Hungary through American eyes

American diplomats have been employing novel ways of communication. For example, yesterday Daniel Fried gave a press conference by telephone from Washington to a small number of Hungarian journalists about the American position on economic sanctions against Russia. Daniel Fried is the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy.

Fried is a senior diplomat with vast experience in Eastern Europe. He served as political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in Soviet times; he headed the Polish desk during the regime change in the late 1980s. After Poland emerged as one of the democracies of the region, he was political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. Later he served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and special assistant to the president and senior director for European and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council. So, why does Daniel Fried think that he has to give a long-distant press conference for Hungarian journalists? Surely, because Washington wants the Hungarian public to know the American position on Russian aggression against Ukraine. And it also wants to share its opinion of the current state of Russian-Hungarian relations.

Ambassador Daniel Fried

Ambassador Daniel Fried

Up to this point we have two independent versions of the telephone interview: one from Népszabadság and the other from VilággazdaságI can’t imagine that MTI was not invited, but for the time being there is no MTI report on the event.

The main message was that sanctions will be applied as long as Moscow does not fulfill all twelve points of the Minsk Agreement. A good summary of these twelve points can be found on the BBC website. Russian regular troops are still on Ukrainian soil and “the Russian aggression continues.” The United States wants a political solution to the crisis and is ready to cooperate with Russia in many areas, but Russia must respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. With its aggression against Ukraine Russia “seriously endangers the European security system that came into being after the 1989-1990 East European events.” If Russian aggression continues, the United States and the European Union are ready to introduce new sanctions.

Fried then turned to specifically Hungarian issues. Hungary and its prime minister should know from Hungarian history what it is like when a country is left alone unprotected in the event of outside aggression. Therefore Hungary ought to realize the importance of the steps that are being taken in this case. Viktor Orbán first claimed that “the European Union shot itself in the foot when it introduced sanctions against Russia” and later at the NATO summit in Wales he declared that “we are hawks when it comes to military security but doves in economic terms.” Fried said that “we all want to be on good terms with Russia, to improve our relations, but this is not the right time for friendship.” Fried cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s claim that sanctions only deepen the Ukrainian crisis. “The Russians say all sorts of things, many of them are simply not true. After all, they deny that their soldiers are in the territory of Ukraine.”

During the press conference it became clear that talks took place between the Hungarian and the U.S. governments concerning the sanctions. It seems that the U.S. listened to Hungary’s objections but was not impressed.  The sanctions hurt not only Hungarian businesses but businesses of all nations, including those of the United States. The European Union made a brave decision which Hungary supported.

The message was that one cannot play the kind of game Viktor Orbán is playing at the moment. On the one hand, he is a supporter of the common cause against Russia, but when it comes to sanctions he tries to make special deals with Moscow. For instance, Sándor Fazekas, the Hungarian agriculture minister, visited Moscow on September 8 where he had talks with Nikolay Fyedorov, his Russian counterpart. There Fazekas agreed with Fyedorov that “the sanctions don’t offer a solution to the Ukrainian crisis, which should be settled through negotiations.”

And according to leaked documents, we know that Vladimir Putin told Petro Poroshenko during one of their telephone conversations that he “through bilateral contacts can influence some European countries to form ‘a blocking minority’ in the European Council.” The countries he has in mind are Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Cyprus. I guess Daniel Fried wanted to make sure that Hungarians understand that Washington fully supports the application of sanctions and that the large majority of the EU countries are also on board.

While we are talking about U.S.-Hungarian relations, I ought to mention that U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D), who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Senator John McCain (R) introduced a resolution in recognition of the International Day of Democracy on September 15. Accompanying the introduction of the resolution Senator Carden’s press release talked at length about the sad state of democracy in Hungary where “there is an unprecedented global crackdown on civil society organizations seeking to express their voice and exercise their rights. Earlier this week, Hungarian authorities raided the offices of two NGOs in Budapest in what appears to be part of a tightening squeeze on civil society. Such actions not only undermine democracy but chill investigative reporting on corruption and good governance. Now, more than ever, is the time for the international community to push back on threats to civil society and protect efforts by these organizations to build strong democratic institutions.”

In addition, on September 18 Deputy Chief of the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Kate Byrnes delivered the following speech to the Permanent Council in Vienna:

Three months ago, on June 19, the United States addressed the Permanent Council regarding an apparent campaign of intimidation directed toward civil society and independent media in Hungary. I regret that I must speak to the Council again on this topic.

As we said in June, just one day after the April 6 elections, the Hungarian government accused organizations that conduct legitimate work in human rights, transparency, and gender equality of serving “foreign interests.” Shortly afterwards, the Prime Minister’s Office alleged that NGOs that monitor and evaluate grant proposals for the EEA-Norway NGO fund were tied to an opposition party. On September 8, Hungary’s National Bureau of Investigation initiated a series of police raids on two NGOs responsible for the EEA-Norway NGO grant program in Hungary. With no prior warning, and in a show of intimidation, over 30 officers entered the NGOs’ facilities and seized the organizations’ documents and computers.

These police raids appear to be aimed at suppressing critical voices and restricting the space for civil society to operate freely. The United States again reminds Hungary of its OSCE commitments to human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law.

Mr. Chair, we raise these issues to express our concern about actions that appear inconsistent with OSCE principles, and also to encourage dialogue. We intend to continue to encourage the government of Hungary to observe its commitments and allow NGOs to operate without further harassment, interference, or intimidation. The United States believes that such respect for its commitments will help Hungary to become a more prosperous, robust and inclusive democracy.

Finally, here is something from former President Bill Clinton, who appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “There’s the authoritarian capitalism model which is Russia and in a different way China, and it has some appeal. Like the Hungarian Prime Minister – they owe a lot to America; he just said he liked authoritarian capitalism, just saying “I don’t ever want to have to leave power” – usually those guys want to stay forever and make money. And there’s the democracy model …”

Hungary is in the news, no doubt. It would be better if it weren’t.

63 comments

  1. There will be no real sanctions against Russia from the United States, because the United States has no significant trade with Russia to begin with.

    It is easy to scream “stop all trade” if you don’t have any meanwhile Germany would be finished without trade with Russia. Total collapse. We all know that the German government is infiltrated by US agents and subverted, but to bankrupt their whole country for the wishes of the US would simply be treason towards their own population. So that’s how we know there will be no real steps such as Germany not buying Russian oil or gas. Which alone accounts for most of the EU-Russia total trade. the end.

  2. W: There will be no real sanctions against Russia from the United States, because the United States has no significant trade with Russia to begin with.

    Really? Direct Import with Russia is around USD 28 Billion in 2013. This looks very significant to me. And this is only the direct import from Russia. Indirect must be significant higher.

  3. W: you have no idea about Germany or the resilience of any diversified competitive economy (such as Sweden, Korea, the US etc.) if you think its economy could totally collapse by the loss of one trading partner, even if that is a significant one. Germany depends on Russian energy, sure, but to say that Germany or Sweden etc. could not absorb even the entire loss of the Russian market is ridiculous, not that this would be expected from Germany or the EU.

