US Republicans to meet allies of Hungary’s Orbán on ending Ukraine aid

    WORLD  11 December 2023 - 10:09

    Allies of Hungary’s far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán will hold a closed-door meeting with Republicans in Washington to push for an end to US military support for Ukraine, the Guardian has learned.

    Members of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs and staff from the Hungarian embassy in Washington will on December 11 begin a two-day event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, The Guardian reports.

    The first day includes panel speeches about the Ukraine war as well as topics such as Transatlantic Culture Wars. It is expected to feature guests including Magor Ernyei, the international director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights, the institute that organized CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) Hungary. Kelley Currie, a former ambassador under then-president Donald Trump, said she was invited “but declined”.

    According to a Republican source, some of the attendees, including Republican members of Congress, have been invited to join closed-door talks the next day.

    The meeting will take place against a backdrop of tense debate in Washington over Ukraine’s future. Last week the White House warned that, without congressional action, money to buy more weapons and equipment for Kyiv will run out by the end of the year. On Wednesday Senate Republicans blocked an emergency spending bill to fund the war in Ukraine.

    A diplomatic source close to the Hungarian embassy said: “Orbán is confident that the Ukraine aid will not pass in Congress. That is why he is trying to block assistance from the EU as well.”

    Orbán is a frequent critic of aid to help Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Seen as Vladimir Putin’s closest ally inside the EU for the past few years, he was photographed smiling and shaking hands with the Russian president two months ago in Beijing.

    Orbán recently demanded that Ukraine’s European Union (EU) membership be taken off the European Council’s agenda in December. The Hungarian leader posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “It is clear that the proposal of the European Commission on Ukraine’s EU accession is unfounded and poorly prepared.”

    The Heritage Foundation is leading Project 2025, a coalition preparing for the next conservative presidential administration, and has in recent months hosted speeches by leading British Conservative party members Liz Truss and Iain Duncan Smith.

    The think tank has also been a vocal opponent of US assistance to Ukraine. Last year Jessica Anderson, the executive director of its lobbying operation, released a statement under the headline: “Ukraine Aid Package Puts America Last.” In August, Victoria Coates, Heritage’s vice-president, posted on social media: “It’s time to end the blank, undated checks for Ukraine.”

    When Heritage celebrated its 50th anniversary last April, Orbán’s political director, Balázs Orbán (no relation), was invited as a speaker for the event. Heritage’s president, Kevin Roberts, repeatedly praised the Hungarian leader on X: “One thing is clear from visiting Hungary and from being involved in current policy and cultural debates in America: the world needs a movement that fights for Truth, for tradition, for families, and for the average person.”

    In recent years Orbán has championed a transatlantic far-right alliance with a hardline stance against immigration and “gender ideology”, staunch Christian nationalism and scorn for those who warn of a slide into

    Hungary has been portrayed by conservative media as an anti-“woke” paradise and model for the United States. Some far-right Republicans, such as Kari Lake and Paul Gosar, said they would like to see the “Hungarian model” transplanted to the US, especially when it comes to immigration and family policies. CPAC went to Hungary for the second time this year, and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson shot multiple episodes in Hungary touting Orbán policies.

    Orbán has returned the favour by lavishing praise on Trump. During this year’s CPAC, where Roberts was also featured as a speaker, he claimed that if Trump were president, “there would be no war in Ukraine and Europe”. The Hungarian prime minister has criticised the multiple federal indictments against the former US president and called the judicial procedure a “very communist methodology” in a recent interview with Carlson.

    Dalibor Rohac, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, said: “The Hungarian embassy in DC has been very active lately, trying to repair ties with the Republicans and strengthen them where it’s appropriate.

    “It is also not surprising that Heritage is the venue of these talks because they are different from other think tanks in DC; they are more partisan, and their funding model heavily overlaps with the Trump base.”

    But, Rohac said, despite his good relations with some Republicans it was “unlikely” that Orbán would have any leverage over US funding for Ukraine.

    Supporters of Ukraine have also been making their case to Republicans in Congress. This week David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, held meetings on Capitol Hill. He told a press conference: “I am sure that goodwill will prevail and the money will be voted through, and it will have a huge effect not just on morale in Ukraine but also making sure that European countries keep asking themselves what more can they do.”

    Caliber.Az

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