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Jan 14, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Here’s why that report is an embarrassment to the US Senate

This week’s shameful example of anti-Hungary bias and ignorance comes to us – I regret to report – from the hallowed halls of the United States Senate. On January 10th, the minority staff – I’ll come back to that in a moment – of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published a report entitled, “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security.”

The report is really about Russia, specifically, as the authors put it, Putin’s assault on democracy. But in their effort to show Russia’s interference in Europe, the authors include chapters on several countries in eastern and western Europe.

The three-page section on Hungary is a travesty, and – to put it bluntly – shamefully unbecoming of one of the most respected committees in one of the most lauded legislative bodies in the world.

What could have been an interesting analysis turns into an anti-Orbán political pamphlet, attempting to portray the prime minister as a Putin surrogate in Europe and, at times, completely misrepresenting his remarks.

It ignores a number of important facts. In NATO, the Orbán Government is one of the few allies that has committed to increasing defense spending to two percent of GDP. The prime minister promised to do that by 2026, and we’re already ahead of schedule. The report makes no mention of the fact that Hungary is a member of the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS and has committed troops to that effort. It fails to mention the several occasions when Hungary’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó referred explicitly to the armed conflict in Ukraine as a war. The report’s authors also forgot about the time Minister Szijjártó summoned the Russian ambassador to explain his disparaging remarks on Russian state media about Hungary’s 1956 anti-Soviet uprising.

The report talks about our “Eastern Opening” as if it were an embrace of Moscow when in fact it’s a strategy to develop economic relations and trade with many markets to the East, including China and India and many other growing economies. The authors seem oblivious to the fact that greatest amount of foreign direct investment in Hungary comes from Germany, an amount that has grown considerably under the Orbán Government, and that the US has become Hungary’s number one export market outside the EU.

The minority staff claims that PM Orbán praised Moscow for opposing “Western attempts of isolation, regime change.” That’s not what he was saying. Read the speech and you will see that the prime minister was laying out a rational case for taking Russia seriously. That’s a completely reasonable perspective from a prime minister of a country on the EU’s eastern border, dependent on Russian gas exports, which has plenty of reason to want to see normal relations, economic and otherwise, with Russia.

In this report, we find the usual problem of a grave imbalance of sources. The report cites Political Capital and Péter Kreko, Lily Bayer, Transparency International, Andrew Higgins and others, a sort of rogues’ gallery of opposition-affiliated figures and left-liberal journalists that have a long track record of biased commentary and reporting on the Orbán Government. At times – for example, when it refers to the visa ban as an effective step that should be replicated – it seems as if these people helped in the drafting…

Then there’s this.

The minority staff claims to be concerned about outside influence in democracy – international actors who interfere in the elections and democratic processes of these sovereign, independent nations. They’re worried about Russia but they say nothing about George Soros, the financial speculator who is putting millions behind so-called NGOs and affiliated movements that pursue an openly political and opposition-oriented agenda.

Why are they unconcerned with George Soros?  I’ll give you one guess.

This report comes from the staff of the ten minority members – that is, the ten Democratic senators – of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The overwhelming majority of these senators – we found nine out of ten – have received Soros funding, either by direct contributions or through political action committees that receive large amounts of Soros funding. Behind these Democratic senators is the liberal, Soros political machine.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this report comes from the minority staff, the staff delegated by those Soros-backed senators. The majority members, the Republican senators have not backed this report, so it doesn’t carry much weight. Still, considering the section on Hungary, a staunch U.S. ally, it’s an embarrassment to the United States Senate.