At the end of July I attended a talk with Balasz Orbán, political director of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and author of the book “The Hungarian way of strategy”. The talk covered a number of topics that can certainly help to understand the political strategy of Viktor Orbán’s government and the reason why he is supported by the majority of Hungarian people. But, at the same time, it raises a question: Is a European strategy possible?
One of the reasons why many people do not understand what is going on in the world is their insufficient knowledge of geography and history. The geographical location of a country and its historical development are the determining factors for its policies, especially if that country’s history is marked by foreign invasions and occupations. The loss of sovereignty leaves an indelible mark on the nations that have suffered it. In Europe we have a good example of this is given by Hungary and Poland, which are precisely the countries that have most opposed Brussels’ plans to take sovereignty away from EU member states. History and this lack of sovereignty are, according to Balasz Orbán, the ultimate reason for the confrontation with European bureaucrats: “For the past 500 years Hungary has been occupied by various powers and therefore our history is a constant struggle for survival and sovereignty. That’s why Brussels can do nothing, we are smarter than they are, we know the law better than they do and we have more time. After the fall of the USSR, we regained our sovereignty and now there is a generation in Hungarian politics, responsible for their own country and, after centuries, we have the opportunity to make our country great”.
The truth is that both Hungary and Poland, “the bad boys of the EU”, have been unwilling to give up their sovereignty and have received from Brussels all kinds of sanctions, condemnations and the application of the rule of law mechanism used to blackmail their governments. But they have not given in, and that is the key to their strength. Balasz Orbán pointed out that ideas can only be defended if you are not afraid: “Conservative forces are very successful in making good campaigns, in convincing people, in defending common sense, but then they come to power and do nothing because of pressure from the media, NGOs and international organisations. They just try to survive in government without daring to make a conservative policy. Hungary is dangerous because it has not given in and we are still in power. What we do is to implement conservative ideas in the daily decisions of the government. For example, the protection of minors. Everyone is free to do what they want, but we understand that gender ideology is not suitable for minors because this is our Hungarian conservative approach and we have organised a national referendum on it. Over 3.7 million Hungarians, more than those who voted for the EU, decided that gender propaganda is not good for minors. This is how big ideas are translated into everyday politics. There is no need to be afraid, and Hungary is a proof that there is a conservative model that works in the West”. Yes, fear has been the Achilles’ heel of most of the European Right, which has decided to focus on economic issues only while the Left had its way in the cultural sphere. Now, many years later, we see the disastrous result of this unconditional surrender. It is a lesson that the parties of the “conservative revolution” must not forget.
This conservative revolution has been shaken by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the positions taken by different governments and countries according to their national interests. The war has been used by the progressive media to point the finger at conservative parties as pro-Russian, and I am not only referring to the Hungarian case, but also to parties such as Fratelli d’Italia or VOX, which have come out clearly in favour of Ukraine. On this issue, Balasz Orbán was very clear: “Hungary is a very pro-American country, it is not pro-Russian. It never has been and never will be – rather, we are an anti-Russian country. But, right now, the low popularity of Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden is at the same level. Both are extremely unpopular, and this is not because Hungarians are brainwashed, but because, from our point of view, both are leaders of an empire who are playing an imperialist game, and this is not good for the people who live here. This is the Hungarian way of thinking”.
“We are not against the West, we are a proud part of it, but we see a new balance between East and West. The Americans are still very strong and still have the hegemony, but they have their problems and they have to face the rise of China and that probably in the future there will be two suns in the sky. We cannot influence this, it just happens and we have to adapt. What we do know is that a new cold war is not in our interests. For a small country, whose main concern is not to be occupied by the Russians, the prime interest is certainly to belong to an alliance that is ready to defend us against the Russians. But in another situation, such as Hungary, Portugal, Israel or South Africa, the mentality is different, and that requires adapting strategies”.
Defending national interests is the first task of any self-respecting government, and that, like it or not, is what Viktor Orbán’s government has done despite the political pressure and media campaigns. Campaigns that have conveniently ignored the reception of Ukrainian refugees or the role of prominent German politicians in the Kremlin’s plans that have led to Germany’s dependence on Russia, as Donald Trump pointed out at the United Nations. Defending their national interests is also what the Baltic states, Poland or Finland, which feel threatened by Russian aggression, have done. This brings us to the question that gives this article its title: Is a common European strategy possible? As the war has shown, it does not seem possible right now. However, in 2024 there will be European elections that may change the balance of power in the EU, as well as result in a possible arrival of more conservative parties in their respective national governments. It is clear that a change at the European level will require a European strategy that puts an end to suicidal green policies, open borders and the deindustrialisation of Europe. Only then will we be able to speak of a stronger and more independent Europe, which abandons its secondary role on the international stage and does not subrogate its defence, industrial production or energy to other powers. I don’t know if Balasz Orbán will be up to it, but someone will have to take up the challenge of writing “The European Way of Strategy”, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Javier Benegas is a publicist, writer and editor. Co-founder of the newspaper “Vozpópuli”, he currently directs the digital media Disidentia.