two horrific wars, where millions died and many millions more suffered, lost their homes, lost family members and friends, had their lives turned upside-down. And it took decades to recover from all this – indeed some places have yet to recover nearly 70 years later. We have suffered 9/11s by the thousand – and far worse.

    So you expect us to try to solve problems by going through that again?

    There simply HAS to be a better way of sorting things out – even things as bad as Putin or Sadam. War is never the answer – and rarely ‘works’ anyway (look at Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, for instance). The answer is clear – economic interdependence. It simply becomes too expensive and damaging to go to war. This won’t stop someone like Putin annexing a bit of territory that he regards as his, and few care about anyway, but it will prevent (has prevented) anything much worse – and, in time, will eventually stop this sort of thing as well.

    In the meantime, the unfortunate reality is that things like this will happen and there is very little we can do to stop it – at least in the short-term. Starting another war or the madness of ‘tactical’ nuclear strikes (for God’s sake!), will achieve nothing and cause enormous pain and suffering. Surely we have learnt by now that this is NOT the answer?

    At this point someone always brings up Hitler and points out that WW2 was a ‘necessary’ war, even a ‘just’ war, and that sometimes you DO have to make the ultimate sacrifice. But I would argue that that only became necessary because we allowed it to get to that point – Hitler could have been stopped earlier, but not enough people cared, or too many people had interests in not interfering. (Ditto Sadam and all the other dictators – many of whom were actively supported (if not installed) by the US and the West, because it suited our short-term myopia.)

    Putin is a classic example of this – the West could have treated Russia differently (not just after 1990, but during the Cold War), and brought about a much more gradual and successful change. And of course our own dear Orbán is a lesser example of the same thing – the EU could have dealt with him right at the beginning (or the circumstances that brought him about), but, no, everybody just ummed and ah’d and didn’t think it was that serious, and Hungary is now stuck with a problem that’s impossible to undo (and, being next door to Ukraine) may easily get a lot worse.

    War, as a ‘solution, not only doesn’t work, but it lulls us into a false security that we don’t have to anything until it’s too late, because we can always go to war to ‘sort things out’. We need to drastically reengineer our thinking so that war is NEVER an option. Then we would be forced to deal with the evils and stupidities of the world before they got too bad. Just think what a better world that would be.

  20. Istvan :
    Thanks An for posting the link to the Julia Joffe New Republic article on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. There are some insights into Putin and great Russian chauvinism. I think Ms Joffe does not totally get how US power is restrained by a wavering European NATO that is fundamentally risk adverse. She indicates that Russia “perceives . . .a large and growing NATO threat.” No it’s actually an EU economic threat, NATO as we can see right now is no threat at all.
    However, while the EU wants to economically encroach on Russia, it wants the US to carry the brunt of the defense burden. Even then the EU leaders waffle. US makes its worst miscalculations when it goes it alone, but as a military force we project our greatest power when we are bold. The US has appeared weak in the face of Russian aggression, Obama is terrified of going it alone and the EU leaders are fundamentally cowards. The US needs to pay little further attention to the German windbags who preach free markets and stuff their pockets.
    The US military establishment is furious that Putin has gotten away with this and the lesson is the same as always those who hesitate are lost. If Hungary, Poland, Germany, France, and the rest want the US nuclear umbrella then it’s threat has to be used or else wise it is worth nothing.

    The US and Obama went wrong when they buckled to Russian demands about not implementing the missile shield in Poland.

  21. Another question worthy of some consideration is why the new Kiev powers went out of their way to provoke the Russians with the new language laws. Doesn’t this seem to remind us of
    the American ambassador’s false signals (ie. ‘the US doesn’t care’) to Saddam Hussein prior to his attack on Kuwait?

  22. As an American domestic issue, the Ukraine problem is a game-changer: it suggests that it’s time for strong, manly, government–a Republic president, and a man–to handle the Russians.

