Viktor Orbán crashed the party: the hosts were not pleased

A few days ago some Hungarian newspaper reporters discovered that, according to an international Russian-language site called Birzhevoi Lider, Viktor Orbán turned up uninvited–and unwelcome–in Vilnius last Sunday on the last day of a joint NATO exercise called “Iron Sword 2014.”

The story was more than media gossip. The press secretary of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitè confirmed that Orbán had not been invited to sit in the grandstand for the military parade marking the end of an almost two-week-long military exercise against a possible attack on Lithuania from the East. Moreover, the president had no intention of meeting him. According to the article, an unannounced visit by a leading politician on such an occasion is considered to be an affront to the host country. The journalists of Birzhevoi Lider asked Laurynas Kasčiūnas, a political scientist who apparently is normally not at all critical of Orbán, for a comment. Even he was taken aback by Orbán’s brazen behavior. He pointed out that we all know why Orbán is now so eager to show his loyalty to his NATO allies, but “the European community no longer falls for Orbán’s gimmicks because Europeans have not forgotten that it is Hungary which supports Putin in Europe and that it was Budapest that stopped supplying gas to Ukraine.”

Source Magyar Nemzet / Photo Andrinus Ufartas/ MTI-EPA

Source Magyar Nemzet / Photo Andrinus Ufartas/ MTI-EPA

NATO began preparing for the defense of the Baltic States as early as 2010, right after Russia invaded Georgia. In the wake of the Russian annexation of Crimea, NATO decided to have a larger presence in the area. The first American paratroopers arrived in April and since then an international NATO battalion has been assembled in Lithuania. This task force includes 140 members of Hungary’s 5th István Bocskai Infantry Brigade.

It is a well-known fact that the leading politicians of Poland and the Baltic states have had serious differences of opinion with Viktor Orbán over his pro-Russian stand. Lithuanians were especially vocal in their condemnation of the Hungarian prime minister. You may recall Orbán’s opposition to the EU sanctions against Russia when he described the decision as a grave mistake, “shooting oneself in the foot.” In response, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevčius quipped that “it was better to shoot oneself in the foot than to let oneself be shot in the head.”

The president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitè, called the Iron Lady at home, is said to be ready to fight the Russians gun in hand if necessary. She is no friend of Putin, whom she described as someone who “uses nationality as a pretext to conquer territory with military means. That’s exactly what Stalin and Hitler did.” She is also a confirmed believer in the European Union. After all, she served as commissioner of education and culture in the first Barroso Commission and later as commissioner for financial programming and the budget. She has been president of Lithuania since 2009. She ran as an independent but with conservative support. “She wants to put permanent boots on the ground in the Baltics to ward off any potential threat from their Soviet-era master.” And the Lithuanian people seem to be equally determined. Her willingness to take up arms has encouraged others to follow suit. There has been a sharp rise in paramilitary recruits. During the weekend civilians receive military training. Students, businessmen, civil servants, journalists, and even politicians have joined the government-sponsored Lithuania Riflemen’s Union. These people are determined. So, for Orbán to make an uninvited appearance there was a serious diplomatic faux pas.

Almost all of the above information comes from English-language sources. Hungarian reporting on the military contingent in Lithuania is practically nonexistent. On November 4 Válasz ran a brief, fairly meaningless article on the military exercises in which soldiers from nine NATO member states are participating. In it Bálint Ablonczy showed off his Google skills, explaining who Silvestras Žukauskas was and noting that the large military center close to the city of Pabrade, near the Belarus border, bears this general’s name. I guess it was safer to talk about Žukauskas’s role in the 1918-1919 Soviet-Lithuanian war than to say something meaningful about Hungary’s participation in these NATO exercises.

Otherwise, nothing. Except we learned from Csaba Hende, minister of defense, after his return from Vilnius that the small Hungarian contingent did fantastically well. Among the troops of the nine participating states the Hungarians were first “according to all indicators.” It is hard to know what kinds of “indicators” Hende is talking about. We don’t even know whether there was such a ranking. Sorry to be so skeptical, but for a long time now government statements have not been credible. Lacking outside verification, we cannot distinguish fact from fiction–and perhaps government officials can’t either.

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62 comments

  1. @Stevan Hernad – I like cattle, but eat beef. I like sheep, but eat lamb. I like deer, but I do like venison (n.b. I don’t hunt – but relatives do and always have). Shooting a deer is no worse than slaughtering a calf. If you’re a carnivore, please lighten up. If you are a vegetarian, you must know that your carnivore friends (surely you have some) are complicit in the killing of animals, so please lighten up.

  2. Light and Dark OT

    @mutt: “keep your other agenda out of this blog. Let’s fight one evil at a time. Together.”