    By the way exactly this intertwined nature of the economy which plays to the hands of Russian and Chinese politicians. Once an economy depends (or at least the relationship could be narrated as one of dependence) on say Russia, or at least there are some industries or corporations which feel as though they depended on Russia at least for their year-end bonuses, then Russia does not have to do anything, such individual corporations will be Russia’s best agents, lobbying on behalf of Russia (or China) crying all over the media scaring politicians. But this subjective feeling of dependence is entirely different from actually being dependent on Russia. Would Siemens or Daimler-Benz collapse if they lost I dunno 13% of their businesses overnight? It would mean these companies would have to exist on a 2009 level, hardly a “collapse”.

    Moreover it should be noted that while Germany depends on Russia for its energy, it similarly depends on US for its security — even if Germany is acknowledged as an independent power by Russia given the fact that Germany, just like Japan would be capable of assembling nukes rather quickly if it really wanted to.

  4. This narrative is essentially very biased towards the US and plays into the current, IMHO, insane US foreign policy. What does the US or even the EU care about Ukraine? Really, it is an insignificant question but bears mightily on the hegemonic and “sole superpower” iconic fable of Empire US. What Russia really did, and which triggered the massive response from the US was to make noises (rather loudly) to move the planet away from the petrodollar. It was this same noise which is the reason the US trumped up a war to oust Saddam Hussein and what led to the decline of the Middle East. What the US really is after is absolute and unquestioned global dominance. What the EU doesn’t seem to understand is the US, by causing this fiasco in Ukraine, is also going to collapse the EU economy thus killing two birds with one stone. Like W said earlier the US has very little at stake in regards to direct Russian trade. That is not actually true as Exxon-Mobil and the ilk are doing large amounts of joint partnerships in Russia which will now be cancelled if this is taken to it’s extreme. The language from the US is such that it doesn’t specify any actual violations. They make allegations about Russian military presence in Ukraine. I am taking this to mean Crimea and not what is left of Ukraine. If that is the case then there is never going to be a solution. Crimea has returned to Russia permanently. If they means boots on the ground inside what is left of Ukraine then they need to show proof. There is ample proof pf US presence there but apparently it is a one sided argument.

    The main part of the argument is how the sanctions apply to Hungary. Again, we have a one sided argument. Hungary has very clearly been supporting the EU efforts by selling at a minimum 70 and possibly as many as 200 T-72 tanks which are now in Ukraine. The same went for small arms to Libya (ultimately Syria) and other assorted support for the US attacks around the world. Where it gets painful to Fidez is when the sanctions effect Hungarians directly. It is going to effect the Southstream pipeline, the nuclear plant , and a large amount of other material such as the recent trade deal with Russia for agricultural products to the Russian military. All of that is in question. As we all know the trade within the EU has been one way and Hungary has been raped by both the IMF and World banks. Orban did the best thing of all to pay them off and throw them out. The NGO’s should be next. Visits from McCain (and who is he to do this in the first place) are always a harbinger of doom. Destruction always follows in his wake and there was never a war he didn’t like. Using him and his proteges as a way to sanctify what the US is doing is hilarious. The neocons are still running things in the US despite whomever is in office and as outlined in the Project for the New American Century (Victoria Nuland’s husband was the co-author) so this is just another brick in the wall.

    There are much larger things at stake here than Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine is just one more thrust of American power towards global domination and is a clumsy effort to cause unrest within Russia while collapsing the EU economy in the process. Once Russia is out of the way (regime change) then China is next. The EU will collapse back to 2007 levels and remain a group of failed states subservient to the US. The demands by the US that every EU state increase their defense budgets to 2% of GDP went more or less without protest. The overt and outrageous spying, use of illegal rendition and torture into EU countries (Poland and Romania) are other things which should make the citizens of the EU question what their leaders are doing. Merkel’s wimpy response to the US tapping her phones, the use of the Austrian Air Force to force down the Bolivian President’s plane (to detain Snowden who wasn’t even there in the first place)are other examples of outrageous violations of international behavior. At least Orban has the courage to speak out against some of this insanity.

  5. Are W and Richard Russion trolls or Fidesz henchmen?

    Really weird logic in their pro-Putin statements. Nothing about democracy, liberalism, freedom – the “main pillars” of Russia and Hungary right now …

    To believe that German economy depends on Russian exports and imports is really strange

  6. Richard: it is one thing that you are a KGB troll (it is interesting to note that KGB trolls are active on blogs dedicated solely to Hungary, but then again the siloviki have country-specific strategies for each and every EU member state, and especially for those which are known to be open to Russian approaches), but this does not mean you had to be an idiot.

    Why, oh, why would any Western European state be a failed state if they had to live and consume at 2007 or even at 1997 levels? Do you have any idea how these nations lived in 1997 or even in 1985? Or do you have any idea how Belgians live these days (compared to an average Russian or Hungarian)? Belgians lived without a central government for a year and they were mighty fine (even if they will one day separate) and somehow not collapsing without a crazy dictator ruling them.

    Only a sick, twisted mind of an Orban and Dugin could think that a GDP decrease of, let’s say, an almost unheard of 30% (comparable to the Great Depression) would bring along a “collapse” in the West.

    The only collapse Richard and friends saw was the disintegration of the Sovietunion (or the the Russian empire under a new name that is Soviet Union) and the end of communism.

    What no eastern “thinker” along the lines of Dugin and Gyula Tellér can understand is that under communism a very comprehensive world was created which had nothing to do with the actual demands, needs, expectations of the people. On the other hand in the west the economies have been – without much disruption – evolving according to market forces. As a result, these economies are incomparably more resilient than any formerly communist economy had been. This is not to say that there aren’t huge challenges, such as the debt situation, energy issues, automatisation but to imply that the west is going down (especially compared to Russia) is ridiculous. It really means such a thinker hasn’t seen a German or even a Spanish country side, where rural people live and then saw a Hungarian or Russian country side to which he could compare those poor “loser westerners”.

    Why is it that somehow those 600,000 Hungarians, and counting all want to work in the west and not in Russia or Kazakstan or Venezuela?

    The west being in the Untergang phase is an age-old idea, comparable to the middle class that just keeps emerging all over the world or Brazil which has perennially been named the country of the future. The west doesn’t go anywhere and its reserves despite all its problems are huge, only a Russian or Hungarian who have not spent any serious time in the west at all (and I don’t mean spending time under diplomatic cover living in an expat bubble counts) can think that it is collapsing and its member states are failed.

  7. Tomasso, thanks!

    You said it much more succinctly than I could.

    PS and not too much OT:

    We’ve been in Germany for sometime and will drive back to Hungary tomorrow. Every time we pass the Austrian/Hungarian border we feel like entering a different world, those little villages between Szentgotthard and Körmend with their many dilapidated “almost ruins” compared to the well kept houses in Burgenland …

    We also see so many closed shops, restaurants and hotels on the way, it makes me wonder …

    And this is the affluent part of Hungary – it gets worse when we drive to my wife’s home town in the East. Sometimes I feel like travelling back 50 years in time – where are those million new jobs that Orbán promised?
    How has the average Hungarian profited from the fall of Communism – I’m not talking about those mafiosi in their shiny big Audis …

  8. @Wolfi. About your impressions while crossing the border. Nothing has changed, I fear. I had the same impression when I drove from Paris via Basil to Pécs first time in 1967.

