Interview with Viktor Orbán by Tucker Carlson

Interview with Viktor Orbán by Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson: The Biden administration described you in the United States, in the media, as a fascist. Are you worried about being crushed by the United States?

It’s dangerous, may I say. I’m not the favourite politician of the liberals, unfortunately. But nobody is perfect, you know. There are certain things which are more important than “me”, than my ego. Family, nation, God. Liberal originally meant freedom. But now in Europe, liberal means that you are enemy of the freedom. We are ally to the United States and we are worse treated than the Russians.

If you respect democracy, don’t you let countries govern themselves? If you take a step back, the point of NATO is to provoke war with Russia.

This is a bad strategy. We have to stop it. We cannot beat them. They will not kill their leader. They will never give it up. They will invest more. It’s a joke. It’s a very dangerous moment now.

That’s obvious to you.

Not just for me. Everybody on the street. The Third World War knocking on our door.

You were just in an election. Did you consider at any point just indicting your challenger? Wouldn’t that have been easier?

To do what’s going on now in your country, you know, to use the justice system against the political opponents, in Hungary, I think, it’s impossible to imagine. That was done by the communists.

As the war in Ukraine completely reshuffles the world order and threatens to destroy human civilization, it’s striking just how little information Americans are receiving about what happens there. The nation of Hungary shares a border with Ukraine. Its leader, Viktor Orban, the nation’s longest serving prime minister, has been dealing with the Russians all of his life. He grew up under Russian occupation. As a young man, he was arrested and thrown into jail by Russian backed police for his efforts to liberate the country. And as prime minister, he’s dealt regularly with Vladimir Putin, whose nation supplies Hungary with most of its energy. Viktor Orban understands Russia and Ukraine. So two years after we last spoke, we returned to Hungary to sit down with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and ask him what exactly is happening in Ukraine right now. Here’s what he said.

So, in the United States, the view is that Ukraine is winning this war. It doesn’t sound like that’s true.

It’s a lie. It’s not just a misunderstanding. It’s a lie. It’s impossible. Everybody who’s in politics can understand the logic, the figures, the data. No way.

Why is it impossible?

Because that way, the Ukrainian, the poor Ukrainians die every day.


Hundreds and thousands, you know. So my heart is with them. So it’s tragedy. It’s tragedy for Ukraine. But they will run out earlier from the soldiers, number of soldiers, than the Russians. What finally will count is boots on the ground. And the Russians are far stronger, far numerous, more numerous, than Ukrainians.

There’s more of them. Many more.

So, so this strategy, what we are just supporting is a bad engineering of the strategy.

So, if the Biden administration has said our goal is to beat Russia, is to effect regime change, is to kill Putin and take him out of power.

You know, they misunderstand probably the Russians. You know, to understand the Russians, it’s a difficult thing, especially if you have an ocean between you and Russia. So, so when we speak about politics, I mean, Westerners, what is the focus point of our conversation? The focus point is freedom. How to provide more and more freedom to the people.


When you speak on politics in Russia, this is not the number one issue. The number one issue, how to keep together the country, because the country is very big. And there is a privilege of the question how to keep together the country. And not freedom. Freedom is just another issue. Second, third, whatever. First, keep the country together. And that generates a different kind of culture and understanding of politics. That creates a kind of military approach like they have always on security, safety, buffer zone, geopolitical approaches. It’s not, it’s not our culture, it’s a different approach. It’s legitimate to have that because it’s their history. But we have to understand that we cannot beat them as we do just now. It’s impossible. They will not kill their leader. They will never give it up. They will keep together the country and they will defend it. We finance more, they will invest more. If we send more technical equipment, they will produce more. So, don’t misunderstand the Russians.

So, they’re not going to get sick of Putin and throw him out.

Come on. It’s a joke.

What would happen if the West succeeded in killing Putin? What would happen to Russia and its nuclear stockpiles?

Okay, that’s… Okay. May I recall one of my experience?


So, I was Prime Minister exactly at the time when the change happened in Russia. Putin after Yeltsin.


Yeltsin was very weak and getting weaker and weaker. And I do remember the fear of that time here in Hungary and in Europe as well. Whether there will be a new leadership or not. So the real fear here was that there will be anarchy in Russia.


