In view of escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő on Tuesday ordered the deployment of Hungarian servicemen to the east of the country.
Benkő told a press conference after a meeting of the national security committee that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had instructed him to task the army with preventing any possible armed incursions into Hungarian territory.
He added that
the situation in Ukraine may escalate and affect Kiyv and Transcarpathia (Kárpátalja), in the west of the country, so Hungarian servicemen at the border must also prepare to handle the arrival of refugees and see to other humanitarian tasks, he said.
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The minister said that while in the next few days “residents in various parts of Hungary could see convoys heading for the east”, in western Hungary the military would carry out exercises jointly with NATO forces.
Benkő said it was not yet clear how Russia and Ukraine would proceed, but added that “it is a fact that there is a war conflict in a neighbouring country”.
“Hungarians need not be concerned in Hungary, but the Hungarian military must be prepared for any development,” he added.
“Hungary wants peace,” the minister said, adding that Hungary believed in finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. However, the Hungarian Armed Forces must be prepared to carry out border protection and humanitarian tasks, he said.
As regards the tasks ahead for Hungary, Benkő said the Ukraine-Russia conflict would call for specific tasks that would have to be carried out “today, tomorrow or in the coming days”.
Hungary must carry on with military reform, border protection
Defence Minister Tibor Benkő, in a keynote speech on Tuesday, highlighted the continuation of Hungary’s military development scheme as his ministry’s top priority.
The minister called for the development of a national military that could guarantee peace and security for Hungary.
The Hungarian military “can handle the current situation both as an integral part of NATO and using its own capabilities”, Benkő said.
Benkő also emphasised the importance of providing military assistance to the police officers stationed at the country’s borders.
Hungary’s troops have been contributing to the country’s border protection efforts since 2015, the minister said, adding it was clear that migration pressure was on the rise.
Benkő thanked the soldiers for their efforts in the evacuations from Afghanistan last summer, their roles in protecting Hungary’s borders and their assistance in the pandemic response measures.
The minister praised the military’s reservist recruitment push, noting that they now had more than 11,000 reservists compared to just 17 in 2010. He noted that the aim was to have 20,000 volunteer reservists by 2028.
Meanwhile, he said
Hungary would raise its defence spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024.
Detailing Hungary’s past achievements and the tasks ahead, Benkő highlighted the increased military budget and the pay hikes given to soldiers. He said that the country’s military development programme is planned to be completed in 2032.
Benkő said that while Hungary was a member of NATO and had to meet the alliance’s expectations, national military capabilities would remain the top priority.
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