  23. Paul, I think you are wrong and you will soon realize it. It seems to me that you cling to the idea that history is over and we will forever live in harmony. If this was the case in Europe for 20 odd years after the fall of communism, then this era is now over (it was over with Georgia).

    I do not advocate war in general and as a Hungarian even the idea of it is preposterous, as we consistently lost wars and our army has been a joke when there was a draft, it is much smaller now.

    But, a dictator exactly because he never faced real opposition (which is the definition of a dictator), cannot be stopped in any other way than by brute force of a credible threat thereof.

    Putin and his cohort will only only understand credible force. They are macho bullies, just like Orban is, who understand and respect force, but not much else. The entire Russian political elite comes from the security branches, their world view has been shaped by (de facto imperial) authoritarian power concepts, in fact they were recruited in the first place exactly because they harbored such ideas.

    Thus anything less than credible force, I am afraid, will embolden Putin and strengthen his ideas about the West. That it is decadent and does not care. In fact “care” as a concept in the West became entirely materialistic, we care about something if it can be explained in terms of being cheap, expensive, whether it is worth it etc. Care outside of the economic realm does not exist in the west. But it does in Russia. Russians really care about power, influence, prestige, ethnicity, dreams of an empire, humiliation, triumph, face, authority and the like, and they are emotional. Read Dostoyevsky’s books and there people constantly talk about their innermost emotions. Russians can invade countries even if “is not worth it” financially. Hell, they could host a two week party for an insane 51 billion USD. It’s a bit like in pre-WWI or WWI Europe, leaders then just initiated wars, nobody cared about exact costs. They sent the troops and hoped to win. Russia works like that, the West does not because voters might get disgruntled if they cannot get their favorite organic, non-GMO, small-farm, low-fat milk or whatever for two weeks.

    Russia sits on the biggest energy and raw material reserves as well as pile of nukes in the world. They simply feel that they do not have to calculate things down to every last detail as the Western people do, because they will anyway survive (they survived the loss of some 35 million people during WWII) and politically these issues do not matter. Even if Russia lost a war, it would not have the same political consequences as wars might have in the US or in Europe. If, however, Russia wins, Putin will be popular and people can feel at least better about themselves. Like the rural, poor Hungarians who vote for Jobbik, the average Russians also want to feel powerful and respected.

    Russia will not stop with Ukraine, why would it? And what can the world potentially offer to Russia when Russia wants only new land and the admiration of its power (through war)? Admiration must be genuine, so it must come from real Russian victory, as took place in WWII. It’s not like the West can now tell Putin, OK, sorry, we were wrong, we realize it now, we actually now believe that you are tough and powerful and then Putin thanks for it. No, the West must internalize its respect for Russia and this apparently can only come through the show of force. Or the West can stand up and tell him that we will defend Ukraine if you dare to cross the Rubicon (a line on Ukraine’s map).

    You can negotiate the hell out of this, but it will not make any difference to Russia. As some say, history is back with a vengeance. I think they are probably right.

  24. History has taught us this lesson time and again: Only tough leaders are respected and effective. One example from the 20th century is Begin of Israel. He was able to make peace with Arabs because he was respected.
    Internationally, Respect comes from the pungency of Fear.

  25. “Russia will not stop with Ukraine, why would it? And what can the world potentially offer to Russia when Russia wants only new land and the admiration of its power (through war)?”

    I think it is getting forgotten how this story started. What did it start with? Russia giving Ukraine 15 bn loan and further 4 billion $ in gifts. If they really want “new land” and “admiration through war” that is a rather strange way to do it. To empower the country and provide massive financial support to it when you “want the new land” from exactly that country.

    Ukraine is also extremely impoverished (this is why they needed financial aid in the first place), and on the brink of default with a broken economy it is doubtful that they could help out the Russian economy if absorbed.

