How close are Orbán and Putin?
During the Russian president's latest trip to Budapest Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have once again made a show of their friendly relations. Many observers see the meeting as a sign that the Orbán government, which has not hesitated to criticise the EU in the past, is increasingly turning towards Russia. But Orbàn is anything but Putin’s puppet, Hungarian commentators affirm.
Hungary is not Putin's puppet state
Hungary is not a covert Russian outpost in the EU, commentator Gyula Máté T. writes on blog platform PestiSrácok.hu, defending the Hungarian government:
“Is what the critics are saying true? That Hungary has become a Russian colony? No! It is in Hungary's interest that Russian firms are carrying out the expansion work on the Paks nuclear power plant. The issue here is ensuring that the newly built reactor blocks are compatible with the nuclear plant which is based on Russian technology. ... Secondly, are the critics right in describing us as Putin's Trojan horse in the EU? If that's true our performance has been pretty poor. Hungary hasn't torpedoed a single decision against Russia in Brussels. Neither as regards sanctions nor as regards Ukraine.”
Orban's loyalty is pragmatic
The anti-government daily Magyar Nemzet explains why Putin has an interest in maintaining good relations with Orbán:
“Moscow doesn't want to colonise Hungary again. Rather it's looking for partners in Europe to show that the EU's policy of isolating Russia has failed. Orbán's shrill, anti-EU outbursts are as welcome to Putin as his openness to Russian policy. If Orbán's loyalty is not entirely honest but rooted in pragmatism, it's not a problem. Because that means Budapest will never veto the EU's sanctions against Russia. ... Nevertheless it's worrying that the Orbán government maintains a demonstratively respectful attitude to Russia while never hesitating to adopt a severe tone when addressing Brussels and its EU partners.”