Sanctions against Russia on oil and gas are not going to solve the war in Ukraine — several European countries agree

While mainstream media might make it look that way, Hungary and Prime Minister Orbán are not alone in saying that imposing sanctions on oil and gas imports from Russia could seriously backfire. Here’s a look at the reasoning behind PM Orbán’s stance and what other EU leaders have said on this pressing topic.

Since the first days of the war between Russia and Ukraine, Hungary has been following a clear, comprehensive policy regarding the conflict, one that rests on three key pillars.

Firstly, it is in Hungary’s fundamental security interest to avoid being dragged into the war. In Hungary’s April 3 parliamentary elections, an overwhelming majority of Hungarians voted in favor of Prime Minister Orbán’s cautious policy of doing whatever it takes to keep Hungary out of the war, as opposed to the potential opposition-led government, whose PM candidate expressed his intention to send Hungarian soldiers and arms shipments directly to Ukraine. At the same time, we remain a staunch NATO ally and will support all NATO decisions.

Secondly, as PM Orbán has made clear on countless occasions, Hungary welcomes everyone fleeing the war in our neighborhood, and we are sending record quantities of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, totaling more than HUF 17 billion so far. Furthermore, Hungary has sheltered nearly 600,000 refugees to date. (Read more about our humanitarian efforts here.)

The third component of Hungary’s policy on the war in Ukraine is that while we voted in favor of a wide range of sanctions against Russia in the European Union and NATO, we must simultaneously make sure that Hungarian families will not be forced to foot the bill for the war. Considering that 65 percent of Hungary’s oil and 85 percent of its gas supplies come from Russia, imposing sanctions on oil and gas imports would hit Hungarian families’ wallets hard — as well as the entire Hungarian economy.

As PM Orbán has said several times, if such sanctions come into effect, it is not a matter of “the price of energy increasing by 3 or 4 forints, but that the Hungarian economy will simply grind to a halt because there will be no oil, no gas.”

What’s particularly concerning is that international, mainstream media have recently begun to paint a distorted, oversimplified image of the debate surrounding the sanctions, one where Hungary and PM Orbán are portrayed as the only one’s preventing these sanctions.

This image, however, is a slanted one, as it completely disregards the fact that several  EU leaders have also spoken up against additional sanctions.

In a joint press conference last week with Boris Johnson in London, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that while his government is working on expanding the use of renewables, the German economy “will need fossil fuels for many years to come.” His statement is supported by what Federal Minister of Finance Christian Lindner said a few days before: "Sanctions are already unprecedented, but they must strike a blow against Putin's regime and must not threaten the stability of Germany."

Meanwhile, the Austrian foreign minister struck a very similar tone, warning that “sanctions should hit those who are targeted and not boomerang back at us. Because that would be the case with gas supplies." According to Austrian Chancellor Nehammer, “sanctions should not penalize the countries that impose them more than those against whom they are imposed.”

Not even PM Orbán could have stated it more clearly.

At the same time, the leaders of multiple states in the Central European region, including the president of Romania, the Czech prime minister, and Slovakia’s finance minister have signaled that oil and gas sanctions do not seem realistic at the moment.

The argument that Hungary is the only EU member that urges caution with energy sanctions simply does not square with reality.