Putin is out and no new guy who is coming in is strong enough to keep together the country, the nuclear arsenal and the army control and so on. So everybody was happy when realized that after Yeltsin, Putin came in and started to control the military and the Russian power as a leader. So everybody was happy. I do remember that. So, now Putin is in power for long, long years. We forgot about how dangerous when there is no strong leadership or interregnum in Russia. The interregnum is the worst case possible.

But that is our goal. That is the goal of the U.S. State Department.

Yeah, but it’s a mistake. If this is the goal, it’s a mistake.

It sounds very dangerous.

It’s more than dangerous, you know? Yeah. To sit in Washington, safe United States is a different feeling than to sit here in Budapest. Ukraine is next door country, you know. So what’s going on there could have an immediate impact in 24 hours here in Hungary and so on. When I was very young, in ‘86, if I remember well, there was an explosion of the nuclear power station in Ukraine by accident.


And it impacted us immediately. So, if there is an escalation in Ukraine…


Chernobyl, yes, that could have an impact on us immediately. So Washington is far away. Russia and Ukraine is close. That’s the Hungarian approach.

So, given the manpower imbalance between the Russian and Ukrainian armies and the attrition of the Ukrainian army, hundreds of thousands dead.

Many Hungarians as well. Nobody knows it. But we have a minority, a strong minority, more than 150,000 people in the territory of Ukraine, which was earlier part of Hungary. So, it’s a historical minority living, community living there. They are part of the Ukrainian state and they are conscripted now to the army and they die. They fight for Ukraine and Hungarians soldiers dying for Ukraine as Ukrainian citizens. So, we lost, I mean, as the Hungarian nation, we are losing lives daily also.

At a certain point, they’re going to need more men. They’re going to need more soldiers. Where are they going to come from?

That’s the most risky question. So, if any Western country would send any boots on the ground, that would mean a direct war between the West and Russia. And we are in a third world war immediately. So it’s a very dangerous moment now.

That’s, that’s obvious to you?

Absolutely. Not for me, everybody on the street. All the ordinary citizens are aware that we are living in a very dangerous moment. So, the Third World War could be knocking on our door. So we have to be very, very careful. And that’s my message always to America, as well at NATO summit: be careful with that.

And what kind of response do you get when you say that?

You know, they are bigger, therefore they are more clever. So that’s always the case.

So they don’t listen to you.

We can say in that way also. Yeah.

I have to ask you about Nord Stream. So, it seems very obvious that the Biden administration blew up Nord Stream either directly or through proxies. I don’t think, I’ve never heard anyone dispute that really. How is Western Europe, and Germany in particular, the biggest NATO member in Europe, not saying anything about this? It seemed to me, it just crushed the German economy. Why don’t they say a word about it?

So when it has happened, we commented it as a terrorist attack.


It was rejected in Germany and in the West. It was not a terrorist attack, it was “something”, you know. So, that’s a kind of evidence of lack of sovereignty. But it’s the job of the Germans, I would not like to criticize them. What we Hungarians did immediately, we made clear that there is another pipeline, not just nordic stream, but there is a southern stream, coming gas from Russia through the southern corridor. Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary. And together with the Serbian Prime Minister, and President, we did make it very clear that if anybody would like to do the same thing with the Southern Corridor as it was done with the northern one, we consider it as a reason for war or terrorist attack and we will immediately react. So, don’t do that. Probably you can do it with the Germans, but you can’t do that with this region. That was very much…

Do you think people understand that?

I think so.

You were not speaking to the Russians when you said that.

On that subject?


It’s a Hungarian issue, it’s not a Russian issue.

Right. But when you said to the world, don’t commit an act of terror against this pipeline you weren’t speaking…

It was not addressed to Moscow. No.

No, it was not, right. So, if you were in charge of NATO, if you were, say, Joe Biden, what would your next move be in the war in Ukraine? What would you do?

Peace. Immediately. Call back Trump. That’s the only way out.

Call back Trump.

Call back Trump. Because, you know, you can criticize him for many reasons. I understand all the discussion. But, you know, the best foreign policy of the recent several decades belonged to him. He did not initiate any new war.


He treated nicely the North Koreans and Russia, even the Chinese, you know. He delivered a policy which was the best one for Middle East, Abraham Accords.


