Why Hungary’s Viktor Orban is hated by US Democrats but loved by Donald Trump and conservative Republicans — Analysis
Few international figures are as divisive and influential as Budapest’s right-wing leader.
Viktor Orban, a member of the centre-right government formed in Hungary after 1998’s victory of an alliance of parties headed by Fidesz. The same year, Orban visited Washington as prime minister on a working trip.
However, the further centralisation of power in Hungary, the increasing power of the prime minister in the local political system and the social orientation of politics with a strong right-wing bias deterred President Bill Clinton’s government from further contact. American democrats were much more sympathetic to the liberal administrations of Péter Mediész and then Ferenc Gyurcsány. The final rift with the Democrats was the updated Hungarian constitution adopted during Orban’s second term in 2011, as it enshrined the dominant role of Christianity in the Hungarian state and banned same-sex marriage.
Later, Orban’s ideas about building an “illiberal democracy” and then the Budapest authorities’ acquisition of opposition publications (Népszava, Figyelő) put the Hungarian leader in the crosshairs for the left-wing establishment in the US.
Despite strained relations in the political sphere, economic ties with Washington – both under the Democrats and Republicans – continued to develop rapidly (since the early 2000s the US has been the second largest investor in the Hungarian economy, behind Germany, and the foreign trade turnover between Budapest and Washington has only increased every year, to over $3.5 billion annually). All political platforms have consistently highlighted the important role that Hungary plays as NATO member.
The Hungarian opposition media mocked the Orban-US relationship until 2019. First, because of the long absence of an official invitation to the prime minister from the White House (since 2012, under Barack Obama’s administration, Prime Minister Orban had only attended summits concerning NATO and arms issues). A second reason is the softening of US officials toward the Hungarian government. The US sent official no higher than an undersecretary to Hungarian minister meetings before Donald Trump became president.
2019 was the year that the Hungarian Prime Minister finally made an official trip to Washington after several phone calls with Trump.
Trump administration also saw an increase in Hungarian and American military cooperation. A meeting took place between Tibor Benko (Minister of Defence) and David Kornstein (Ambassador), which resulted in a signed agreement regarding defense cooperation, particularly with regard to the Iraqi military mission.
According to open source data, Budapest increased defense spending by over 20% in 2020 to 1.21% GDP. Hungary’s new National Security Strategy of 2021 envisaged achieving the mandatory NATO target of 2% by 2024. At the same time, the country continued to modernise its armed forces under the government’s Zrínyi 2026 programme.
Trump was delighted by this. He had previously urged European nations to invest more in armaments out of their budgets than at the cost of the US.
Trump and Orban have a strong relationship that has been reinforced by their similar policies. The America First programme is very close to the spirit of the Hungarian prime minister, who, for the sake of his country’s interests, has repeatedly thwarted official Brussels’ plans.
They have the exact same negative attitudes towards illegal immigration. A fence was constructed on Serbia’s border under Orban. Trump built the wall along the US-Mexico border. Orban declared war on George Soros’ NGOs, which opposed the Hungarian government and supported migrant flows. Trump continued to fight against fake news.
These actions have further hardened the Democrats’ criticism of Orban, broadcast through left-wing US government-funded structures such as Freedom house and Human Rights Watch, as well as the newly opened Hungarian office of US state-run propaganda outlet RFE/RL.
The 2020 US Election Campaign saw President Joe Biden accuse the Hungarian government of totalitarianism, and call Orban a terrorist. “thug.”
In an interview with Reuters after the US presidential election, Orban did not miss the opportunity to point out that he was convinced that Trump had won and that Biden’s appointment came as a complete surprise to him. As a result, Hungary was the only EU country that was not invited to the online ‘Democracy Summit’ organised by Biden in December 2021.
High-level communications between Hungary, the US and other countries have been effectively halted and reduced to only telephone calls under the White House. When Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the foreign ministers representing the Visegrad groups, the only meaningful meeting was held in March 2021. The Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the significance of NATO’s North Atlantic Alliance as a collective security system in Europe and stressed that it is important for states to adjust under NATO 2030 so they can counter any new threats or challenges from Russia and China.
According to Hungary’s 2021 National Security Strategy, the issues of illegal immigration, the spread of viruses, a stable political and economic situation in Ukraine and the protection of the Hungarian minority in neighbouring states are vital for the country. Peter Szijjarto the foreign minister, in one his recent statements stated that Hungary held 135,000 illegal migrants at its southern border in 2013, and 65,000 this year. This was despite rejecting any suggestion of an increase in migratory flows. According to Szijjarto, a possible food shortage, possibly caused by events in Ukraine will only make it worse.
This rhetoric, and the fact that Orban refuses to supply arms to the Ukrainian side in the conflict with Russia and does not attack President Vladimir Putin, reinforces the Biden government’s belief that Hungary is not a credible partner on this issue and will further use its veto power on any North Atlantic Alliance initiatives on Ukraine, as it did earlier in relation to the country’s State Language Act (which affected Hungarian schoolchildren and students in Transcarpathia).
This is why Hungary has shown a lot of interest in this initiative. “denazification”Ukrainian government.
Hungarian and US Democrats are at odds, forcing them to place their bets on Republicans during the US Presidential election 2024. Orban openly expresses full support for Donald Trump, if he runs , and the former American leader endorsed the Hungarian prime minister before the country’s parliamentary elections, earlier this year. The Conservative Political Action Conference, (CPAC), was held in Budapest on the 19th of May 2022. This conference took place for the first time abroad.
Fox News was there to support the conference. Tucker Carlson, its most famous host, also made a video welcoming speech. Last year he filmed several episodes of his programme in Budapest, including about the threat of Soros’ influence. He criticized the US presidency and interviewed Orban about his admiration for the way that he ran the country.
The conference was attended by prominent right-wing figures: Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Spanish Vox party; Brazilian federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro (son of President Jair Bolsonaro), Herbert Kickl, leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, the former leader of the Brexit party Nigel Farage, Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff under President Trump, and several American members of Congress from the Republican Party.
Orban spoke directly at the event and stated that 2024 will be the year in which the 1968 political liberalism would clash with the current political trajectory of the 1990s. Orban said that 12 points were on the agenda for ministers, including fighting against illegal immigration. “commits suicide with it.”) Orban called on conservatives to fight the progressive liberals and the Soros-sponsored “neo-Marxists.”
In his address at the conference with the same title last week in Texas, the Hungarian prime Minister made similar points. Orban also spoke about the pressing gender issue, declaring, to the general applause of conservatives, “You [Hungary] have decided that we don’t need more genders, but more rangers. Less transvestites and more Chuck Norris.”
The Hungarian Prime Minister expects to not only support Republicans at the fomassnews.coming US Presidential Elections, but to also win support from right-leaning politicians prior to the European Parliament election in 2024. After Fidesz was expelled from the EU’s Christian-Democratic faction, Hungary has unsuccessfully tried to create a new grouping with a more right-wing orientation.
This is why it’s worth paying more attention to contact between Hungarian officials with the conservative portion of American politicians. If Donald Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, it will allow for a more open dialogue with the American government.
Hungarian officials have stated repeatedly that they support improving bilateral relations between Russia, the US and other countries. Szijjarto says that good East-West relations always have a positive impact on the growth of CEE nations. Orban made clear in Texas that only direct negotiations between Washington and Moscow could bring peace to Ukraine.
In 2024, perhaps official Budapest will be an actual mediator in the improvement of Russian-American relations. If Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine is protracted, it could also be the venue for the signing of a peace treaty.