Russia was not afforded security guarantees, says President Viktor Orban, and energy cooperation with Moscow must continue
War in Ukraine was inevitable, because the US and NATO didn’t provide the security guarantees required by Russia, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.
He added that “there were no arguments for curbing our energy cooperation with Russia,” despite the ongoing military conflict.
“NATO is steadily expanding eastward, and Russia likes it less and less. The Russians put forward two demands: Ukraine should declare its neutrality and NATO shouldn’t accept Ukraine. The Russians didn’t receive these security guarantees, therefore they decided to receive them through a war,” the PM explained in an interview with Hungarian outlet Mandiner.
Last year, Russia demanded the US provide written security guarantees that NATO wouldn’t expand into Ukraine and Georgia. It also urged the American-led military bloc to scale back its provocative military activities near Russia’s borders. However, talks on the issue between Moscow and Washington ultimately proved fruitless.
Hungary has had the closest relations with Russia of all EU members in recent years, but the invasion of Ukraine had put Budapest in “a new situation,” Orban said. He condemned the Russian operation, urging the two sides “to get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible.”
“The whole of Europe” should now work to achieve peace between Moscow and Kiev, he added.
Orban said his country wouldn’t hamper the introduction of new sanctions against Russia by Brussels, because “the unity of the EU is of prime importance at this time.”
However, the long-time Hungarian leader insisted “there were no arguments for curbing our energy cooperation with Russia.”
“It’s obvious that Russia will keep existing after the war. And Hungary and the EU will have their interests even after the war,” he pointed out, asserting that “EU leaders have also stated that sanctions will not affect energy supplies from Russia, as this would ruin the European economy.”
Orban had visited Moscow for negotiations with President Vladimir Putin in early February, with the Russian leader subsequently revealing that their two nations had signed a deal that would allow Hungary to purchase Russian gas at a discount until 2036. Budapest has been buying it at five times cheaper than the European market rate, according to Putin.
Hungary made it clear on Wednesday that it would not be sending any offensive arms to the Kiev government and nor would it be allowing fellow EU member states to transit such equipment through its territory. Budapest was willing only to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
Russia launched what it termed its “special operation” in Ukraine last Thursday in order to “denazify” and “demilitarize” its neighbor. According to Moscow, it was the only way to end the bloodshed in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, and prevent Kiev from attempting to reclaim those areas by force.
Ukraine has denied any plan to mount a full-scale assault on the two republics, and blamed Moscow for waging an unprovoked war.