So that was a very good foreign policy. You know, he’s criticized that he’s not, you know, he’s not educated enough to understand the world politics. This not the case. Facts count. And his foreign policy was the best one for the world in the last several decades I have seen. And if he would have been the president at the moment of the Russian invasion started, it would be not possible to do that by the Russians. So Trump is the man who can save the Western world and probably the human beings in the globe as well. That’s, that’s my personal conviction.

Can I ask you just to skip around for one second about the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Days before that invasion at the Munich Security Conference, the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, said to Zelenskyy at a press briefing, we would like Ukraine to join NATO. Now, Ukraine joining NATO obviously cannot, you know is a…

It’s a long story. When the idea of membership of Ukraine, in NATO was raised, it was in the summit of NATO Bucharest, 2007 or 2008. Russia was not strong enough to stop it. So there was a real chance at that time to integrate the Ukrainians into NATO, but it was rejected. There was no agreement among the big Western countries to do so, so it was postponed. But after two or three years later, the Russians became stronger and stronger and stronger, and now they are even stronger. So we missed the historical opportunity to do so. And this window of opportunity is not open anymore. So we can’t do that. So we can’t afford to have that long borderline between Russia and Ukraine, who belongs to NATO. That would mean immediate war danger to all of us, even in Washington. So, even, it’s dangerous, even for United States. It’s not just dangerous for the region, but even for you, for the families.

Because it could provoke a nuclear initiation…

Yeah, yeah… So it’s not a realistic proposal at this moment, so forget about it. We should say just the opposite. We should make a deal with the Russians on the new security architecture to provide security, sovereignty for Ukraine, but not membership in NATO.

So, why, and I think your view is shared by many sober people who watch this. So why would the Vice President say something like that at a moment when there were Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border?

You know, t’s difficult to follow the mind-set of a big power like you are. So it’s a different approach to everything than the approach of a 10 million people of Hungary with the historical experience, knowing the Russians better than you know. You always think that you know better because of the Cold War. But it’s not the case.

They never occupied Washington.

Yeah, yeah. You should ask us, how does it work? What is the way of thinking? What is the cultural context?

So back to the peace. If you were in charge or if Trump were to win in 2024, how would you approach that? What would it look like? The settlement.

First, you should admit, probably publicly acknowledging that the key is in your hand. So if United States would like to have a peace, next morning there is a peace, because it’s obvious that the Ukrainians, the poor Ukrainians on their own, they are not competitive in this war. So if there is no money and there is no equipment from the West and especially from United States, the war is over.


The solution is in your hand. It is in the hand of your president. The present followed the future one, but you will solve it. The United States can do it, nobody else. It’s not the solution for the Ukrainians. Of course, it’s about Ukrainians, they cannot be neglected, they must be involved. But the real factor is not Ukraine. The real factor is the intention of the United States.

Yes. So policymakers in the United States have been talking recently about taking Crimea, including the Russian port, away from the Russians. Is that a realistic goal? And what would happen if we tried?

It’s totally unrealistic. No way.

That’s not a wise…

It’s not wise, it’s not realistic, it’s out of question.

Last night we stood here and you had fireworks over the city to celebrate the founding of the city of this nation, Saint Stephen’s Day. And you had about 10 percent of your entire population standing outside cheering. And they all seem to be happy to be Hungarian. How do you get a country that’s grateful to be Hungarian and identifies?

You know, it’s an ancient nation first. The country was established 1,100 years ago. So we are a historical nation, using the same language, no relatives, nobody speaks the same language around us. Germans and Slavic, no Hungarians. So therefore, to maintain the language, to maintain the culture for this country, it’s a big achievement by itself. So we celebrated even yesterday that we did it for more than 1,000 years, that we are still Hungarians. And to be Hungarians, we are very proud of it. We love the nation, we love the country, and we are proud of it. It’s not very much mainstream thinking, political thinking of today Western societies. But in Hungary, we are still very patriotic and Christian and committed to those values. Not in an ideological level, but on the streets every day.

Do you think that’s why you’re so unpopular among leadership in the United States and the West?

I’m not the favourite politician of the liberals, unfortunately. But nobody is perfect, you know.

But why do you think that is? The country seems to be thriving. That’s usually the measure we use.

