America sees Hungary as pro-Putin state
This was one of the important lessons of a yesterday conference on the relationship between the United Stated of America and Central-Europe. Speakers agreed that the key to develop relationships might lie in economy. However, the region has to act together to become visible from America. In contrast to former fears, Trump administration sees Russia as adversary and is willing to protect Central-European countries from Moscow. Zsolt Németh, chairman of the Hungarian National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee declared that Hungary needs a strong US, but will not accept ideological constraints. Our report on the event.
Central-Europeans are pro-America
To start with, majority of Central-Europeans
consider NATO-membership (56%) advantageous and are pro-America
– said Csaba Fodor, managing director of Nézőpont Intézet. He presented the results of a public opinion poll conducted in 10 Central European countries in the previous month. The support for the US is slighter, but still definite (48%) though remarkably 43% associate America with negative thoughts.
Of course, Polish and Romanians support NATO (92%, 86%) and the US (66%, 75%) the most. On the other end there is the non-NATO member Austria (17%) and Serbia (21%) regarding the NATO, and Germans (39%), Slovenians (28%) and Austrians (26%) regarding the US. In fact, Hungary stands in the middle of the scale in both cases: 60% support NATO, but only 42% think positively about the US.
Only a minority knows George Soros
expected more from President Donald Trump
– according to the findings. His average approval ratings show only a 24% in the region and Hungary is only slightly above the line (28%). The president’s unpopularity is highest in Austria, Germany and Slovenia – despite the Slovenian first lady.
Only 44% of Central-Europeans were able to form an opinion on George Soros whose name recognition was highest in Hungary (74%) followed by Romania (69%) and Serbia (62%). Of course, this is not surprising since there is an ongoing governmental campaign against him in these countries. Regularly,
the higher name recognition goes with lower rate of positive attitude towards him.
Finally, 57% of Central-Europeans would further enhance economic relations with the US. However,
strengthening political ties gained only relative majority
among them (43%), while 29 percent would leave the level of political relations unchanged and 21 percent would loosen these ties.
America protects her allies
During the two panel discussions it has been cleared that regardless of what he said as a candidate, President Trump considers Russia as a threat to the region. Thus, he is willing to protect his allies. As Mike Gonzales, senior fellow of Heritage Foundation, cleared,
“President Trump chose Warsaw for a reason”
as the venue of his first presidential visit to Europe. However, there can be no turning back to the good old 90s. As a result, the countries of the region have to play an active role in collective security – added Janusz Bugajsky, senior fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis. You cannot expect America to bear all the burden of your defence – added Bugajszky.
In addition, according to prof. Tamás Magyarics, senior research fellow at the American Studies Research Centre of the National University of Public Services,
the Department of Defence has the most positive attitude towards Hungary.
As a result, if Hungary wanted to develop relationships, she should concentrate efforts there.
Furthermore, panellists agreed that the US would support a stronger Central-European cooperation that can function as a counterbalance of EU. Regarding the case of Visegrad 4, both Gonzales and Bugajszky agreed that if Trump does not come,
VP Mike Pence should be invited,
who understands the region better.
State Department sees Hungary as pro-Putin state
Hungary won the immigration debate – said Bugajszky. However, further attacks on George Soros might close doors anti-migration campaign opened in Washington – added Gonzales. Though Mráz cleared that Hungary is keen on increasing military budget, Bugajszky stated that, from an American point of view, Budapest fell behind other regional allies, like Romania.
He said that Budapest had not been as outspoken in the case of Russian intervention in Ukraine as Bucharest or Warsaw.
If you are seen as being pro-Putin, it can open zero doors –
added Gonzales. Bugajszky said that Hungary cooperates (with Russia) not only economically, like Germans, but also politically and the latter is entirely unacceptable for Washington.
Thus, firstly, Hungary has to prove to the US that she would like to play a role in global security, and fighting international terrorism can be a good basis for that. Furthermore, Hungary should back sanctions against Russia whole-heartedly, and support a stronger Ukrainian territorial integrity in order to win back America’s favor. Moreover, Hungary must become more open to American companies. Finally, it was implied that Hungary should buy more American goods, like weapons, and include LNG to its energy diversification.
Economy might be the key
Undoubtedly, media tries to depict the work of the Trump Administration as a failure. In fact, stock markets have risen 20% since Trump was elected thanks to deregulations. Thus,
economic bloom in the US and Central-Europe can become a basis for a stronger cooperation
– agreed both Gonzales and Márton Ugrósdy, deputy director of strategy at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Admittedly, President Trump promised to prevent American companies from moving their production abroad. However, huge amounts of American working capitals still try to find opportunities for investment. Importantly, unless the region acts together, it will stay invisible for America. In fact, since Central-Europe is growing faster than Western-Europe,
we should not wait for Brussels’ advice,
but be creative, and find our own way so that we can attract American companies to invest here. Gonzales and Bugajszky agreed that Hungary has to develop direct ties to US companies. To their opinion, State Department would not facilitate such connections, because it regards Hungary as a pro-Putin state.
Hungary needs protection not ideological dictates
Zsolt Németh declared that Hungary needs a strong US. However, he added that Hungary will not accept ideological dictates, because those would hinder development. He said that Trump’s Administration acts like an unpredictable businessman. For example, it attacked Soros together with the Hungarian Government, then
condemned Hungary because of her anti-Soros campaign.
All in all, to his mind, Trump’s start regarding Central-Europe was good. The task is to preserve that in the future.
Source: Daily News Hungary