  9. Wolfi:

    űThere are no millions of jobs of course. During the last 4-5 years Orban “created” something like 50k real jobs not counting GDP-consuming rural public works and accounting tricks like the inclusion of any which way estimated number of people working abroad but “living” in Hungary.

    But people are OK with that, and apparently no opposition can offer anything better.

    People like this “state of war” against the West, the EU, the liberals, the US, the gays etc., and they will happily vote for Fidesz yet again and again.

    People (with the help of Fidesz’ media empire) created a closed world for themselves in which they are winning against the West and at least are resisting the bad actors coming from the west. This is a religion, a delusion, a dreamworld but people are actively seeking this dreamworld and resisting by any means necessary waking up. Why? Because they feel that in capitalism they are considered superfluous, that there is no need for their existence in this world, everything else can be produced by China or the west, they are only here to consume stuff produced elsewhere. So instead of working crazy like the Chinese do, people get depressed and give up and quit reality: they want this dreamworld (but which is becoming their subjective reality) in which they are proud Hungarians winning against Brussels and the US and the jews, and the 68’ers…

  10. This is perhaps slightly OT, but when I was a teenager visiting and later as an adult living in Budapest for several years, I would consistently be lectured about how I couldn’t possible understand what went on and what is going on in Hungary because I didn’t grow up there ( te nem érted, te nem itt jöttél fel!). Fair enough. However, these exact same people would go on and lecture ME about the negatives of the “American way of life”, despite my correcting them over and over that I am in fact Canadian, to which the response is invariably, ” jaj hat az ugyanaz” (oh, it’s the same thing). Needless to add, but I will mention that the people passing negative judgement on the North American way of life did not speak English, or very, very poorly and would not understand a newspaper article in English to save their life, and quite often based their “expert” knowledge on what goes on in the USA on the “neighbours’ son’s best friend’ s cousin” who is working in the US under the table. This was the case during communism, when people didn’t get to travel much. Unfortunately, this is still the case, despite the fact that people now do travel and have access to lots more information because of the Internet.

  11. Being completely free also means that you have to decide all by yourself, but even have to handle the consequences of your decisions too, whatever the outcome.
    Of course, it present some difficulties, particularly to the slave-minded – there is nobody else to blame!
    – Oh no, we don’t want this hardship! Viktor, save us from the misery of take responsibility for our life..! – said two thirds of the Hungarian voters…

    The rest is history.
    In fact, one of the more shameful kind of history, but nevertheless achieved the importance to be part of the Hungarian history which is being constantly rewritten and updated, according to daily needs.

    Once again Hungary is on the wrong side, and they just love it:
    – Everyone is against us! Now we have nothing else to do just blame the rest of the world for our misfortune..!

    – And they lived gloomily ever after…

  12. @Lopp and the other commenters:

    I’m still wondering who voted for Orbán …

    The people we’re in contact with are of three kinds:

    First our neighbours (near Hévíz) who work hard all day – some have contacts to “the outside world” and know what’s going on so I couldn’t understand them voting for Fidesz (ok, some are xenophobic and maybe Jobbik potential).

    Then there the young ones (my wife’s son, wife and friends) – they are typical cosmopolitan main city dwellers, speak good English and use the internet for everything, so who do they vote for?

    And my wife’s siblings surely vote MSZP/DK – they have seen corruption on all levels, before and after 1989 …

    So who are those people crazy enough to be happy with Orbán’s “We are not a colony!” against the “EUSSR”? Are there so many masochists in Hungary?

    PS:

    I’m not talking about those mafiosi who profit big – like the mayor of Felcút and others.

  13. Well the nice thing about these kinds of blogs is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I am actually an American living in Hungary for the past 6 years who worked for the US government for over 40 years so I believe I know what I’m talking about with regards to the US and the rest of the world. I have served in many countries including Germany, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. I have also fought in Angola, Ethiopia, Somalia, Iraq, Honduras, and El Salvador so I have first hand experience of American foreign policy. I have also been on humanitarian assistance projects in Peru, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Haiti, and Guyana. So, I have seen first hand both sides of the equation. However, I do love my country despite the evils it has plagued on the world the past 40 years or so and believe overall it is a good country but has gone off the rails for some time now. I recognize that there are two different Americas and that we have entered a phase of global expansion and hegemony while having the worst standard of living and the greatest income spread of the world. You don’t want to be jobless and poor in America but it is a great place if you are rich. The other truism is that when you are a soldier politics flees your mind the first bullet that passes your head. However, later you have time to reflect on what you were doing and why.

    Do I think Orban is wonderful? No way. But I think what he has been doing in part, and only just so, has been in the correct direction. Is he corrupt? Absolutely. But this appears to be true nearly everywhere now. At the most fundamental level countries have to make a philosophical decision. Be a full party to the US and everything they want to do to the world or be against them. It really is that simple. I moved to Hungary to enjoy the relatively excellent values and get away from what arguably is a decadent society in the US. But, if you don’t understand that there is a dramatic difference then I am certainly not going to persuade you differently. I do not disagree that life in the more favorable countries in the EU like Germany or Belgium is better for many. But, at this point in time it is built on debt and is a house of cards. Ask those in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and now France what the future looks like for them. my argument is basically that what the US does is not particularly good for Europe and this shouldn’t surprise anyone. I was a party to the real cause of the re-unification of Germany and fully understand how little Europe means to the US. There were war games played every year on a computer simulator in Stuttgart. In 1989 the Germans were allowed to observe for the first time. When the simulator had the Soviet forces cross into Germany we laid down a wall of fire using tactical nuclear weapons down the entire length of the German border. Our commanders didn’t hesitate for a second. What do you think the Germans felt about us laying waste to their country?

    It is a complicated situation and I believe the US is adamantly pushing not for a war but for a regime change in Russia. That is what this whole game is about. It is a calculated gamble and I am not certain Putin is playing at the same level and in this I think the Americans have under-estimated his resolve or the ability for the 5th column to effect a coup and replace him and his government. What I do know is that Europe is going to pay the price if this gambit fails. Hungary, being a very small part of it will likely suffer more than the rest. It is this that Orban is perceiving.

    It may not seem like it but I am on Hungary’s side and wish only the best for them. I do not see how anything to do with Ukraine or even Russia should involve Hungary. Hungary should be left to make her own decisions and the electorate obviously feels Orban and Fidez are doing the right things. I will qualify that statement by saying very clearly that I am not a Fidez supporter whatsoever. I blame the economic woes of Hungary after the fall of the Soviet Union on Fidez and their poor policies during that time (I know I have over simplified the problems). But now Hungarians must look to the future and see what is best for Hungary even if it means not participating in the EU. As I said they have to choose sides. My complaint is that Mr. Orban is trying to play on both sides and we all know how that always ends.

