Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán questioned Ukraine’s long-held ambition to join NATO, and his almost sarcastic attitude came after NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that “all NATO allies have agreed to Ukraine’s membership in NATO.” News.ro reported citing the BBC.
Victor OrbanPhoto: AGERPRES
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has consistently said that in the medium term, Ukraine will join NATO after the end of the Russian invasion.
Viktor Orbán, however, was quick to express his surprise at the latest statement from the head of NATO.
“What?!” The Hungarian prime minister lashed out in a one-word tweet Friday afternoon, responding to a Politico article about Jens Stoltenberg’s comments.
NATO members, including Hungary, agreed at a summit in Bucharest in 2008 that Ukraine would eventually join the alliance, but immediately declined membership, mainly due to opposition from France and Germany.
NATO is a military alliance of 31 countries, and the admission of a new member requires consensus. Hungary, like other NATO members, can veto the admission of new members. Joining a Western military camp brings the benefit of the protection of Article 5 of the founding treaty, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all. This means that if Ukraine, as a NATO member, is invaded or attacked, all NATO members, including Hungary, must come to its aid.
Hungary has for years blocked summits between NATO officials and Ukrainian military leaders
But Hungary, which joined NATO in 1999 and has been suspected of pro-Russian sentiment since the start of the war in Ukraine, has already shown an urge to use its power to oppose the alliance’s expansion. After several months of postponements, Turkey was the last NATO country to approve Finland’s accession to NATO by all members in March, at the Alliance Summit in Madrid in the summer of 2022. Budapest also joined Turkey in blocking Sweden’s bid. In March, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács accused Swedish officials of sitting on a “deformed throne of moral superiority,” the BBC recalled.
On the other hand, relations between Kiev and Budapest have long been tense, and Viktor Orbán has been less critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin than other Western leaders. Although his government has condemned Ukraine’s illegal invasion, the Hungarian leader has not sent arms to Kiev and continues to do business with Moscow in the energy sector. Also, Hungary has blocked summits between NATO officials and Ukrainian military leaders for years, citing concerns about the rights of Hungarian speakers in western Ukraine, the BBC notes.
Despite his claims, Jens Stoltenberg admitted during a meeting at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany that Kiev’s approach to joining the alliance was not an immediate priority. “The main objective now, of course, is how to ensure that Ukraine wins (the war with Russia),” he said. “Without a sovereign and independent Ukraine, there is no point in discussing accession,” Stoltenberg said.
But Budapest’s stance could spark a new row within NATO, the BBC notes. Eastern members of the bloc have for months pressed officials to provide Kiev with a timetable for accession and signals that it is making progress towards joining the alliance.
“Evil gamer. Amateur music trailblazer. Alcohol geek. Problem solver. Coffee advocate. Troublemaker. Infuriatingly humble zombieaholic.”