Author: William Engdahl
Hungary and its populist nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban have come into the crosshairs of Washington’s political elites. His sin? Not buckling under to the often destructive diktats of the Brussels EU Commission; attempting to define a Hungarian national identity. But his cardinal sin is his deepening relationship with Russia and his defiance of Washington in signing an agreement with Gazprom for bringing the Russian South Stream gas pipeline into the EU via Hungary.
Orban has himself undergone a political journey since he was elected as Hungary’s second-youngest Prime Minister, in 1998. Back then, he oversaw the entry of Hungary, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, into NATO (over Russia’s protest) and into the EU. As Prime Minister during far more prosperous economic times in the EU, Orban cut taxes, abolished university tuition for qualified students, expanded maternity benefits, and attracted German industry with low-cost Hungarian labor. One of his American “advisers” then was James Denton, linked with the Color Revolution Washington NGO, Freedom House. Orban seemed the darling of Washington’s neo-cons. In 2001, he was given the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute’s Freedom Award.
But in 2010, after six years in opposition, Orban returned, this time with a resounding majority for his Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union Party; Fidesz for short. In fact, Fidesz won a 68% supermajority in Parliament, giving it the necessary votes to alter the Constitution and pass new laws, which it did. Ironically, in a case of the pot calling the kettle black, the United States Obama Administration and the European Parliament criticized Orban’s constitutional reforms for placing too much power in the hands of Fidesz. Orban was accused, by Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the European Greens, of remaking Hungary on the model of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Orban was definitely not playing by the approved Brussels Rulebook for politically submissive EU politicians. Fidesz began to be demonized in EU media as the Hungarian version of United Russia, and Orban as the Hungarian Putin. That was in 2012.
Now it’s getting alarming for the Atlanticists and their EU followers. Orban has defied EU demands to stop construction of Russia’s important South Stream gas pipeline.
Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline would guarantee EU gas, together with the German-Russian Nord Stream, that could bypass the war in Ukraine – something Washington bitterly opposes, for obvious reasons.Last January, Orban’s government announced a €10 billion deal with the Russian state nuclear energy company to refurbish Hungary’s only nuclear power plant at Paks, originally built during the Soviet era with Russian technology.
That caused some attention in Washington; similarly, when Orban criticized the United States this past summer for failing to ultimately resolve the global financial crisis that its banks and its lax regulation caused, and praised China, Turkey, and Russia as better models. He declared, in words not too different from what I have often used, that Western democracies “will probably be incapable of maintaining their global competitiveness in the upcoming decades and will instead be scaled down unless they are capable of changing themselves significantly”. In addition, Orban’s government managed to free Hungary from decades of devastating IMF bondage. In August 2013, the Hungarian Economic Ministry announced that it had, thanks to a “disciplined budget policy”, repaid the remaining €2.2 billion owed to the IMF. No more onerous IMF-forced state privatizations or conditionalities. The head of the Hungarian Central Bank then demanded that the IMF close its offices in Budapest. In addition, echoing Iceland, the State Attorney General brought charges against the country’s three previous prime ministers because of the criminal amount of debt into which they had plunged the nation. That’s a precedent that surely causes cold sweat in some capitals of the EU, or in Washington and Wall Street.
But the real alarm bells rang when Orban and his Fidesz party approved a go-ahead, together with neighboring Austria, of the South Stream Russian pipeline, ignoring EU claims that it violated EU rules. Orban proclaimed, at a meeting with Germany’s Horst Seehofer in Munich on November 6, „Es lebe die österreichisch-ungarische Energiemonarchie“ (“The Austro-Hungarian Energy Monarchy Lives”).
The US elites sounded the alarm immediately. The ultra-establishment New York Times ran a lead editorial, “Hungary’s Dangerous Slide.” They declared, “The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary is sliding toward authoritarianism and defying the fundamental values of the European Union – and getting away with it.”
The New York Times revealed the real cause of Washington and Wall Street alarm: “Hungary’s most recent expression of contempt for the European Union is its passage of a law on Monday that clears the way for Russia’s South Stream natural gas pipeline to traverse Hungary. The new law is in clear violation of the European Parliament’s call in September for member states to cancel South Stream, and of the economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the European Union and the United States after Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Instead of issuing tepid expressions of concern over antidemocratic policies, the European Union should be moving to sanction Hungary. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, should exercise his power to force Mr. Navracsics to resign.” Tibor Navracsics has just been named the new European Commissioner of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, a post in Brussels that has arguably little to do with gas pipelines.
Next we can expect the National Endowment for Democracy and the usual US Government-backed NGO’s to find an excuse to launch mass opposition protests against Fidesz and Orban for his unforgivable crime of trying to make Hungary’s energy independent of the US-created insanity in Ukraine.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer; he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics.
Viktor Orbán’s Speech, Tusnádfürdő, 26 July 2014,
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