  14. Most Russian trolls seem like writing exercises for would be KGBers. Richard seems like the teacher who’s going to show the class how it’s done.

    All the name-dropping of countries is supposed to floor us with his ‘credentials’. It doesn’t.
    So now comes the big serve: “I love my country…but it has gone off the rails the last 40 years..”
    You don’t say.

    Then the finger-pointing: ‘global hegemony’, and the enigmatic ‘worst standard of living’. Worse than what? Russia? This is classic KGB misrepresentation and nonsense.

    I’d like to ask Richard in what sense American has extended its power; or one country that it has occupied. None, actually. The US has spent billions taking Iraq but the major problem there was the follow-up: it should’ve remained a US controlled territory like Japan was after the war, for maybe 20 years or so. Otherwise, transplanting ‘democracy’ is a non-starter. The US has done
    little more than deplete its treasury (and maybe help the arms industry in California) but that’s it.

    Of course, the rest of “Richard’s” offering is full of it: he came to Hungary to enjoy ‘excellent values’ (huh?); decadent society of the US….classic KGBisms. I leave it to the reader to discover
    the many other tell-tale footprints of the KGB in the piece.

    But I will end with the main point of the piece: “…what is best for Hungary even if it means not participating in the EU.” Right. Message received.

    But be assured, Richard, not everyone falls for this horseshit.

  15. A colleague of Richard’s must be Megdet Ahimdulov (who can no longer be found on Google…hmm)–he of the KGB/Gasprom/Energy Entrepreneur/OTP shareholder transformations.

    He came to Hungary for the ‘waters’, I suppose; the fine air of Felcsut, and that same towns
    high society, no doubt.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, there are more Russian agents in Hungary than termites…actually, they’re neck and neck.

    Why, pray tell, why?

    Please, Viktor, tell us about your university Moscow days in that one fine sports jacket of yours, please.

  16. Richard, so you are an American who moved to Hungary to get away from a decadent society and enjoy Hungary’s realative good values? Could you please expand on which good values you are talking about? Are you also enjoying the high quality customer service? How about the functioning bureaucracy? America might be a decadent society, but I for one really hate it when things are narrowed down to black and white, something Hungarians from Hungary have a tendency to do. I know that there are good values to be found in America, too. You just have to know where to look, same as in Hungary. As to being jobless and poor in America, I am assuming that you are not living in Hungary as a poor and unemployed man……otherwise you would be singing a different song. To be poor in Hungary is to truly be poor. One more thing: one of the things I love about the U.S. and Canada, something that is very, very hard to find in Hungary, is the sense of community and doing volunteer work, offering up your free time, for free. I see it in the new Hungarians who recently arrive to North America, most of them, though not for any malicious reason or anything, simply do not understand the concept of volunteer work.

  17. Richard, many of us are of dual nationalities, Hungarians and Americans.

    We could be the first to testify that Hungary under Orban is becoming an illiberal, unfree, suffocating place.

    Is it not our moral duty to object this development?

  18. As for most Hungarians “wanting the Orbán régime”, I keep asking myself how much this situation can be compared with Russia. Of course, there are huge differences, but there is also something similar in how a large part of educated urban Russians sees their situation.

    Recently, Anna-Lena Laurén, the excellent Russian correspondent of the Finland-Swedish “Hufvudstadsbladet”, wrote about the indifference of middle-class Russians towards the growing gap between Russia and the West (http://hbl.fi/nyheter/2014-09-20/658626/rysk-medelklass-likgiltig-infor-klyftan-till-vast ). Educated, well-to-do urbanites are not necessarily fanatic admirers of Putin, rather, they are simply “not interested in politics”, because “whatever I think, it won’t have any effect anyway”. An independent journalist claims that the main problem is the lack of responsibility in the leading class: they blame the West, while the country is still trying to cope with the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union. “This trauma is much, much deeper than anything I could imagine in the 1990s, when I like many others was convinced that there would be no return to the old times. But there was. And we returned much faster than anybody could imagine.”

  19. You guys are a tough sell and some clearly not open to any other opinion than your own. You have bought the entire package without questioning what with your own eyes you can easily see.

    Obviously, many of you haven’t lived in America or if you did you didn’t visit inner cities or now many large cities. I am from DC and I was there to take care of some real estate business last year which could only be done in person. What I saw was at every traffic light were people begging for money to buy food. The same in the parking lots of every store I visited. I had dinner at an sidewalk cafe in Georgetown and there was literally a homeless alcoholic lying in the gutter not 10 cm from my feet. To compare life in Hungary to that in the US is somewhat difficult as I am not sure you will understand it unless you are there to see it. There is rampant homelessness. People everywhere in the country live on the streets. Unemployment is somewhere around 24% and 60% of all new jobs created since 2008 are part time. People in America typically only get 10 days vacation and 1 day sick leave a year and that is if you have benefits. If you are hired to work 32 hours a week you get nothing. You will still work more than 40 hours but you weren’t hired to be full time so too bad for you. Most people in my age group now cannot afford to retire and if they are lucky enough to still have jobs will work until they die. Soldiers coming back from the plethora of wars are suffering horrible PTSD and many end up as alcoholics. The suicide rate for active duty soldiers, and especially drone pilots and Special Forces is the highest in any culture in history. For veterans it is even higher. Why do you think this might be? Because the like what we are doing? The disabled veterans are denied health care and are pushed off to fend for themselves. Yes, we have a lot of charity and volunteers. There are still good people in America and they take up the slack not provided by the government. I haven’t seen one homeless person in Hungary and I am not accosted by beggars everywhere here. I don’t worry about locking my car doors at a traffic light for fear of being car jacked. I don’t worry here when I get stopped by the police that they might kill me. I don’t look constantly around when I am at an ATM worried I am going to be murdered for my cash. When walking on the streets here and I pass a few young men walking together I do not think about how to escape if they attack me. These are constant threats in America. Yes, it becomes part of the background of life but it is there. It doesn’t exist here at all so you have no way to get what I am saying. It is just too far opposite of what you see on TV.

    As for American foreign policy. Can anyone name all the democratically elected leaders we have arranged or deliberately had thrown out? Think about it hard because it is a big number. Of all of these countries how many suffered horribly afterwards?As for supporting human rights, where was America in 1956 after setting up the revolution here? Where were they for the Kurds in Iraq after Hussein gassed 20,000 of them after we convinced them to rise up in resistance? There are plenty of examples of the betrayals of America. It isn’t a secret and all are easy to find.

