Hearing the various statements issued by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about Ukraine, it seems that participating in the information war is one of his principal priorities. This, I think, distracts Orbán from managing his native Hungary, which is hardly experiencing the best economic times. Furthermore, given that Orbán seems pre-occupied with trying to disrupt aid to Ukraine, it begs the question – what exactly is motivating him to work as ab agent of Russian influence within the European community?

With the number of informational attacks that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has recently carried out on Ukraine, he could compete with the Kremlin's full-time propagandists. Orbán tends not to invent anything new but follows the Russian narrative stream.

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In a recent statement, Orbán said that Ukraine is a “no-man's land” and “unlikely to retain its statehood” (two things which seem contradictory to say the least) and he also appeared to claim that his country shared a border to the east with Russia. Perhaps he had been referring to maps drawn by Russian President Vladimir Putin based on what they’d ideally like things to look like?

Russia, in the dreams of its elite, was supposed to take almost all of Ukraine, its energy, agrarian complex and military-industrial complex factories, while its western neighbors were to be satisfied with small territorial possessions. This was one of the Kremlin's plans – to destroy Ukraine with the participation of Hungary.

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In his latest Telegram post the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council gives his customary warped analysis of NATO’s Washington summit and what peace negotiations would mean to Moscow.

Hungary is a country which, let me remind you, was one of the first to recognize Ukrainian statehood in 1991. With its plan, the Russians would solve, as they say, the “Ukrainian question.” And Orbán would get a new neighbor to the east – Putin's Russia.

But Ukraine has turned out to be a tough nut to crack for Russia, which is now bogged down in trying to hold already captured parts of Ukrainian territory. Now the main task of Russia’s info-killers is to stop, reduce or significantly slow down military aid to Ukraine. And this is strangely synchronized with Orbán’s information activity.

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How did the head of a European country become Putin's information agent?

This is an interesting question, firstly, for Hungarians themselves, who hardly want to repeat the tragedy of 1956, when their country was occupied by the troops of the USSR on the orders of the Moscow leadership.

But it is certain that the Kremlin uses Orbán's statements according to a well-established scheme of disinformation. For example, as soon as Orbán referred to Ukraine as essentially a vacuum of statehood in Europe and expressed doubts that it will retain its sovereignty, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reinforced this opinion with the words of another Hungarian politician from Orbán`s party. Ex deputy of the National Assembly of Hungary Zuzhanna Selenyi said that “many Europeans actually think so,” and that “Europe will ultimately not support Ukraine.”

This prediction about the “death of Ukraine” swept through the Russian information space with the speed of a forest fire. Just google these two names of Hungarian politicians to understand the nature and mechanism of information and psychological special operations against Ukraine.

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Moscow use Hungarians as “instigators.” Such individuals are placed in the hall to control their “squares” of delegates and deputies. And they are first, according to the script, to jump up with applause, raising everyone present in the hall of the Kremlin Palace to their feet with a standing ovation.

Moreover, Orbán, when he said that his country borders Russia, supported another of Putin’s narratives that “Ukrainians do not exist” and that Russia and Ukraine are “one nation.” Now, the current prime minister of Hungary has joined the theory of this ethnic genocide, as the Russians are attempting to effectively erase a nation from history.

It is absolutely unclear why Hungary is taking this stance. Its citizens want to be part of a European civilization, not an enclave of Russia akin to Belarus. Of course, you can pretend for a while to “have your cake and eat it.” But, dear Hungarians, time is running out quickly. You cannot be an information island of Moscow and a member of NATO at the same time.

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Time to choose

There comes a moment when you have to decide whose side you are on. On the side of the Russian murderers who, for the sake of expanding their empire, want to destroy people, houses, hospitals, schools and infrastructure; or on the side of light and values that we call European and universal. It’s an important decision because Western partners are gradually losing confidence in you.

Of course, Orbán's synergy with the Putin regime could be explained as a diplomatic game between the West and the East. In this game, they say, there should be a “good cop” who helps the dictator “save face.” And Hungary's position on certain issues can be used by other Western countries, because collective decision-making allows you to block some of them. That is why Orbán is part of this complex game.

European leaders who feel it is necessary to communicate with the Russian dictator Putin do so directly. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz or French President Emmanuel Macron need neither an intermediary in the form of the Hungarian prime minister nor a game of broken telephone. And former German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not need a “junior partner” to block the process of providing Ukraine with an Action Plan on NATO membership.

European politicians are quite able to cope even without the demonstrably pro-Russian Orbán. The question then arises, how long will the Euro-Atlantic world tolerate Orbán's game of “Trojan horse in Europe?” Perhaps Budapest should receive a clear signal that cooperation with Moscow is inconsistent with the policy of Euro-Atlantic civilization?

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Another question is why the Kremlin needs Orbán's creativity when Moscow has its own army of disinformers and provocateurs? The answer to this is given by the founder of the network of investigators “Bellingcat.” Eliot Higgins, in his book “We are Bellingcat” explains how hypothetical, unverified, manipulative, false claims and messages work: "the effect of material reuse can be explained by 'false cross-validation', when readers see the same claim in different sources and conclude that it is valid.”

Unfortunately, Orbán is among the Kremlin’s main speakers in this disinformation network. It is not known how long it will last. It is only clear that no politicians last forever and Orbán's political era will end sooner or later.

Consider how the presidency of another pro-Russian politician in Europe is ending – the Czech Republic’s Milos Zeman – who also led an active information policy during two terms of office.  In one of his first statements, President Elect Petr Pavel,voiced the position that Ukraine deserves to join NATO.

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Times and policies are changing. So, we hope that Hungarians are aware of the nature of this aggressive war of Russia against Ukraine. And there are enough politicians in Hungary who understand that the war in Ukraine is not only for territories, but also for our common values.

 

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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