It’s more about our civilization. I mean, the Western Christian civilization. Now, the main division line is not according to ideologies. It’s deeper. It has an anthropological character. So on one side, in Europe and probably in your country, but in Europe, definitely. There are groups of people who think that the most important thing of the world is their ego, themselves, “me”. This is the centre of the world. The other camp of the people, the other part of the society thinks that it’s not true, because there are certain things which are more important than “me”, than my ego. Family, nation, God. And because they are more important than me, I have to serve these higher level things. So this society has a majority here in Hungary. And the other society which is comforting only me, you know, only dealing with myself, it’s a more Westernized dominating factor of the political life. And the governments of the West are more belonging to the first group of the people. I belong to the second one and Hungary belongs to the second one. Our constitution is concentrating on the “we”, you know, how we are linked together, family, nation, God, what is common, you know. So we, the Hungarian nation. That’s how we speak on that. It’s totally out of fashion now in the Western European societies.

But why would that be so provocative to certain people in the West? I mean, different countries have different traditions. Mongolia has its own religions, language… But that’s not offensive. But something about what you said is very offensive.

Because in the Western societies politics are very often led by intellectuals. And intellectuals like to be ideologists, a special approach from the ideological point of view. And, you know, ideology is a very difficult thing because it has an exclusivity. So when the Liberals say that this is the interpretation of society, it means that this is the only way to interpret a society. If you do differently, you cannot be a good man. So we have another interpretation. We have a Christian and national, more traditional interpretation of human being and society. But they can’t accept it because it’s different. So we are plural, they are hegemonistic. That’s the problem.

So, the intolerance is baked in. It’s part of their ideology.

Absolutely. The liberal ideology basically. Liberal originally meant freedom. But now in Europe, liberal means that you are enemy of the freedom because you have a hegemonistic request on society, on values and the concept of human being as well. So liberals are against freedom. That’s how we see that.

I’ve noticed. I mean, I don’t live in Hungary. I can’t assess that. I can assess your media landscape, which is much freer than ours, much freer, much more diversity.

I have to fight every day.

In the United States, right, the people who are in our country don’t. Virtually every media outlet is on their side reflexively. And yet, they describe you in the United States and the media as a fascist. And the Biden administration seems to believe, the State Department anyway. They, you know, the U.S. is the biggest, most powerful country in the world. Are you worried about being crushed by the United States?

It’s dangerous, may I say. So we should not neglect the importance of that fact. When the United States administration does not like you or considers you as an enemy or having a back track, it’s dangerous in international politics. So you are powerful, still number one power of the world. So if you criticize somebody, we have to be very cautious how to deal with that. And now the Democratic administration does it regularly. So, we have to be clear here that this is not the voice of America, it’s the voice of the administration of the United States. Not all Americans have the same approach as the government, like the Republicans who are far closer on value basis to us. The previous president is friend of Hungary on the value basis, historically and, you know, wholeheartedly. So he’s a real friend. So don’t make a mistake to consider the United States equal to the United States administration.


And I think that difference is important because you have competition, a political system based on competition…

Of course…

…and hopefully Trump will come back or Republicans will come back. And the relationship will be again very good. But now it’s absurd. Can you imagine? Can you imagine, that the United States government deleted the agreement between Hungary and the United States on double taxation. But they still have the agreement between Russia and the United States.

And that means the American citizens, for those who don’t know what it says, American citizens who live and work in Hungary have to pay Hungarian taxes to your government, but also full federal taxes in the United States.

Yeah. But the attitude as such, we are a member of NATO, we are ally to the United States. And we are worse treated than the Russians, you know. What’s that about?

What is it about? It’s what you just said. So it might be helpful to say it out loud. Now the Biden administration spent U.S. tax dollars to campaign against you in your last election. They didn’t succeed; you won, you know, in a fair election.

Big money.

Big money. I don’t think most Americans understand that their tax dollars went to defeat you in Hungary.

Yes. Exactly.

But that’s not, I mean, if you respect democracy, don’t you let countries govern themselves?

It’s definitely against all the principles we confess.

Yes, it is. Are you worried about American control over Hungarian debt?


Debt, yeah, debt. I mean, are you worried that the Biden administration could potentially hurt Hungary economically?

No. Ten years ago, probably that could have been the case, but today we are strong enough, no, no. It’s not easy, it’s far easier to cooperate with the United States government. It’s a far nicer horizon to have a good relation, but even without that we can stand and we can survive, and we can, we can grow, even we can grow. Not just finance, but we can grow.