    Sentdrooppa-Santra mentions a phenomenon that exists nearly everywhere now. The same thing is true in the US but it is even more ironic as it really doesn’t matter which party you support as they all end up the same. There are no significant difference between Obama and Bush. They speak differently but actions speak louder than words and in this they are the same. In Russia Putin was clever in that he raised retirement pensions and alone in the world didn’t increase the retirement age. Buy doing that he cemented his love of the middle and lower classes. Russians are tired of war but will defend their homeland at all costs. The events in Abkhazia, S. Ossetia, and now Crimea have given him popular support the highest of any leader in the world because he supported ethic Russians being persecuted. Nothing rings truer for Russians than that. So, he must be doing something the people like. The same could be said about Orban. His party was recently re-elected with a huge majority so either the voters don’t care or are happy enough. Most people just don’t want war and conflict but the US loves it. That is because we haven’t fought a war on our own soil against foreign aggressors since 1812. It is easy to fight in someone else’s home and destroy everything. Most Americans are oblivious to what our country is doing anyway. They are dumbed down and numbed into just not caring unless it involves them personally. Remember only 1% of Americans are in the military and the vast majority of those come from very low class backgrounds escaping their dismal lives in the hopes of getting something better. It doesn’t affect the middle and upper classes whatsoever. Ultimately, it is the voters themselves who seal the fates of their nations by freely electing their governments. It is easy to complain but really it is the voters at fault and not the leaders. If they wanted to change it they certainly have the power to do so but lethargy or perhaps astute propaganda counter these desires. Money definitely influences voters.

    My basic point is to be careful of what you wish for. If you think America is good and out for your own benefit and actually cares about anything in your country then take a hard look at recent history. Go country by country and see how it ended up for them. We have 1,700 overseas military bases. Have you ever thought about why? Why are we building 12 new aircraft carriers? Where is the huge foreign power we want to go crush? Why do we need 1 trillion dollars worth of stealth fighters or another 2,400 M-1 tanks? Take a hard look maybe you can see for yourselves. Me, I got out and am very happy to be in Hungary. Time will tell who is right so we just have to wait and see what happens in the next 10 years. Maybe some sanity will return to the world.

  20. Richard, you’ve never seen homeless people in Hungary? Are you serious? You must live in some rich district of Buda and haven’t left it for years. Try going out to the “countryside.” Drunks lying in the street are not that uncommon either, despite the increased police patrols.

  21. Richard is hilarious. “Unemployment is somewhere around 24%” in America? I believe that rate was reached in the 1930s at the height of the depression, but currently is 6 or 7 percent.
    Being murdered in the is a “constant” threat? Wow, now that’s scary. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (http://www.unodc.org/documents/gsh/pdfs/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pdf)
    The US had 14,827 homicides in 2012, a rate of 4.7 per 100.000, which we can all agree is pretty terrible. But then the oh-so admirable Russian Federation had 13,120 with a smaller total population so its rate was 9.2 per 100,000 which is almost twice the US rate.
    Our new friend writes “I haven’t seen one homeless person in Hungary”. I suppose that’s possible. I, on the other hand, see them every day, and am frequently hit up for money.
    Thanks for your input, Richard. Very entertaining.

  22. What I don’t get about Clinton’s speech is what does he mean by Hungary owing a lot to the US??? I’m personally a fan of Bill, and he was spot on with everything, but this arrogant American exceptionalist bs is really tiresome, not to mention that this is probably the only thing everyone in Hungary will hear, not hard to guess, it’s not going to make Orbán weaker.

    But objectively, I was trying to think, what do we owe the US? Western Europe maybe for the Marshall plan, Kosovo definitely for their independence but what did the US directly do for Hungary? Or is this the usual, “America is the guardian of the light against the army of darkness all over the globe so we all owe it bs”? I am absolutely pro-western, but this half of a sentence made me raise my eyebrows.

  23. Richard, as you yourself mentioned with regards to the U.S., if one has enough money, one can live very well in Hungary as well ( or anywhere, really). But the fact that you write that you have never seen a homeless person in Hungary, or were never accosted by one in the street suggests to me that you are indeed living an extremely sheltered life in Hungary, someone who hardly leaves their Buda home ( if you happen to live in Budaoest) or goes everywhere by car: from home to point B. Because if you took any form of public transport, especially the busses that run along from Bosnyak ter to Deak ferenc ter, or any metro, or hang around outside most inner city churches, the train stations, outside the malls, etc, you would see many homeless. So either you live a sheltered life, or you are an Orbán troll, because ” never having a homeless person in Hungary ” is a dead give away.

  24. May I suggest that Richard in fact does not live in Hungary? He is hiding behind one of those untraceable IPs but I managed to find out where his internet provider is located. It is not in Hungary.

  25. Not only does Richard not live in Hungary, he doesn’t live on this planet.
    “I have also fought in Angola, Ethiopia, Somalia, Iraq, Honduras, and El Salvador so I have first hand experience of American foreign policy.”
    What a busy boy, or I should say what a busy imagination.

  26. About the comparison between Hungary and Russia: I think the main point is the indifference of large parts of the population. In both countries (and in other countries as well) there are hopeless people who can only concentrate on surviving, in poverty and squalor, and there are some activists who sincerely try to affect political change. But there is a small part of the society who is directly profiting from the present régime (the oligarchs and their clients, that is), and a much more numerous part which doesn’t suffer *very* much and therefore remains indifferent because it cannot even imagine that there would be a viable alternative. And, as in the days of Socialism, they know that keeping quiet about unpleasant things is for their own good. For these people, there simply is no political alternative, because all political forces they know of are those of a neo-feudal maffia state, there are no abstract or neutral principles or ideologies but simply networks of loyalty.

    Moreover, both in Russia (of Soviet times and under Putin) and in Hungary (since Trianon at least, but in a certain sense since Mohács) there is the good old tradition of scapegoat-seeking and political paranoia. Our enemies are everywhere, any criticism towards us is an evil international conspiracy, and all our calamities, past and present, are due to the sad fact that everybody envies and therefore hates us.

  27. I am grateful for this erudite discussion of the challenges facing Hungary, the US and the world. A tad more respect for each of those who takes the time to contribute their wide ranging perspectives would be nice, though perhaps a pinch of erös paprika does spice things up a bit.

    Having just returned from a week of Holocaust memorial events in several Hungarian cities, my take away is: the problems and paradoxical concerns of Hungary and Hungarians are more complex than meet the eye.

    To patriotic Hungarians who want the best for their nation I would warn, beware of greed, beware of a compromised free society, beware of the sins of anti-semitism and irrational bigotry whose attendant horrors scarred the Hungarian soul and decimated one of it’s extraordinarily talented groups of people. Remember, trite as it may sound, freedom isn’t free: it requires courage, responsibility and the willingness to volunteer one’s time and talents to many worthy enterprises by active involvement in the political process and if possible a legitimate faith community, vigilant organizations that are watchdogs for society in the arenas of ethics in high places, the environment and economic equity. These phrases are shorthand for things that I think all people of good will hope for: governments led by people who genuinely want the best for all they govern; strong, happy families with hope for a future that extends beyond their experience here on earth; clean, healthy air and water for all who live in a nation;and an attainable, reasonable standard of living accessible to everyone who is willing to do their part, to the best of their ability, to contribute what they can to society.

    This may sound sophomoric, overly optimistic or under-educated to some. It may be lacking the sophistication of many of the insightful observations posted on this website, but recognizing that many of us who love Hungary who fall on all places in the political spectrum, share these goals could facilitate working together more effectively. Hungary is beautiful…it is not perfect but it has improved over the years. The opportunities for unrestricted travel have improved for many and the charms of its increasingly well maintained cities, villages and towns are available to all Hungarians. Hungary needs to cultivate freedom and justice as assertively as it grooms its physical attractions. It’s outer beauty needs to be a reflection if it’s inner health as a nation.

