FM: NATO member states should rethink their “failed” Ukraine strategy

Most NATO member states show no willingness to rethink Ukraine strategy despite the lack of success seen over the past year and a half.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said NATO member states should rethink their “failed” Ukraine strategy, but most of them show no willingness to do so despite the lack of success seen over the past year and a half.

Addressing a press conference during a break in a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Minister Szijjártó said several of his counterparts had emphasized the importance of continuing to support Ukraine, while some had even urged boosting support and stepping up NATO’s involvement. “I expressed the Hungarian position that we still consider valid … the decision we made here more than a year ago, namely that everything must be done to prevent NATO becoming involved in the conflict and that everything must be done to avoid direct confrontation between NATO and Russia,” Minister Szijjártó said. He added that no proposals that went against this had been put forward so far. The minister said, at the same time, that there was “still an atmosphere of war” among NATO leaders, with “the word ‘peace’ not having been uttered at all at the meeting, even though everyone should finally admit that there can be no solution on the battlefield because there are only casualties and destruction there”.

Minister Szijjártó said he and his Turkish counterpart had raised the question of whether NATO should reconsider its strategy in Ukraine given recent developments, arguing that the plans behind the substantial support provided so far had not yielded results. That plan, he said, had been for Ukraine to defeat Russia on the battlefield, triggering political consequences in Russia. “I think today everyone can see — though they may not admit it — that this plan has failed,” he said. He said the goals behind Ukraine’s counteroffensive had not been met, arguing that there had been no progress or breakthrough on the battlefield. “This is something several people here admitted, albeit quietly and timidly, but they admitted it,” he said. Szijjártó said he believed this was why it was worth considering whether a “plan B” was needed, pointing out that only he and his Turkish counterpart had brought up the possibility of favouring a settlement through diplomacy.

Concerning the matter of Ukraine’s NATO membership, Minister Szijjártó welcomed that member states were in agreement that such a development was “inconceivable” at present because it would risk the outbreak of a third world war. As regards challenges stemming from the south, the minister said migration and terrorism constituted a “vicious circle”, arguing that the latter was simultaneously a cause and consequence of the former. He said he had stressed that NATO should take firm action against terrorism and support upholding stability in Africa and the Middle East. He said Hungary was sending troops to Chad and would provide around half a million dollars in financial support to Jordan, Tunisia, Mauritania and Iraq. Szijjártó also said that Hungary this year met its NATO obligation to increase its defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2024. Eleven of the 31 members currently meet this obligation, he said, adding that there are 750 Hungarian troops serving in foreign missions and another 860 are on standby, while there were major defence industry investments ongoing in the country.