Destinations Magazine

Hungary and Russia: The Viktor and Vladimir Show

By Stizzard

“JATSZOTER” (playground) proclaims HVG, a magazine, above a graphic of Hungary as a seesaw. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is at one end, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, at the other. It is a fitting image, given that Mr Putin is due in Budapest on February 17th, two weeks after Mrs Merkel. His visit will mostly be about renewing Hungary’s gas contract which expires this year, says Viktor Orban, the prime minister, who wants what he calls a “flexible” arrangement. For his part, Mr Putin wants to show the world that he is not as isolated as some claim.The Ukraine crisis, and Mr Orban’s links with Russia, have put Hungary in the spotlight. Georgia’s prime minister has just visited; Turkey’s president is expected soon. Western fears of Mr Orban’s autocratic drift have intensified. He caused considerable alarm around the European Union in July 2014 when he declared that Hungary would remain a democracy but become an “illiberal state”, citing the examples of Russia, Turkey and China. Mrs Merkel criticised the term on her visit, but was firmly rebuffed by her host.On Ukraine, Mr Orban is vacillating between a desire for closer ties with Russia and his obligations as a member of the EU and NATO. Russia is Hungary’s biggest trading partner outside the EU, and supplies most of its gas. Moreover, America’s loss of interest and influence in…

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