    Éljen a Magyarszabadsag, éljen a Haza!

  28. Masha Gessen and her brother Keith Gessen are both very insightful observers of Russia and both write extremely well.

  29. @Annette Lantos Tillemann-Dick

    “Éljen a magyar szabadsag, éljen a haza”
    [Long live the Hungarian freedom, long live the country] from the Kossuth song

    I suggest we modernize this:

    Long live the Hungarian freedom from the Orban government,
    long live the country freed from money-hungry despots.

  30. Annette those are nice comments. I am laughing at the interesting discussion about where I live. You obviously haven’t done anything. I live on Lake Balaton and use UPC so that isn’t particularly difficult to figure out. As for my experience I spent 40 years in the US Army 10 as a soldier and 20 as an officer and 10 as a senior civilian scientist. I mentioned this to negate the accusations that I do not have a clue what I am talking about but apparently to some of you anyone voicing a contradictory opinion is obviously a Russian agent. Get a clue guys. The US has been at constant war since my birth. Since I was drafted into the Army in 1971 we have had so many armed conflicts it is hard to keep track. I lost count at 21 but I believe the number is a lot higher. I have been directly involved in some but not in others. For example I was sent to Germany instead of Vietnam during that conflict. That is the way the chips fall sometimes. The ethiopian fighting I was involved in was unexpected and it was in defense of the US Embassy there during the crisis following Haile Selassie’s death. I just happened to be there at the time. The Army is a big place but when you rise into specialty fields you get deployed into even more frequent and sometimes interesting deployments. Some of that is direct combat, some of it is interdiction, and some just plain unanticipated defensive operations. Others are peaceful humanitarian assistance stuff like building water treatment facilities in Iquitos Peru or developing a treatment regimen for Brucellosis in some very poor nations. We do what we are told and we tend to do it well unless politicians get involved then if definitely will go sideways. That is the nature of a military governed by civilian appointees.

    As for Russia’s response in Ukraine I would ask you to take a different viewpoint which for some of you might be impossible. Let’s use Hungary as a hypothetical example. Consider a neighboring country to Hungary that has begun to espouse very loudly that the Hungarians are a low life despicable set of sub-humans and should be eradicated from the earth. This same country has about 40% population consisting of ethnic Hungarians. Then this country passes a law forbidding the use of the Hungarian language and then passes another law that anyone caught with a Hungarian passport will get 10 years in prison. All throughout this time they are marching in the streets calling out for the death of all Hungarians and that the only good Hungarian is a dead one. What do you think Hungary would do about this? Listen to Yanukovych and Timoshenko’s speeches and you will see what I am talking about. Ask the people in Crimea now (I have friends there but you won’t believe anything I say) how they are doing and if they are happy to be part of Russia. Maybe you can see what I am getting at here. I know it is a poor example but on the other hand the Hungarians in Transcarpatia are actively resisting this government in Ukraine and there might be a second front in the West but this time against Romanians ad Hungarians. Maybe then you will begin to understand what the Russians are feeling now.

    The US (Bush senior) promised Russia that NATO wouldn’t expand eastward but that was immediately broken. Then missile bases are being built surrounding Russia in these new NATO countries. I am actually surprised Russia hasn’t done something more drastic and far earlier but I think they were willing to believe the US/EU rhetoric up until now. Obviously, they feel that what is happening now in the Ukraine is a necessary confrontation in defense of ethnic Russians and is a direct threat to the Russian motherland. I looked on FedBizOps web page (a site used by the US government for contract solicitations) and saw 14 contract offers for rebuilding and renovating the naval base in Sevastopol for the US Navy. Those contracts pre-dated the Maidan protests. Sorry to say they have been removed now but they were there and it is clear the US has been planning on kicking the Russians out of Crimea for a long time. What a plum that would have been and how angry President Obama must have been after Putin just took it. Obviously Putin knew about US intentions and acted accordingly.

    Russians have a unique zeitgeist in that they all abandon whatever internal issues are bothering them if confronted with a real existential threat. That happened with Stalin in WWII and it is happening for Putin now for similar reasons. The other interesting thing to note is no one has successfully attacked Russia. They will fight to the death if threatened and apparently the US and the EU do not understand this. I believe China is very similar in this regard. Both Hungary and the US have a dismal record in military matters. We haven’t been winning since WWII and as far as I can tell Hungary has joined the losing team every time. Russia has had it’s shares of debacles as well and deeply regretted getting involved in Afghanistan which they very adamantly warned the US to not repeat and that I believe was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union.

    I think the US is already moving on away from Ukraine and focusing yet again in the Middle East which is a lot easier to deal with than Russia. They have stirred the pot and done everything they can to foment a coup in Russia. Now it is a matter of time to see where it all heads. As for Orban I agree with him completely regarding the sanctions against Russia. It will be interesting to see what this weeks EU Court decisions will result in from Russia (I refer to the ruling no sanctions can be implemented without concrete and verifiable facts).

    And no I have not seen a single homeless person in Hungary. But, I rarely go to Budapest other than to the airport and have never further East in Hungary than that. If I am wrong about that then I apologize but I personally haven’t seen this in Hungary. In Prague yes but even in Budapest I haven’t but I have generally only done the typical tourist stuff there. I do understand the standard of living is different between Hungary and a lot of the western world and especially the US. I do see that Hungarians are generally poorer but I also can say in the 6 years I have been here it has improved dramatically at least in our region. As I say I cannot speak for the rest of the country but here in Veszprem county it is all looking very good (rare exceptions where they have stuffed the gypsies but I won’t devolve into that, the US has similar problems as do many countries). But, even being poorer, Hungarians are proud people and don’t seem to let it get them down. I see courtesy everywhere and people eager to work and to do their jobs well. Most people wear clean clothing which is ironed and neat even if it is old and threadbare. One thing you have to realize is that Americans live almost entirely on borrowed money. Americans generally never own anything and amass huge and often impossible to pay debts. This is the “American” way of life and the economy is dependent on it. This is very rare in Hungary as you haven’t bought into the buy now pay later concept of a consumer based society. That is a good thing and I hope it doesn’t happen. You also have functional but not elegant medical care at very reasonable prices. You also have an excellent education system. None of that is true in the US. We have good but extremely expensive schools and the same is true for medicine. The comparison could go on ad infinitum but I believe I have made my points if you choose to listen.

  31. @Richard & US un/employment

    August 2014 (2007) [2000]

    Unemployment rate : 6.1% (4.6%) [4.1%]

    Labor participation rate: 62.8% (65.8%) [66.9%]

    Source: data.bls.gov

    So if the genuine unemployment rate was 4% in 2000, it is now roughly 10% [growth in unemployment rate + decline in labor participation rate]. (I know that simple addition does not give a precise rate)

    Another point Richard raised is the full-time vs part-time employment.

