Hungary to seek to opt out of NATO efforts to support Ukraine, Orban says

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary will seek to opt out of any NATO operations aimed at supporting Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday, suggesting that the military alliance and the European Union were moving toward a more direct conflict with Russia. 

Orban told state radio that Hungary opposes a plan NATO is weighing to provide more predictable military support to Ukraine in coming years to repel Moscow’s full-scale invasion, as better armed Russian troops assert control on the battlefield. 

“We do not approve of this, nor do we want to participate in financial or arms support (for Ukraine), even within the framework of NATO,” Orban said, adding that Hungary has taken a position as a “nonparticipant” in any potential NATO operations to assist Kyiv. 

“We’ve got to redefine our position within the military alliance, and our lawyers and officers are working on … how Hungary can exist as a NATO member while not participating in NATO actions outside of its territory,” he said. 

Orban, considered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest partner in the EU, emphasized NATO’s role as a defensive alliance, and said he doesn’t share the concerns of some other Central and Eastern European countries that Russia’s military wouldn’t cease its aggression if it wins the war in Ukraine. 

“NATO’s strength cannot be compared to that of Ukraine,” he said. “I don’t consider it a logical proposition that Russia, which cannot even deal with Ukraine, will come all of a sudden and swallow up the whole Western world.” 

Hungary has refused to supply neighboring Ukraine with military aid in contrast to most other countries in the EU, and Orban has vigorously opposed the bloc’s sanctions on Moscow though has ultimately always voted for them. 

The nationalist leader is preparing for the European Parliament election on June 6-9 and has cast his party as a guarantor of peace in the region. He has characterized the United States and other EU countries that urge greater support for Ukraine as “pro-war” and acting in preparation for a global conflict.

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