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Why is Hungary strengthening ties with Russia and China?

2024-02-26 19:01:00, Kosova & Bota CNA
Why is Hungary strengthening ties with Russia and China?
Viktor Orban

While many Western countries have severed economic ties with Russia following its aggression against Ukraine, Hungary continues to buy billions of dollars worth of Russian oil and gas. Voice of America correspondent Henry Ridgwell reports from Budapest that Hungary is also trying to strengthen ties with Beijing, which contradicts the West's efforts to reduce dependence on China. Analysts say Hungary's leader is trying to exploit global tensions.

The Druzhba or 'Friendship' pipeline transports Russian oil to Hungarian refineries on the outskirts of Budapest. The European Union banned the import of Russian oil after Moscow attacked Kiev.

But Hungary asked for exemptions, claiming it could not find other energy sources, and is now the biggest customer of Russian oil in Europe, buying $343 million worth of oil in January alone. Also, Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Hungary.

Kiev says Russia spends energy revenues to produce weapons to kill Ukrainians. The Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, rejects calls for the severance of economic ties with Moscow.

"Brussels' strategy for Ukraine has failed spectacularly. Not only on the battlefield, where the situation is catastrophic, but also in international politics".

Mr Orban has criticized EU sanctions against Russia, blocked European aid to Ukraine and delayed the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership. He has removed Hungary from Europe, says analyst Peter Kreko for the Voice of America.

"No one has gone to the point of destroying democratic institutions, turning against the West and cultivating relations with Russia and China."

China is financing 3.8 billion dollars to build a high-speed railway from Budapest to Belgrade, an important project of Beijing's "One Belt One Road" initiative. In 2022, Hungary was among the world's largest recipients of Chinese investment.

"There are regulations drawn up arbitrarily and quickly approved by parliament to prevent any oversight of Russian investments in the nuclear power plant or Chinese investments in the railway connecting Belgrade to Budapest," Miklos Ligeri, from the Transparency organization, told VOA. International in Hungary.

The Hungarian government rejects allegations of corruption, arguing that investment details were kept secret to secure Chinese loans. Analyst Kreko says that Hungary's close relations with Moscow and Beijing are based on the geopolitical situation.

"As a new Cold War-type conflict emerges between China and the West, Mr. Orban wants to play a bridging role between them. Also, the notion is spreading that the Western liberal democratic order is heading towards collapse and new models are required, like those in Russia or China".

It is a strong turn for Hungary, which overthrew communism and became a member of the European Union.

A monument marks the 1956 uprising against Soviet rule, which was brutally suppressed by Moscow. Hungary toppled the Iron Curtain of Communism in 1989, but now there are concerns about democracy in the country and the power of Russia's influence./ VOA

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