    I think Medvedev’s recent comment signal that the Russians want to embark on the mission of “regime change”. We’ve all seen the examples of this type of military mission in recent history. There is nothing much to be gained from trying to annex parts of Ukraine. This would ensure that the influence of the newly annexed territories becomes nothing in the remaining West Ukraine, which would then become an enemy of Russia forever.

  26. Petofi if the “who lost the Ukraine” debate materializes in the US one of the targets will be the EU and non-US NATO leadership. Eventually the basic passivity of the the Germans, Danes, and others will be exposed. European Union foreign ministers are due to meet in emergency session in Brussels, to do exactly what? Retired and some active US military officers are all in support of a Republican president, I am not, but they want real change in NATO. A Republican president can’t lead cowards to defend their own interests.

    Now the EU is sending observers to the Ukraine and Sec Kerry is going too. While the Russian stock market went into free fall today there is little doubt that was anticipated by Putin. Watch the Germans buckle after a few months of economic actions against Russia once to oil gets turned off. As we know 39% of German oil imports come from Russia.

    The Ukraine has lost right now about 40% of its GDP with the exit of just Crimea, it’s in very bad shape. NATO knew over a week ago that Russia was going to invade and it did not make even a show of force by massive mobilizations and requesting Central European NATO members to allow mobile tactical non-strategic nuclear weapons to be located in more forward positions. The United States currently has an inventory of approximately 760 non-strategic nuclear weapons, of which 150-200 bombs are deployed in five European countries. The US also has about 700-800 additional tactical warheads in storage and they can be deployed to Europe in 12 hours. Russia has a larger inventory of 3,700-5,400 nonstrategic weapons in central storage, of which an estimated 2,000 are deliverable by nuclear-capable forces. The best overall review of this issue can be found in the book TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND NATO published by the US Army War Collage in April 2012.

    I hate war having participated in it, but in the real world sometimes at least the creditable threat of war has to be made. Can that threat lead to disaster, yes it can. But what is happening right now in the Ukraine is also a disaster.

  27. Wow Istvan your comments lately seem to be all about nuclear war counting the number of warheads and their deployment. I personally think it’s crazy to even mention nukes as the Russians have enough nukes to wipe the US off the map completely, and of course the US could do the same to Russia. It is MAD.

    Maybe if Obama’s Reset Policy towards Russia was a bit better all this could have been avoided. Obama’s reset is turning into the replay of the the Cold War here why is US diplomacy so inept that they could not prevent this before it even happened.

  28. Mr. Simonyi now apparently works among US intellectuals and think tank people, so he has to denounce Edward Snowden.

    By this he scores good points, and he is also being diplomatic, which is his profession. Critical approach is not, only loyal service to his employer.

    He shows that he sides with the US when it’s leaders are embarrassed because they are listening in on literally hundreds of millions of phones of ordinary Germans or Hungarians and Brazilians. I mean why would Mr. Simonyi even care that Americans collect and save the calls and computer data of ordinary Hungarians, right?

    (American and British) People may hate Snowden but he made a huge service to humanity when he documented the building out of a surveillance state which is enthusiastically assisted by the oh-so-freedom-loving Silicon Valley corporations and is being lied about in Congress.

    So now it seems that it is Snowden’s fault that Germans do not trust the US, when Obama one day was so reliable and a friend and such an ally, all the while, as it turned out, he was listening on Merkel’s phone. It is not the fault of those who try to wiretap everyone, including millions of average Germans, no, it is the messenger’s fault. Yes, that is logic.

    Putin may use this dischord, as he surely does, but this is completely an intra-Western issue. This distrust, apparently, already existed by virtue of the US’ listening all over the EU, Snowden only made the Germans aware that they were taking advantage of by their supposed friends.

    Germany is in a special situation, and this has nothing to do with Snowden or the – most likely continuing – wiretapping of average Germans.

