In the latest instalment of The Bold Truth About Hungary podcast published last week, Defense Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky told Zoltán Kovács, the state secretary for international communication and relations, that the defense industry is essential not just because it creates jobs and helps the economy, but also because it guarantees security.
“We may want to recall the moments when the Berlin Wall fell and we found ourselves with a Soviet-doctrine, unpopular mass army equipped with Soviet technology,” Szalay-Bobrovniczky said. Then over a period of two decades, “mainly due to the negligence of the left-wing governments”, Hungary’s army was “completely ruined”, the minister said. The equipment was neglected and sold, and the military was reduced in numbers, Szalay-Bobrovniczky said, adding that conscription was abolished soon after Hungary joined NATO. This, he said, meant that Hungary had been left with a military made up of volunteers without a reservist system in place. Finally, in 2016, the government launched a military development scheme, he noted. Put to him that military development had been criticised by both the Hungarian opposition and the European left, Szalay-Bobrovniczky said the progressive left had predicted that armies and NATO itself would eventually become obsolete following the emergence of world peace. But the defense industry is essential, not just because it creates jobs and promotes further economic growth, but also because it ensures more favorable and competitive prices, the minister said. It is even more important in terms of security, because this way Hungary is not forced to rely on foreign suppliers and can procure equipment from its own defense industry, he added.
As regards NATO, Kovács said that while many believed that the alliance was “an existing force itself” that would come to the aid of its member states, it was actually a joint effort of its member countries. “NATO is us, clearly, so … that is one of the reasons why we are building a strong national army because that can be the only contribution, and if other nations do so — as they do, they all build strong national armies — then together we can count on each other,” the minister said. As regards the Russia-Ukraine war, Szalay-Bobrovniczky said Hungary was “entering a new phase of development”, based on the lessons being learned from that conflict. This, he said, was aimed at the introduction of the most advanced technologies and bringing the various components together to form a strong national army. “The real goal is, of course, deterrence, to show enough force — both physical equipment and determination — which means experienced, brave, well-skilled, well-paid good soldiers combined, he said.” This, he added, could show “enough deterrence to any potential opponent who wants to attack Hungary, and with that, NATO”. The Hungarian military will do everything in its power to protect its citizens and borders, but incidents like the stray missile hit in Poland cannot be totally ruled out, he said, stressing the importance of “strategic calm”.