A top Republican senator is blocking an arms deal between the US and Hungary over the latter’s delay of ratifying Sweden NATO accession. The move is testament to the continuous souring of relations between Washington and Budapest due to Hungary’s stance over the war in Ukraine.
Senator James E. Risch, the top Republican on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is halting the sale of 24 batteries of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, also known as HIMARS, to Hungary, according to a statement the Idaho right-wing politician made to the Washington Post. Risch said his decision to block the $735 million deal is the result of Hungary having so far delayed ratifying Sweden’s NATO accession bid. If Hungary wants to close the arms deal with Washington, which includes 24 HIMARS rocket launcher batteries and more than 100 rockets and pods along with associated parts and support, the Hungarian parliament must greenlight Sweden’s bid to join NATO, preferably ahead of the alliance’s summit to be held in Vilnius next month.
“For some time now, I have directly expressed my concerns to the Hungarian government regarding its refusal to move forward a vote for Sweden to join NATO,” Risch said in his statement. “The fact that it is now June and still not done, I decided that the sale of new U.S. military equipment to Hungary will be on hold,” he added.
All significant arms sales require the chair and ranking members of the Senate and House foreign affairs committees to give clearance and approval before the sale is publicly noticed by the State Department. Risch’s objection prevents the State Department from being able to move forward in the sales process.
Hungary is the only EU member state not to have ratified Sweden’s NATO accession bid. Together with Turkey, Hungary is blocking the Scandinavian country from becoming a member of the military alliance, albeit for different reasons. As member states, both Hungary and Turkey wield veto rights within NATO and must give their consent to the expansion of the alliance.
Hungarian government members said they are angry at Sweden for criticizing the country's democratic backsliding. Speaking in Qatar last month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said relations between Hungary and Sweden must improve before Stockholm’s bid for membership is approved.
Hungary’s continued delay of approving Sweden’s NATO membership bid has caused frustration among allies and triggered severe international criticism. Nevertheless, Orbán is sticking to his position that the war in Ukraine can only be resolved via diplomacy and moves that may provoke Russia must be avoided. He told a summit in Qatar that "Looking at the reality, the figures, the surroundings, the fact that NATO is not ready to send troops, it is obvious that there is no victory for the poor Ukrainians on the battlefield. That’s my position."
Political analysts believe that Hungary’s delay of Sweden’s bid is also a means for Budapest to exert pressure on the EU, which has been withholding development funds from Budapest over concerns of massive corruption and rule of law issues.
In response to Risch’s statement, the Hungarian government said it had abandoned plans to order the HIMARS system after last year’s bilateral talks failed to produce an agreement with the United States. “During the previous government term, the government commissioner responsible for [weapon] procurements requested information regarding the HIMARS missile systems in a letter, with a deadline of March 2022. There was no response from the American side, and the ministry considered the matter closed,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement recently published by the state-run MTI news agency.
While Budapest’s latest announcement could represent a face-saving attempt, it also demonstrates the growing distance between the Hungarian government and many of its Western partners. Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, several NATO members accused Hungary of failing to present an unequivocally negative stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Orbán has long maintained excellent relations.
Relations between the US and Hungary have also deteriorated in recent years. Washington has expressed alarm over Budapest’s willingness to expand and deepen ties with Moscow, taking a harder line in April when the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on officials at the Hungary-based International Investment Bank, an unusual move against an entity linked to an ally.
“The United States will continue to work tirelessly towards closer collaboration with our ally. However, we have real concerns about strategic decisions Hungary is making — and those concerns are shared broadly,” US Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman told the Washington Post.
No comment yet. Be the first!
Top 5 Articles
Articles by Date
- ►2023 (1128)
- ►2022 (1249)
- ►2021 (941)
- ►2020 (899)
- ►2019 (237)
- ►2018 (161)
- ►2017 (310)
- ►2016 (279)
- ►2015 (324)
- ►2014 (229)
- ►2013 (233)
- ►2012 (250)
- ►2011 (303)
- ►2010 (167)
- ►2009 (43)
- ►2008 (3)