So in the American media, you have been dismissed as a puppet of Russia, a friend of Putin’s. I want to put on the screen a picture of you being arrested by Soviet-backed police as a young man. This country was occupied by the Soviets, by the Russians for 40 years. So given that, are you a bootlicker of Putin? Are you a puppet of Putin? What's your view of Putin?

When I first time met him, I came back as Prime Minister. We said very clearly, don’t touch upon history because the history between Russia and Hungary is rather sad. One of the main heroic attempts of the Hungarian nation to get freedom was launched against the Habsburgs in the middle of the 19th century, crushed by Russia, the army of the Tsar of Russia. They helped the Austrians because we were in the winning position.


And the Russians were invited by the Habsburg and they crushed the freedom fight here in Hungary. That’s first. Then they occupied us in the Second World War. And then when we tried to get rid of their yoke, in ‘56 they crushed us again. So history is, you know, if you ask anybody on the street that any Hungarian leader who is elected freely can be a puppet of Putin or the Russians, they say it’s a joke. It’s impossible. Because we are a sovereign country and even to the Russians we deliver many times that we are sovereign. So I don’t take seriously that kind of accusation. But of course, I try to have a rational relationship with the Russians, especially on economy and energy. And my personal point is that without involving the Russians into a security architecture of Europe, we cannot provide a safe life to the citizens of Europe. But now everything is going against it, unfortunately.

Well, Russia is hardly integrated into the security architecture of Europe. All of NATO is against, I mean, NATO is at war with Russia.

You know, what NATO does is rather strange because if you look at the official position of NATO as an institution, as an alliance, they’re exactly saying what we said. So, no involvement and we should do as much as we can for peace. That’s the official position of NATO. But at the same time, NATO says that member states of NATO should do their best to support the Ukrainians. You know, so we should clarify that what’s going on, like United States’ foreign policy to support and finance the Ukrainians, it’s not the policy of NATO, it’s the policy of the United States. That’s a big difference.

But I mean, NATO countries now border at over 1500 miles of Russia. So it seems like the point, if you take a step back, the point of NATO is to provoke war with Russia. That’s what it seems like. What is the point of NATO?

The point of NATO is that we are stronger than the Russians are. That’s very important to make clear. There is the nuclear armament…


which must be balanced, but on conventional weapon context we, NATO, are far stronger than the Russians are. The Russians are not strong enough even to beat the Ukrainians just now, you know.


So therefore, if somebody is belonging to NATO, member of NATO, it’s obvious that we are in a secure position. Russia is not able to threaten our security. It’s out of question because we are so strong. That’s the number one point. The second is that some leaders of NATO, some member state leaders like your president, they had a strategy to crush the Russians somehow. And the strategy was that the Ukrainian soldiers will fight and some member states of NATO will finance this fight by money and by military technical equipment. And this is the way how militarily we can beat the Russians. We Hungarians were very clear at the very first point. This strategy will never work. So this is a bad strategy. And now we have one and a half year of the war and it’s obvious that this is a bad strategy. We have to stop it. We need a new strategy or we should run as soon as we can for peace.

So, I‘ll just ask you one last question about Trump since you brought him up a couple of times. You were just in an election that I know your staff was worried you might lose. There was an open question you won, pretty sizably. But it was a real election.

Oh, it was.

Did you consider at any point just indicting your challenger on fake documents charges, and trying to throw him in jail? Wouldn’t that have been easier?

You mean against me?


Okay, we have some bad chapters of our history. But that kind of civilian war, cold civilian war, was not part of our culture. So, we can beat each other, we can argue against each other, but you know to do what’s going on now in some countries and even in your country, you know, to use the justice system against the political opponents, in Hungary, I think, it’s impossible to imagine, you know. That was done by the communists. It’s a very communist methodology to do that. So, in Hungary, we are all aware that we are, okay, we disagree on many things, ideology, values, vision on the future, even practices of politics, but you know, we belong to the same nation. Okay, we are rivalling. But what is the final sense of this argument and competition? To unite the nation, yeah? To provide a better future. You can’t say that I will kill you or I will send you to the prison, you know. If you follow that track, no chance to unify the nation. If the nation is not unified, you can’t run for big purposes. So, competition is okay, but it must be fair, legally perfect. Otherwise, you can sacrifice your country and the future of your country for your personal success, which is not acceptable, at least not in Hungary.

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much.