The G20 summit: Hungarian right-wing newspapers on Vladimir Putin in Brisbane

If I did not have such a low opinion of the hacks at Magyar Nemzet,  Magyar Hírlap, and Válasz, I would feel sorry for them today when they had to cover the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia. By all reports, Putin was completely isolated and, in fact, at times was even humiliated. While Barack Obama and the Chinese premier Xi Jinping were met by the governor general and attorney general on their arrival, Putin was greeted by the assistant defense minister.

Pro-government papers had to tiptoe around the delicate topic of Vladimir Putin’s less than friendly reception by practically all the other participants. After all, the Hungarian government has been on an anti-American, anti-EU course for some time while relations with Russia have been rosy. In fact, an opinion piece that appeared in the Russian newspaper Vedimosti called Viktor Orbán our man in the European Union.

News portals critical of the government reported the events pretty much the way other western papers did. Almost all of them mentioned Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s less than diplomatic words to Putin: “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.” They said there were rumors of Putin’s early departure from Brisbane. They included Obama’s statement that Putin’s policies are “a threat to the world” and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warning about further financial sanctions against Russia if Putin does not recall Russian troops from Eastern Ukraine. They also called attention to Putin’s lowly place at the far left of the formal G20 leaders’ photograph and reported on anti-Putin demonstrations.

G20 Brisbane afp

So, let’s see how the right-wing Hungarian press reported the events in Brisbane. It was Válasz that first tackled the topic with the headline “Obama harshly attacked Putin,” although the bulk of the article was about other things: climate change, strategic cooperation in the Far East, and environmental issues. Válasz specializes in misleading headlines. The MTI report they used also quoted Yuri Ushakov, foreign adviser to Putin, who insisted that Russia has nothing to do with the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. As far as the sanctions are concerned, the Russian position is that “they are illegal and contrary to the United Nation’s Charter.” Not a word about Putin’s problems and the unity of the G20 on the Ukrainian issue.

Magyar Hírlap‘s early report did not rely on MTI. Its headline set the tone: “The West threatens again with sanctions.” According to Putin, the sanctions are harmful for all concerned, including Ukraine. Russia has enough reserves to weather the sanctions. The article also quotes Yuri Ushakov, who informed the public about the forthcoming bilateral talks between Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The article adds that the Russian daily paper Kommersant reported that refugees from southeastern territories of Ukraine turned to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the Kiev government. They demand financial compensation. All in all, the article relies almost exclusively on Russian sources and reflects the Russian point of view. This should not be a surprise because Magyar Hírlap‘s political ideology lies roughly at the intersection of Jobbik and Fidesz.

Magyar Nemzet was rather slow at reporting on the event. The headline quotes Obama as saying that “Russia is a threat to the world.” At the beginning of the article the journalists DA and KaG summarize the main events of the day: David Cameron said that Russia may face new sanctions if Putin continues with its current policies, Obama considers the Russian policies dangerous, and officially the agenda is about global economic stimuli.

After describing the lovely reception of the delegations of the G20 and Angela Merkel’s wonderful time mingling with Australians on the street, the article continues: “The reception of Vladimir Putin was cooler. Allegedly the Canadian prime minister told him to get out of Ukraine.” They also mention Herman van Rompuy’s and David Cameron’s harsh words about the Russian aggression. It looks as if this particular article was based on information picked up from western sources.

One could say that, however briefly, Magyar Nemzet covered the most important points. Four hours later, however, a new article appeared about the Brisbane summit that “corrected” the earlier picture. Here we learn that Putin will indeed leave early “because the western countries put pressure on him in connection with the Ukrainian crisis.” In this article the emphasis is on the Russian point of view. It recalls an interview with Vladimir Putin with the German ARD television station in which he talked about the adverse effects of the sanctions, not just for Russia but for all countries, including Ukraine. Russian banks have 25 billion dollars in Ukraine which they could certainly recall. The article quotes Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, who described the meeting of Putin with Merkel in which “President Putin explained the Russian point of view on Ukraine in great detail.” In addition, it again mentions Putin’s interview on ARD TV in which Putin said that “Russia will not allow the Ukrainian army to destroy all its political adversaries.” Apparently he was talking about the pro-Russian separatists of Eastern Ukraine. Furthermore, according to Putin, Russia’s “European and American partners are not doing any favor to Ukraine when they ruin its financial basis or limit our financial institutions’ possibilities of reaching the international markets. Do they want to ruin their banks? With that move they ruin Ukraine.”