    The situation is complicated because Germany (a) receives a huge chunk of its energy from Russia, (b) Russia is a huge market for German products and services and (c) Germany in general accepts blame for the 35 million dead Russians of WWII and as such it wants to be accommodating to Russia (to the point I even think that many top German politicians accept the fact that Ukraine is an “undisputed sphere of interest” of Russia). In addition, Germany does not like to participate in military projects.

    But kinda seems to me that there is now a pressure on Germany to suck it up, accept continued wiretapping (i.e. fundamental distrust by the US) as a fact of life, and get tough on Russia. I wonder why the Germans are not so enthusiastic.

  29. Istvan :
    The Ukraine has lost right now about 40% of its GDP with the exit of just Crimea, …

    Ahem. The combined yearly GRP of the ARC and Sevastopol, plus the naval base lease, is around $ 5.6 Bn. That’s 3% of Ukraine’s $170 Bn GDP.

    PS: the annual russian gas bill is around $12 Bn. Cancelling the 30% discount would most certainly be very hard on the GDP – but it would also hit gas consumption.

  30. Pretty much 100% spot on, Wilhelm. In case you didn’t know Simonyi used to be ambassador to the US so it was his professional job to suck up to Americans and say what they would like to hear. Now they like to hear that Snowden was the evil traitor spy, and wiretapping Angela Merkel as a part of the “antiterror effort” was perfectly fine. They were just fully blameless in all this. Simonyi is still very good at this and plays the US audience perfectly. They want to hear Snowden is evil, Simonyi even says he was a Russian spy. No matter that it was the US state department that chased Snowden out of Hongkong, China and into Russia, now it all makes sense he was a Russian spy all along!

  31. I must say that probably this post not going to be a popular one. Did you watch the Olympics? How about he rights of the LGBT community? Every nation willingly and happily participated in the games even though it was clear for months that Putin’s attitude creates an environment for “free for all” on the LGBT community. Oh yes, there was talk all over, but what actions were they taken. “we do not support what Putin does but the Olympics has nothing to do with it” said many. At he same time everyone was mad at Rodman for visiting North Korea…. If anything foreshadowed what is Putin about it were the Olympics. Many of you are sitting here and would send people to war, and yes, I agree it is maybe time, but I also ask if you watched the Olympics? Did you give up your rights of being entertained from your armchair in any way to support those who were and are threatened in their own country, Russia because of their sexual orientation? It is not only the LGBT community of course that is threatened in Russia, and we all know it. Democratic opposition in Russia is “silenced” in similar ways (actually worst) than in Hungary. Yesterday the anti-Russian involvement protesters were arrested in Russia, while the ant-Ukraine protesters were allowed to protest. The number of LGBT youth suicide is one of the highest in the world in Russia. No pamphlets, and information can be distributed to gay youth, and some of the youth are being punished when they come forward to their teachers or doctors with their LGBT related mental or physical problems.
    Why do we care so much what is happening in Ukraine, and hardly do anything when we could on other issues that also about human rights?
    OK I just wanted everyone to take ten seconds to reflect. No answer needed.

  32. Mr. Paul :
    Pretty much 100% spot on, Wilhelm. In case you didn’t know Simonyi used to be ambassador to the US so it was his professional job to suck up to Americans and say what they would like to hear. Now they like to hear that Snowden was the evil traitor spy, and wiretapping Angela Merkel as a part of the “antiterror effort” was perfectly fine. They were just fully blameless in all this. Simonyi is still very good at this and plays the US audience perfectly. They want to hear Snowden is evil, Simonyi even says he was a Russian spy. No matter that it was the US state department that chased Snowden out of Hongkong, China and into Russia, now it all makes sense he was a Russian spy all along!

    Well, I much rather have Simonyi suck up to the Americans, than Orban sucking up to Putyin. Why would Russia need a spy for Hungary when they have Orban? At any case Snowden is not he issue here, but Russia is, so let’s not make a Snowden are Russia are the good guys conversation out of this.