    We have to find the time-series about the
    (full-time employment) / (population in the 23-67 age group)

  32. Richard, I hereby testify that Budapest is full of homeless people. What’s more Buda is full of them too, because it’s more green, there more public, forest covered areas where they can move to set up their shacks. Moszkva-Széll Kálmán square is full of them. In fact I haven’t seen so many homeless in the last ten years as I see these days. It’s really sad.

  33. @Richard

    One cannot but appreciate the efforts you put in day after day to convert people here to Russia’s cause and to derail the discourse.

    It’s interesting to see that there are similar people, apparently with unlimited time and energy at cink.hu or 444.hu, some of the independent media outlets which allow comments who are doing everything they can to convince people that the west is bad, that the west is finished, that Russia is good, that Russia’s actions are absolutely justified and so on.

    But guess what? Hungarians had enough of Russia which kept Hungary occupied for 45 f***ing years, and in addition the Russian empire crushed Hungary’s revolutions/wars of independence both in 1849 and in 1949.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    If you admire Russia so much, then I suggest you move there. As I remember Russia was always very open to genuine defectors, so I am sure they would welcome such a cheerleader with open arms. Although, come to think of it, they might have a greater use of you in Hungary or in the US.

    It’s also very interesting to note that despite your claim of having spent four decades with the US army, you are more critical of the US government and its armed forces than Noam Chomsky or the hippies of Woodstock have ever been. It must’ve been pretty difficult to spend those years in the army, unless…

    I don’t know who you are, but you sure smell like a KGB officer from a thousand miles.

  34. @Richard

    One cannot but appreciate the efforts you put in day after day to convert people here to Russia’s cause and to derail the discourse.

    It’s interesting to see that there are similar people, apparently with unlimited time and energy at cink.hu or 444.hu, some of the independent media outlets which allow comments who are doing everything they can to convince people that the west is bad, that the west is finished, that Russia is good, that Russia’s actions are absolutely justified and so on.

    But guess what? Hungarians had enough of Russia which kept Hungary occupied for 45 f***ing years, and in addition the Russian empire crushed Hungary’s revolutions/wars of independence both in 1849 and in 1949.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    If you admire Russia so much, then I suggest you move there. As I remember Russia was always very open to genuine defectors, so I am sure they would welcome such a cheerleader with open arms. Although, come to think of it, they might have a greater use of you in Hungary or in the US.

    It’s also very interesting to note that despite your claim of having spent four decades with the US army, you are more critical of the US government and its armed forces than Noam Chomsky or the hippies of Woodstock have ever been. It must’ve been pretty difficult to spend those years in the army, unless…

    I don’t know who you are, but you sure smell like a KGB officer from a thousand miles.

  35. @Richard

    ” One thing you have to realize is that Americans live almost entirely on borrowed money. ”

    Do Hungarians live from their own money?

    Certainly not. More than 10% of the income side of the Hungarian budget comes from the EU largesse. In addition, the budget is always in deficit.

    The net debt of the country is at an all-time high.

  36. I second tappanch, Hungary is financed on money what they never earned.

    Even worse: Hungary financed by those capitalist pigs, horribile dictu mostly of the decadent and otherwise dying westerners of that – can you imagine?

    That’s how the world of finances used to function, you see, whatever Viktor the Great try to tell you. Without ‘capitalists’ there is no “work based society”, however insistently he’s dreaming about.

    Tough luck, won’t you say?

  37. Richard, if you really intended to make some impact here, you may try to pay more attention to consistency – it would vastly improve your credibility.

    Believe it or not, folk here can be really picky, – starting with me – spotting logical and/or factual discrepancies.
    In your shoes I wouldn’t insist to push it much further, however it’s your call.

  38. Sorry, I promise to proofread next time!
    A pity we don’t have the luxury of editing our comments if already published – punishment for the sloppy writers as myself?

  39. The wealth of a country (government) can differ from the wealth of its citizens.

    Average wealth of adults, according to Credit Suisse (October 2013) in thousands of USD.
    (Real estate + more liquid financial assets – debt)

    [no estimate for Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein]

    Switzerland: 513

    Norway: 380

    Luxembourg: 315
    US: 301
    Sweden: 299
    France: 296
    Singapore: 282
    Belgium: 256
    Denmark: 255
    UK: 244
    Italy: 241

    Austria: 204
    Germany: 192
    Holland: 186

    Finland: 172

    Qatar: 153
    Israel: 137
    UAE: 127
    Spain: 124
    Kuwait: 119

    Greece: 103
    Portugal: 89

    Slovenia: 64
    Czechia: 45

    Hungary: 28 (about 6 million forints)
    Slovakia: 27
    Croatia: 27
    Poland: 26

    Brazil: 23
    China: 22

    Serbia: 15
    Romania: 14
    Russia: 11

    India: 5
    Ukraine: 3

  40. I try to refrain from feeding the trolls, especially the very verbose ones. But then…

    Richard: I looked on FedBizOps web page (a site used by the US government for contract solicitations) and saw 14 contract offers for rebuilding and renovating the naval base in Sevastopol for the US Navy. Those contracts pre-dated the Maidan protests. Sorry to say they have been removed now but they were there and it is clear the US has been planning on kicking the Russians out of Crimea for a long time.

    Are you also a 9/11 ‘truther’, by any chance? The ‘logic’ seems familiar. 🙂 There were no U.S. contracts for ‘renovating the naval base’ as you falsely state. The U.S. Navy undertook numerous renovations of schools in the City of Sevastopol, under a program supervised by Ukraine that started in 2010 and ended obviously in April this year. Now, why is that?

    Click to access pepm_047.pdf

    Richard: The US (Bush senior) promised Russia that NATO wouldn’t expand eastward but that was immediately broken.

    Could you point me to any bilateral document stipulating that promise? Do you seriously think that Gorbachev was so wet between the ears? And as a corollary, could you give me the name of the European Capital where Russia signed a memorandum committing them to the respect of Ukraine’s territorial integrity?

  41. @ Richard: Hungarians may be a proud people but they are not really famous for being optimistic …… The more you write the more obvious it is that you do not speak or understand Hungsrian and thus have a very narrow and filtered not to mention privileged experience of living in Hungary. Courteous? Really? you are starting to make a laughing stock of yourself here.

  42. Thanks for the biography Richard. Very convincing. As a US Army draftee enlisted man, you “happened” to be in the capital of Ethiopia defending the embassy from an attack? I don’t recall, nor can I find any reference to an armed attack on the US embassy in Ethiopia in 1975, and anyway a US embassy would have had Marine guards, not Army. I’ll welcome any reference you can give for that particular battle. Pray tell, what fighting did you engage in in Honduras, El Salvador and Angola? I don’t recall the US sending US Army soldiers to those countries to fight – did you just happen to be visiting and got caught up in a few fire fights? Trouble seems to follow you around.
    Having been drafted at the time of the Vietnam war, you stayed in the army for ten years, and then became an officer. After 20 years of officering, you spent ten years as a “senior civilian scientist” in the army? What does that even mean?
    You’re pretty good, but you can’t quite pull off a plausible character, especially not as a 40 year US Army vet so enamored of Russia.

