Hungary strikes opt-out deal, says won’t obstruct NATO’s aid to Ukraine


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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) hold a press conference following their meeting at the government headquarters in Budapest, Hungary, 12 June 2024. [EPA-EFE/ZOLTAN MATHE]

After a day of “difficult” negotiations, Hungary confirmed on Wednesday (12 June) that it will not hinder future NATO military aid to Ukraine, but was also promised the right not to take part in such efforts.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Budapest came after Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said last month he was seeking to “redefine” the terms of his country’s NATO membership because it was opposed to the alliance’s military support for Ukraine.

Speaking in Budapest, Stoltenberg said Orbán had made “clear” in the talks his decision was not to take part in the Western military alliance’s support for Ukraine.

“Prime Minister Orbán has made it clear that Hungary will not participate in these NATO efforts and I accept this position,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Orbán said Hungary had been given “the guarantee today that when it comes to the Russian-Ukrainian war, when it comes to military out-of-area operation, we do not have to participate in that”.

“Hungary will not provide funds or personnel for the war, nor will the territory of Hungary be used for any involvement in this war,” he added.

Speaking about Hungary’s contributions to NATO, Orbán said there are 1,300 Hungarian soldiers involved in its operations and the country had complied with NATO’s 2% of GDP defence spending pledge.

However, in reference to the current debate about sending Western instructors to Ukraine, Orbán said the result of the European elections over the weekend had reinforced the Hungarian government‘s “mandate” to “not participate in a war” outside of NATO territory.

In exchange for winning the right to stay away from Ukraine-aimed efforts, Stoltenberg said Hungary had guaranteed that it would “not block other allies” financially supporting Ukraine with its veto powers. All decisions in NATO are taken by consensus.

“The prime minister has assured me that Hungary will not oppose these efforts, enabling other allies to move forward, and he has confirmed that Hungary will continue to meet its NATO commitments in full,” the NATO chief said.

The deal comes just ahead of a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday (13 June), meant to prepare for the alliance’s summit in Washington in July.

NATO allies are next month expected to agree on a plan to ringfence Western political support for Kyiv from any future inside-alliance government changes, which includes NATO taking over the coordination of military aid from the US-led ad hoc Ramstein support group and a still-to-be-defined future financial pledge.

“I expect our allies will agree on a leading role for NATO (is) coordinating and providing security assistance and training for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

“I also expect allies will agree long-term financial pledge to provide military support – this will provide the predictability and accountability that Ukraine needs.”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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