Hungary’s troubled relationship with neighboring Ukraine spiraled again Friday as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán dismissed the country’s NATO dreams with a one-word tweet.
“What?!” the prime minister exclaimed in a Twitter post responding to a POLITICO article on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s declaration in Kyiv on Thursday that “Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO.”
Relations between Budapest and Kyiv are tense. Hungary spent years blocking high-level NATO sessions with Ukrainian officials, ostensibly over concerns about the rights of Hungarian speakers in western Ukraine.
And despite condemning Russia’s full-scale invasion, Hungary has refused to send weapons to aid its neighbor. Senior Hungarian officials, meanwhile, continue to regularly visit Moscow and maintain close ties to the Kremlin. At the same time, Hungary joining Turkey in blocking Sweden’s NATO bid has frustrated Western capitals.
NATO allies — including Hungary — decided back in 2008 that Ukraine will eventually join the alliance. But Kyiv’s path to NATO has stalled, and in September Ukraine’s leadership requested an “accelerated accession” to join.
But the issue is highly sensitive. Most NATO allies — including the U.S. — want to avoid any big moves on the accession process for Ukraine while the war is ongoing.
A group of eastern members is now pushing for NATO to give Kyiv a signal that it is moving closer to the alliance.
During his visit to Kyiv, Stoltenberg said he discussed a multi-year NATO initiative to help Ukraine transition away from Soviet-era military equipment to the alliance’s own standards.
But it remains unclear what kind of political signal NATO leaders will opt to give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the alliance’s upcoming summit, scheduled for July.
Speaking in Germany on Friday morning, as Ukraine’s partners gathered at Ramstein Air Base to discuss further assistance to Kyiv, Stoltenberg reiterated that for now allies want to keep their eyes on the pressing challenge of helping Ukraine win.
“All NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a NATO member,” he said. “But the main focus now is of course on how to ensure that Ukraine prevails.”
“What we do know is that our support helps Ukraine move toward the Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said, adding, “without a sovereign, independent Ukraine, there is no meaning in discussing membership.”
News : POLITICO