I wonder how long this particular point of view will prevail in Hungary. On Monday there will be a meeting of EU foreign ministers which Hungary’s “super diplomat” will attend. The topic will be new sanctions against Russia. I might mention here that Angela Merkel spent altogether four hours with Vladimir Putin. The first two hours the two spoke alone. In the second half Jean-Claude Junker joined them. If Dmitri Peskov gave an accurate account of the meeting, I have the feeling that new sanctions are forthcoming. After all, according Putin’s spokesman, the Russian president simply described the Russian position. And we all know what that is.


  1. I already posted this, but I think it’s important, so I’m going to say it again. Russia is setting up self-described Soviet states. For instance, here is the wiki page about the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic:'s_Republic

    The Donetsk legislature is called a “Supreme Soviet.” So now we have the pro-Hungarian press supporting a revival of the Soviets.

    The same is true for Lugansk:

  2. OT (not too much):

    Check out this hilarious, unbelievable exchange on Twitter between a certain Benjamin Novak (my new hero) and the American Hungarian Federation, which categorically refuses to answer a simple question of his:

    Margit Feher wrote that she expected a “heated debate,” no kidding.

    Incidentally I wonder what kind of “US non-profit orgs” give their money to the American-Hungarian Federation. Is it just Friends of Hungary and the like, or real American non-profits who are clueless about what kind of organization they’re supporting? And if it’s the latter, I wonder how they would feel about supporting an organization that supports Orbán’s anti-democratic agenda.

  3. @buddy

    A good point from the exchange is that the American Hungarian Federation simply denounces/dismisses Kim Schepple as a “far left” pundit. And now that GOP is king in DC, far lefties must be ignored, they’re irrelevant. I wonder how much traction this bullshit of this Federation can get. Perhaps it would be good to get a Bob Jones University professor to call Orban a corrupt dictator.

  4. Well since the American Hungarian Association has been brought up Frank Koszorus, Jr the
    National President of the AHA in October sent a letter of objection to Victoria Nuland about her keynote address on October 2 at the 2014 U.S. – Central Europe Strategy Forum that was covered in detail by Eva. To see this letter in full go to

    Click to access AHF_CEPA_Obama_2014-10-22-signed.pdf

    The letter has to attack the Russians because there are almost no publicly pro-Russian Hungarians in the USA. This is where the falsification starts, the AHA states there is a “growing aggression” on the part of Russia but the current US policy towards Hungary is alienating the current government. Never mentioned even in passing is Orban’s government objection and rejection of economic actions against Russia. Then the letter goes on to chastise Nuland for not discussing national minority rights in her address.

    Lastly and rather amazingly the AHA letter selectively quotes Eva making it appear as if her overall take on the banning corrupt Hungarian officials by the US embassy was done selectively against Hungary and not applied to equally corrupt officials in Romania or elsewhere because the USA wanted to make a political point to only Hungary. If the extracted quote from Eva is put into context one sees that Eva is profoundly correct in that part of the basis for the banning of the corrupt Hungarian officials was political calculation based in part on Orban’s eastern winds doctrine which threatens the unity of the west in the face of the very Russian aggression that the AHA claims to oppose. The banning was also based on the clear links of the shake down attempt by the NAV to the political apparatus of the Fidesz party through where the bribes were to be paid by the American firms, a point Eva has made and is never discussed by the AHA in its letter.

    The AHA is a disaster and with Russian bombers now buzzing off our coasts and the new Cold War heating up, it had better dump it’s only slightly veiled support for the Hungarian right including Fidesz which is now clearly in the Russian camp. The funds from the Fidesz government that trickle into various cultural associations that are part of the AHA are simply not worth the consequences the AHA will face as the Cold War heats up.

  5. @eva

    re: Gábor Török Actually from this post I think that Gábor Török doesn’t really get it. He appears to be starting from the basic assumption that the government’s actions have some sort of rational basis, and that he can rationally explain the problems to them, assuming that they will then act rationally. But I think the actions of the past few weeks — especially the last week — show that the government is not acting in a rational manner and can not be reasoned with in the manner Török thinks.