  43. Richard

    “… All throughout this time they are marching in the streets calling out for the death of all Hungarians and that the only good Hungarian is a dead one. What do you think Hungary would do about this?”

    Well, I wouldn’t attack them, wouldn’t send armed troops in and give them weapons they can’t use.
    There are other ways to deal with a conflict like that.

    As for Hungarians being courteous and wearing clean shoes etc. You seem to be in a bit of a honeymoon stage about living in Hungary. Yes, people say hello to a shop assistant, and people might be better-groomed than where you come from, especially in the well-kept holiday resorts of Balaton and the rich villages surrounding them. But try living on 250 euros a month, go and see the Eastern areas etc. The reason why there are no visible homeless people around is because the government has made it a CRIME to be visible…

  44. This is from Jack Matlock’s website. He has retired from the State Department.

    ” The territory of the GDR did come under NATO jurisdiction with Soviet approval, but not totally. As a result of the two plus four negotiations, it was agreed by all parties, including the USSR, that the territory would be part of NATO but that no foreign (non-German) troops would be stationed there. ”

    While there was a treaty about NATO troops in East Germany, there was no formal agreement about NATO expansion into Eastern Europe.

    “I am sure that if Bush had been re-elected and Gorbachev had remained as president of the USSR there would have been no NATO expansion during their terms in office. There was no way either could commit successors, and when Gorbachev was deposed and the USSR broke up, their understandings became moot.”

    “When NATO expansion occurred some years later it was not the result of some U.S. or NATO decision to press eastward or to threaten Russia. The impetus came from the East European countries,”

    “By agreeing to enlarge NATO to include countries that requested membership and met NATO’s criteria, Western governments were not trying to isolate Russia but to respond to the needs of the East Europeans”

    http://jackmatlock.com/2014/04/nato-expansion-was-there-a-promise/

  45. tappanch, exactly and it is perceptibly worse as there are US military in some NATO bases covertly such as in Papa here in Hungary.

    I happened to be in Ethiopia because at that time I was a Medical Laboratory Technician (MOS 92B30) and had been asked to go there from Germany on a 30- day TDY so the guy stationed there could go home on leave. The action was from protesters and the crowd got particularly aggressive and shots were fired. It was an all men on deck situation and I spent that time mostly manning the walls and we definitely were under fire and returned fire to any armed aggressors. No casualties occurred among the Embassy personnel so really it never amounted to much but I got 30 days credit for hostile fire pay a whopping $25 a month back then. I became SF when I re-enlisted after that. The stuff in Angola etc. were as military advisors. SF’s main mission is training and each team is designed to train up a Division’s worth of insurgency and/or national forces. Often you also conduct humanitarian assistance missions simultaneously with the hearts and minds concept. This happens a lot and a great deal is occurring now in many countries around the world. Back in my day SF was a small group but now it is over 86,000 soldiers and a huge number of unaccountable contractors. The line is now very blurred between what contractors do and what active forces do and “combat” is not a clearly defined situation. For example, the US General Randy Kee and his group of military advisors (all SF) are boots on the ground in Ukraine and at least 3 of the US advisors have been killed and Kee himself was shot and wounded swimming in the Black Sea at Marioupol. Is the US fighting in Ukraine? Not officially, but US soldiers are engaging in hostile fire nonetheless. Such is the nature of covert wars. The US has been and is currently involved in an unknown number of these kinds of covert activities.

    As for my not being patriotic sounding, that is very common among SF Operators. You lose that stuff quickly as a professional. You do your job and you do it well and you look out for them members of your team and unit. The focus is largely localized and in many cases you move into survival mode. You throw out all that jingoistic nonsense as it is incompatible with professionalism. Of course, when you begin doing missions in a great deal of places and notice the discontinuity and the rogues and miscreants you have to train or work with you lose you view through pink glasses quickly. Often you are just as worried about your allies as your are about the enemy. Every SF Operator I know is extremely professional, take their jobs seriously but are also the most cynical and non-military you can imagine. All are survivors of things normal soldiers will hopefully never see and it definitely changes your outlook on things.

    Yes, I apparently am enjoying a pocket of Hungary that is particularly wonderful and no, I never looked into the actual living conditions of typical Hungarians. Really, it isn’t something I would get involved with. I have been in the crappiest places on Earth for extended times and Hungary is definitely not one of them. You might feel differently but I encourage you to travel to some of those wonderful places and your might appreciate Hungary more. From what I am seeing in the US there are parts of it now that are similarly bad such as Detroit. Who would have expected the US to devolve into having third world country conditions? In all my years working in those wonderful garden spots of the world (we don’t typically go to nice places), you learn to harden your heart as cruel as that sounds. As a foreigner living as a guest in a foreign country I can’t act in any meaningful way other than to offer employment to a fairly large number of people locally and this is the view I have which is by definition localized. After the criticisms about my not seeing homeless I spent some time researching it and I am actually surprised at what I learned. I still maintain I haven’t seen it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And yes, I can see that living near Balaton I might not be seeing the bigger picture. So, we apparently chose well where to live. Expatriate retirees really don’t and shouldn’t get too involved in the politics of the host nation. I comment where it affects me such as when Orban speaks out against sanctions when it will negatively affect the Hungarian economy. I can agree with him on that as I do live here and buy goods, services, and utilities. So, to this degree it can be a real concern. Hungarian politics I cannot really comment on as I cannot and will not participate. However, I can comment and can try and educate others on the real contrasting differences between the US and Hungary but only as far as I can see it. I am not here working at all and what work I do is still in the US. We do actively contribute to the Hungarian economy and enjoy what we have here. But, we can also leave just as quickly as we came so our commitment is only as expatriates and limited should things go south. I am hoping that the Ukraine debacle quiets down and doesn’t include serious punishment of Hungarians in the Transcarpathian region. That could rapidly escalate into another Bosnia.

    I appreciate this website for its presentation of alternate views which as a non-Hungarian speaker is hard to ascertain in any meaningful way. I suppose I could just ignore it all but I thought I could comment on things as an American I actually know about. I didn’t mention it but my wife is Russian and her family is extremely affected by the sanctions in a very negative way as they are in the oil business. This gives me a view from both sides of the fence so to speak.They are all, my wife included, Putin haters. But, her family largely understands and agrees with what he has been doing in Ukraine. This is the paradox in Russia now.

    As for my comments about employment etc. these are all easily seen if you bother to do a search. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-29/real-unemployment-rate-20-american-families-everyone-unemployed

    http://wallstcheatsheet.com/business/the-problem-with-part-time-work-theres-just-too-damn-much-of-it.html/?a=viewall

    Anyway, the aggression from readers on this blog is a bit surprising and rather uncivil. I have refrained from making any derogatory statements about some of the things I have observed in Hungary which I do disagree with out of respect for the authors of the blog and it’s readership. The parable of Pushkin’s goldfish comes to mind.

  46. the zerohedge website is casually called by people in finance as hero’s edge, as it mostly contains crazy talk by preppers, peopel preparing for the collapse.

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