    I did not bring my other agenda into this blog. It was “Istvan”’s OT posting about his deer-hunting activities in Wisconsin with his fellow war-vets that brought it into this blog.

    @webber: “I like cattle, but eat beef. I like sheep, but eat lamb. I like deer, but I do like venison (n.b. I don’t hunt – but relatives do and always have). Shooting a deer is no worse than slaughtering a calf. If you’re a carnivore, please lighten up. If you are a vegetarian, you must know that your carnivore friends (surely you have some) are complicit in the killing of animals, so please lighten up.”

    You seem to be using the word “like” in two radically different senses: “I like (1) deer but like (2) venison.” It does not sound very reassuring at all to be liked (1) in this way.

    No, I don’t eat or hurt feeling beings (whether human or nonhuman), because I do not “like” them in your sense of like (1) but in some other way that rules out eating or hurting them.

    Kindly refrain from asking me to “lighten up” about the needless and brutal slaughter of countless innocent, helpless beings. There is nothing light about it. I don’t obtrude it into this blog except in response to OT light talk from others about hunting deer or giving thanks by slaughtering turkeys. I assume you would take the same stance if the OT light talk were about slavery, torture, rape, racism or the subjugation of women. And you would not appreciate my asking you to “lighten up” about it.

  3. @Stevan – Thanksgiving and Christmas must be difficult times for you.
    We’ll have to agree to disagree. In my view it is morally perverse to even compare slavery, torture, rape, racism, murder, etc., to the practice of killing animals for food, or eating the flesh of animals others have killed.

  4. @Webber – and what about killing for sheer pleasure? Like the Hungarian minister, who has a license to kill several thousands of pheasants, certainly with no intention to eat them?

    I eat flesh, when it comes to it, so I don’t feel like I’m hyppocrite in any way, but hunting -essentially killing – for pleasure never accepted by me.

    I was about eight, when I’ve got to test an airgun an was tempted to shoot at a sparrow. As it happens, I have a good sight and steady hands, I hit the poor thing at once.
    And there it was, a little lifeless bird in my hands, and I felt deeply ashamed of myself – I feel it ever since.
    No way I ever accept any explanation, why it right, even ‘noble’ thing to hunt.

    Maybe, when the deers has a gun too, I’ll see it as a challenge, but till then no, thanks, but no way!

  5. Re the deer controversy. I don’t know much about ecology but there ought to be equilibrium in the animal world which under natural conditions is maintained by nature itself. When that equilibrium is changed for one reason or other than the whole ecosystem becomes out of kilter. This is definitely the case with the deer population.

    I live in the middle of acres and acres of forest and I often see how cruel that world is. Not long time ago I witnessed a cayote attacking a wild turkey. It was not a nice site but this is is how it works whether we like it or not.

  6. Eva, there is no controversy in nature, not normally anyway.
    The deer population is out of control, because the ‘controllers’ wolf, lynx and the kind been decimated by – guess who? – the humans.
    Witnessing the nature in works isn’t really nice sight – after all, the table manners of the coyotes all but civilised – but it still natural to me.

    As opposed to kil hundreds of foxes or/and thousands of pheasants because its fun, and anyway, all the members of the higher echelons of the party is either soccer fan or killer of innocent creatures of God..!
    So, it must be right, isn’t it?

  7. @Spectator – The people I know who hunt, many relatives of mine, always eat what they shoot. That’s the case for most hunters in most of the US. For some people (esp. out west), this time of year meat from hunting can make up a substantial part of the diet.
    Just think of pig killing in villages in Hungary. Are you okay with that? I am. If you are, then I don’t see how you can condemn hunting for meat.
    Lots of hunters enjoy the experience, just as many people enjoy the event when a pig is killed. I didn’t enjoy hunting at all when I was taken (chukar and later deer) hunting by older cousins as a child, and they were fine with that. I never cared for chukar, but I continue to enjoy the venison.

  8. P.S. Hunting in parts of the US is very different from hunting in Europe. In Europe, it’s my impression hunting is a rich man’s sport. In most of the US, hunting is the pursuit of the poor (yes, there are rich hunters too). That’s because in the US hunting licenses are incredibly cheap, ammunition is cheap (well under $1 a bullet), and game is plentiful. For an example, I’ve just checked license fees in Washington state, which is about as far west as you can go (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). If you are a state resident, the license to shoot a deer is $44.90. For the right to shoot an elk, you’ll pay $50.40. It’s generally a lot harder to get an elk than a deer, hence the difference in fees. A mature bull elk can easily yield 200 pounds of boneless meat. A 55 pound boneless meat yield for a deer is quite modest (you generally more than that). That comes out to just over 25 cents a pound for the elk meat, or 81 cents a pound for that little deer. Show me where you can buy meat that cheap.

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