    Let me explain it this way: if you see someone banging their head against the wall repeatedly, are you going to come up to them and tap them on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, I think you’re going to hurt yourself if you keep doing that.” How long are you going to do that for, if at all? At some point, you have to conclude, “That person is not behaving rationally” and walk away. But people like Török think they can keep talking sense to that person and they’ll stop behaving irrationally.

    On the other hand, maybe Orbán and others do pay attention to what this analyst thinks and will change course, but I have my doubts.

  6. @buddy: Spot on. Orban is calculating, but not rational. He has way too many psychological issues to act rationally, and the more he feels pressed, the more irrational he will get. This is going to be his downfall, too.

    I’d also add that the way to hasten his downfall is to fuel his irrationality and insecurities (and stop financing him). It is hard to wish for such a strategy, though, as most certainly the country will suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, this seems like the only way this could unfold.

  7. An, there is more to the financing aspect of the Fidesz regiem than just EU cohesion funds there is also web of influence relating to numerous bussiness relationships within Hungary. While the US has attempted to protect its multinational corporations, that is but a small drop in the bucket as other posters have pointed out on this blog. As I have indicated members of my own extended family in Hungary believe they have kötelezettségek to Fidesz, for what exactly I have no idea ( to be honest I also don’t want to know). There are thousands and thousands of otherwise reasonable Bussiness persons who believe they must meet their obligations to the Fidesz web of influence.

    I would suggest that when one examines the bulk of the cohesion funds even with the embedded corruption that they have helped to reduce to cost of industrial outsourcing, by in particular German firms, by developing the Hungarian transportation infastructure. This is a critical component for what is called just in time production where cheaply produced Hungarian made parts fit into the profit stream of large firms or even where shipping finished products that are passed off as German. The best example is the Audi A3 which is sold in the USA as “German engineered” and the fact that they are Hungarian made is not disclosed to US consumers since the A3 is seen as an entry level luxury car. Even US auto magazines generally do not reveal this fact ( example see the A3 Sedan reviewed is produced at Audi Hungaria in Györ, Hungary.

    I am not suggesting by this comment in any way that it may not be appropriate for the EU commission to cut off these funds, but there is much more going on here than just the cohesion euros following into Hungary.

  8. buddy, An,

    you’re making a mistake by assuming that there’s only one rationality, one rational course of action (presumably if judged by some objective criteria) in any given situation. Török’s fundamental assumption is that Fidesz and Orban have one fundamental goal: to keep power at any cost and by any means. Judged from that perspective Orban’s actions may be rational, he is just using the same strategy that has worked so well countless times before — only Török’s simply afraid that it won’t this time.

    Török also implies that this goal (to obtain power and to entrench itself) is universal in the political realm and given the opportunity (a similar 2/3s power etc.) all politicians would behave in the same way, at least in this respect.

    Orban has no substantive goals regarding education, infrastructural development, rule of law, energy policy, health care, taxation etc. at all. Nothing. Everything is subordinated to his ideas about how to entrench itself, how to increase his powers (and how to gain wealth in the process). (Like eliminating public gymnasiums in rural areas leaving education to staunchly Fidesz-loyal parochial schools, which in the end will produce regime loyal elite.)

    Since in the past foreign powers always gave in eventually (or in the worst case Orban had to perform his peacock dance to attain his goal) he thinks his aggressiveness will work this time (ruthlessness worked for the GOP fantastically too). If not, he figures at the very end the gentlemen western politicians will still give him a chance to make up for his sins somehow and given his lock on power internally that will be enough for him to survive. He figures that if he increases the pensions and cuts energy prices a year before the next elections, that is in 2017, that will be more than enough for him to get reelected – people will just forget what happened in 2015 or 2016.

    But most likely Orban will be elected by the Parliament (he isn’t stupid to stand for presidential elections like Ponta or Fico did) to be the next president for 5-7 years with an increased scope of powers — in a way Orban doesn’t have to care about internal politics at all. He has no downside, he’s becoming the paramount politician anyway until 2024. Why should he care that much about anything?

    Orban is a mentally ill tyrant, but rational according to his principles of his own corrupt system of thought.

