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May 11, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

President Trump invited PM Orbán to the White House, and our critics are freaking out

This week, if you’re to believe the East Coast liberal elite, Prime Minister Orbán not only does not belong in the Oval Office, he “dreams of liquidating the intelligentsia,” you know, “like Pol Pot or Josef Stalin”. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.

On Monday, Prime Minister Orbán will meet President Trump in the White House. As I wrote, our critics do everything they can at times like this to try to run interference and downplay the importance of the meeting or its outcomes, or portray it as some kind of quid pro quo. Sure enough, they’re out in force this week.

What I didn’t expect was that they would be so sub-standard, so mired in tired arguments and so shamelessly imbalanced in their reporting.

Those gems above – that the PM doesn’t belong in the White House and that PM Orbán equals Stalin – come to us thanks to the Washington Post and The Atlantic. Before I dive in, let me remind the reader of some essential points about Hungary’s relationship to the United States and our role in NATO.

Hungary remains one of the few NATO allies that have made a firm commitment – we call it the Zrinyi Program – to increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2026. We’re on track now to get there even sooner. Long a member of the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS, Hungary is also a steadfast contributor to NATO missions. In fact, we just increased our engagement in the NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Our government just signed a defense cooperation agreement with the United States.

Not all NATO members are upping their commitments to the missions. Not all NATO members are increasing their defense spending.

And that’s just the military security and NATO dimension of the relationship. I could go on about our efforts to work with the US in energy security. I could go on about the growing US investment in the Hungarian economy. I could go on about our common positions on illegal migration.

But to the author of the WaPo article, who is an analyst at the Soros-funded Human Rights First and a former Obama appointee to the State Department, Prime Minister Orbán doesn’t belong in the Oval Office.

Why? Because Russia, you know, and because of this ignorant and spectacular claim: Prime Minister Orbán’s “long game may be much more dangerous - redrawing Europe's borders.”

What?

Prime Minister Orbán has never said anything about redrawing borders. For anyone who understands with an ounce of sophistication Hungary’s foreign policy in the CEE region, the priority is clearly the Hungarian people. “Other Hungarians,” as Prime Minister Orbán has said, “are what is most important for us Hungarians.”

Many Hungarians happen to live outside the borders of Hungary. So our government has extended to them the opportunity to request citizenship. We count them as members of the Hungarian nation and consider their well-being important. If they fall victim to draconian legal discrimination – as they have under Ukraine’s language law – then we speak up and will use all diplomatic levers at our disposal, including NATO, to encourage Ukraine to get right with their own human rights commitments and international obligations.

Take a look at the irony here: This is an Obama-appointee to the US State Department. It was the Obama Administrations that decided to “press the reset button” with Moscow and then proceeded to abandon the missile defense plan for the CEE region. For many in this region, that sent a message.

Readers would be disappointed if I didn’t bring up Soros, so here we go: Human Rights First is not only funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, it is one of OSF’s so-called core grantees. That means they’re funded to produce writing and carry out advocacy against the Orbán Government and others like us who oppose their liberal agenda.

Speaking of George Soros, the liberal author of the article in The Atlantic spent a lot of time recently in Budapest with a lot of CEU people. In his piece in which he says PM Orbán is “liquidating the intelligentsia” like “Pol Pot or Josef Stalin,” the writer traveled all the way to Budapest, and here’s the list of sources he quoted for the article: Michael Ignatieff, the CEU rector; István Rév (also CEU), Balázs Trencsényi (CEU), Paul Lendvai, Péter Krekó, Judit Sándor (CEU), and an opposition activist named Imre Szijarto. With the exception of a few remarks from the US ambassador, what do all of the above have in common? I’ll give you one guess.

Listen, if I arrived in Hungary knowing nothing about the place and those were the only people I talked to, I might also come away a little confused about Pol Pot and Stalin.

He did interview me for his article and made mention of our conversation, including some choice, condescending remarks about me looking “like a functionary” who “was always studying to flack on behalf of an absolutist ruler.” Nice.

Nothing about the fact that the CEU continues to operate in Hungary through its local affiliate, Közép-európai Egyetem. Nothing about how the CEU still carries out zero graduate education in the United States. No fair treatment of this government’s legitimate rules. And these people call themselves journalists.

The timing was predictable. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’ve got nothing new to say.

We’re looking forward to Prime Minister Orbán’s visit to the White House on Monday.