    Mr. Paul, do you agree or not agree with Russia’s intervention in Ukraine? Yes or No

  33. I totally agree with Mr. Müller – not just because I’m German!

    It’s almost unbelievable that US generals are thinking about deploying nuclear warheads – of course in some far away places like Central Europe. Can’t they imagine what the reaction would be? 9/11 would be peanuts probably in comparison – unless they lock the USA completely. And I’ve been to the USA on holidays in the last years almost every year – the security measures are insane (and still not a 100% efficient) so many friends of mine have told me they won’t stand it and are not going there, even some business people have declared that they won’t do business which requires a visit to the USA – other countries also have nice landscapes and interesting business opportunities …

    I have to confess that I thought US foreign policy would become saner under Obama but now I’m not so sure.

  34. And of course I do neither agree with Orbán nor with Putin and I didn’t watch the Olympics (though my wife did watch the “ice dance” (women and couples) and was very angry that Russia stole the gold medal from that Korean girl!
    Btw Our German president Mr Gauck did not visit Soci and I’m a bit proud of him too (though he had to give some kind of medal to a Fidesznik some times ago).

  35. @ Wilhelm Murer

    Lest we forget, Mr. Schroder has moved his expertise, not to mention his knowledge as German Chancellor, into the services of Gazprom (a hotbed of KGB officials); and that
    Willy Brandt’s office was swamped with Easter German spies….one has to suspect that the remnants of these men and their influence reside still in the German bureaucracy.
    Why, then, would it be a surprise to listen in on what the Germans are doing?

  36. Come on, as Europeans we surely have several bones of contention with our U.S. ally (the NSA be advised that I actually wrote “ally”), but Snowden wasn’t the reason for Germany sitting out the Libyan war, its outright refusal on Syria last August, and its current stance on Ukraine.

    @Wilhelm Müller: I think we get the energy issue, the trade issue, the history issue (even with 3,000 German troops being in Afghanistan right now).

    But don’t you think it’s time to stand up?

  37. “Mr. Paul, do you agree or not agree with Russia’s intervention in Ukraine? Yes or No”

    No I don’t agree with it. Just as I wouldn’t agree with a caged lion biting my hand. Even though I would probably try to think about why did it bit me now in this exact moment and not in the past decades. Maybe the lion is just crazy and randomly attacks. Maybe not.

  38. (My but I hate to answer Mr. paul–seems like I soil my hands when doing it…)

    Ok, Mr. P. nobody knows ‘what’ Snowden is. That he ends up in Russia is suspect. That he
    outs information that is majorly damaging to US foreign specialists, ambassadors etc. is also telling.
    But one thing is for sure: he has not worked against Russian interests…because if he had, he would’ve been eating a polonium sandwich a long time ago.

  39. (Oj vay, twice to respond to Mr. Paul…I must’ve eaten something bad…)

    “Maybe if Obama’s Reset Policy towards Russia was a bit better all this could have been avoided.”

    Sure blame it on the US. YOU’RE ROOTS ARE SHOWING!

    So the US should’ve been more accommodating after what Russia did in Georgia?

    (Will you take your marbles and get lost..)

  40. Wolfi it has always been part of NATO defensive strategy to use the threat of tactical weapons if faced with a full scale Russian invasion. Many European members of NATO have objected to that strategy, including Hungary I would add. It appears that even the threat of NATO military intervention in the Ukraine is off the table. Russia will become even more aggressive because of this. NATO is willing to blow up Serbia or Libya because there is little downside risk, but when the real reason for NATO’s existence is put to the test by Russia it stands down. The US armed forces have no guilt in relation to what has just happened.

  41. Same question for wolfi of course… don’t you think it’s time to stand up?

    I remember the Doppelbeschluss, or European missile crisis, of the 80s. As a student with mostly leftist ideas, I ended up on Reagan’s side (!) and the “better red than dead” demos certainly annoyed me.

Comments are closed.