  9. @Istvan

    “I am not suggesting by this comment in any way that it may not be appropriate for the EU commission to cut off these funds…”

    Hmmm. Sounds rather ‘troll-like’…

    Cutting off the funds is WRONG. Beginning procedures against Hungary is WRONG.

    Present EU actions, and now the US adding pressure, seems to be working well if we’re to judge by the shrillness, and panic-ridden, anti-Americanism of Orban and the Hungarian government.
    This should be kept up as is.
    At best, what can be done by the EU is to institute oversight procedures on how the cohesion funds are spent. If Orban refuses to comply then it would be clear to one and all that Orban’s manipulation of in-coming funds is more important than the work those funds would create. Even Hungarians would understand that.

    In other words, the right policy is to keep up the pressure–from the US, from Brussels–but don’t cause or initiate a breach. Let Orban struggle like a worm on a hook.

    It seems that there is an agenda–not only Orbans–which requires the country’s separation from the EU, and that this agenda is being held up.

  10. re: Scheppele

    Two things:

    One, the insidious nature of troll-work cannot be over-estimated: a while ago someone mentioned that Scheppele was responsible for the 2/3 statute in the original constitution. I took
    the comment as true, and ever since I’ve been wondering how she would justify its inclusion.
    Well, from the interview, it’s clear that she had nothing to do with it; and, in fact, opposes it.

    Two, the one thing that all true Hungarians should be forever thankful for, is that a person of Scheppele’s learning and distinction continues to monitor, and correct, what is happening in
    Hungary. This is good fortune of unmeasurable proportions!

  11. @Sampaio: I was using the word rational meaning “having the ability to reason or think about things clearly.” I don’t doubt Orban is following his own distorted logic, and in that he is consistent.. It is still a distorted logic that won’t serve him forever; reality will catch up with him.
    My point is that the more pressured he is, the more distorted his thinking will become. No matter how smart one is, when delusions govern one’s thoughts instead of facts, the outcome is not going to be good.

  12. Petofi you have used the word “troll” more than anyone who regularly posts on this blog, it’s really amazing. It was An that made the suggestion to cut off the cohesion funds, but since I would go further effectively suspending Hungary from NATO immediately. I was indicating to her in particular that I would not oppose such a move by the commission. The Fidesz has sources of funding for its operatives well beyond just EU sponsored projects.

    Your theory on continual application of lower levels of pressure on this regiem eventually having an impact I think will be proven incorrect with time. But for the moment that appears to be the US State Department strategy.

    The idea of Hungary being pushed into the hands of Putin by actions of the west is not reality based, Hungary’s elected government is breaking the common front against Russian aggression based on an ideological affinity to Putin’s Russia. Maybe a shock treatment of a big action by the commission or NATO will bring the nation back to its senses, then again maybe it will create a nationalist furor under the guidence of Orban. But then as you believe and have so stated I am a devious KGB agent, what a world of conspiracy you seem to live in Petofi.

  13. @Istvan

    Orban is apoplectic with the USA….They must be doing something right.

    Anything Orban is angry at must be the right approach to handling him.

  14. @Istvan

    ‘world of conspiracy’…

    Oh, did I mention that JFK was killed by the chiefs of staff and the assassination constituted
    a coup d’etat?

    Conspiracies? What conspiracies…?

  15. Yes Petofi you have mentioned before on this blog that you believe Presiident Kennedy was murdered as part of a conspiracy. Those who consistently hold such theories are often called here in the USA “conspiracy theorists,” It’s not a title to be proud of.

  16. @Istvan: You find them everywhere!

    My little joke: In German conspiracy is “Conspiration” – so I call them “Constipation theorists” …

  17. In front of a large audience in Sydney Mrs Merkel found some strong words for Putin:
    ” Sie warnte Putin, dass die EU vor Moskau nicht kuschen werde wie es die DDR einst getan habe.”
    She warned Putin that the EU would not bow to Moscow like the German Democratic Republic did (a long time ago …)

    And on a lighter note:

    Russia plans its own version of wikipedia – it’s already got a name:
    Putinpedia …

  18. @Istvan

    “It’s not a title to be proud of…”

    The TRUTH is nothing to be proud of: one just seeks it…and speaks of it..

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