On February 2, 2017, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has come with the official visit to Hungary and met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
This is the second Putin’s official visit to Budapest in two years since the introduction of sanctions against the Russia Federation because of its illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion into Ukraine. The sides planned to discuss economic issues, including the controversial Paks nuclear-power plant that Russia is contracted to build and further agreements on natural-gas purchases, according to RFE/RL.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the first the EU leader to welcome Putin after his annexation of the Black Sea Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Viktor Orban is also one of the few leaders to publicly support the U.S. President Donald Trump. EU community is conserned of this visit as U.S. President Donald Trump, has expressed disdain for the European Union and a desire for closer relations with Moscow.
There is talk between Putin and Orban of lifting the economic sanctions placed on Russia for its land grab in Ukraine. At the meeting in Moscow a year ago, the Orban voted against the sanctions, claiming:
“All are beginning to understand that Russia needs to cooperate,” said Hungarian Prime Minister.
“We are concerned [about the trip], there is no doubt about it,” an EU official requesting anonymity told RFE/RL on February 1. “It is Putin’s year. He’s looking at a divided Europe, which the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), especially Hungary, are making more divided due to actions like [inviting Putin to Budapest], and a United States that for the first time is providing no counterbalance to [Putin].”
This visit is an opportunity for Putin to encourage Hungary in its efforts to get the EU sanctions against Russia lifted.
“I’m not surprised that President Putin visits Hungary so frequently, and his upcoming visit to Hungary is just one illustration that Putin is interested in keeping pressure on the EU,” Lithuanian European Parliament member Petras Austrevicius told RFE/RL. “And I’m sure [it is an effort to] destroy our solidarity.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto railed against the EU sanctions in Budapest on January 27, saying they had failed to change Russian involvement in Ukraine and had severely affected the Hungarian economy.
“I don’t think we should celebrate that we hit the Russian economy because it’s bad news for Europe as well,” Szijjarto said, claiming that Hungary had lost $6.5 billion in exports to Russia because of the sanctions and countersanctions imposed by Moscow in retaliation. “If the sanctions were truly effective, they should have had some impact by now.”
“Timing [for the Putin visit] is, let’s say, perfect. The visit has great significance since there’s a great expectation all around the world about the improvement of the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship,” said Szijjarto.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó added that when Budapest tried to improve relations with Moscow in the past, “we had to face American pressure not to do it.”
The Obama administration followed the previous Putin visit to Budapest, in 2015, by sanctioning six Hungarian officials for corruption.
“Now there will be no more American pressure,” said Péter Szijjártó.
The Kremlin has said that the visit “bears witness to the personal ties and confidence” between Orbán and Putin.