- 14 Apr 2023 6:12 AM
On 444, Péter Magyari quotes unnamed diplomatic sources who suggest that the Biden administration is growing increasingly irritated by Hungary’s behaviour over the war in Ukraine and its unwillingness to reduce co-operation with Russia.
Moreover, he writes, the US Embassy believes that the pro-government Hungarian press spreads Russian propaganda about the war. Magyari mentions that during his recent stay in Washington, Ambassador Pressman met Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, although ambassadors usually talk to lower ranking State Department officials.
He also reports on a rumour that has been spreading in diplomatic circles for weeks now, about possible US sanctions to be imposed on leading Hungarian officials. Magyari thinks Mr Pressman might well announce such measures at his press conference on Wednesday.
US Ambassador’s remarks seen as mild
A liberal analyst believes US-Hungary relations will become increasingly tense, although the Ambassador’s statements on Wednesday were significantly milder than expected. A pro-government pundit characterises Ambassador Pressman’s press briefing as utterly insignificant.
Contrary to previous speculation, US Ambassador David Pressman did not announce sanctions against Hungarian officials or other prominent public figures at his press conference on Wednesday. He criticised the Hungarian government for its relentless and intensive economic cooperation with Russia. Still, he only named one Hungarian target of US sanctions, namely the vice president of the Budapest-based and Russian-run International Investment Bank (IIB).
The government did not comment on his announcement, but on Thursday, Hungary decided to withdraw from the International Investment Bank. On the other hand, the billboard campaign sponsored by the US Embassy, which expressed criticism of the government’s policy of urging an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Ukraine, drew the government’s barbs.
Gergely Gulyás, the Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s office, said Hungary ‘would not be deterred even by friendly pressure from its pro-peace stance’.
On Index, Zsolt Nagy, a political analyst at the liberal Republicon think tank says the Ambassador’s announcement will have no negative impact on the popularity of the Hungarian government at home, as most people are not even aware of the existence of the International Investment Bank.
He does expect, however, that the two sides continue exchanging critical salvos, to the further detriment of their mutual relations. István Kiss, director of the conservative Danube Institute describes the Ambassador’s tone as milder than expected and notes that Márton Nagy, the cabinet Minister of Economic Development was not hit by US sanctions, despite the fact that he is on the board of the International Investment Bank.
In an ironical column in Magyar Nemzet, Zsolt Bayer expresses disappointment over the content of the Ambassador’s press conference, since based on left-liberal press speculation, he hoped he would be placed on the sanction list himself, and thus finally gain the attention of the US administration. ‘That was pretty poor, Mr Pressman,’ he writes.
US Embassy finances billboard campaign on Ukraine
Pro-government commentators condemn the US Embassy for what they see as lecturing Hungary over freedom and war.
On Wednesday, US Ambassador David Pressman held a press conference to express his government’s concern over ‘the continued eagerness of Hungarian leaders to expand and deepen ties with the Russian Federation’.
Media reports ahead of the press conference speculated that the Ambassador would announce sanctions on Hungarian public figures, but that did not happen. Ambassador Pressman said three executives of the Budapest-based and Russian-run International Investment Bank, including one Hungarian national were targeted by the new sanctions.
Meanwhile, billboards sponsored by the US Embassy and placed by a Facebook group throughout Hungary carry the photo of a 1956 Budapest graffiti with the words: ‘Russians home’. The accompanying text says peace in Ukraine depends on the complete withdrawal of Russian troops.
In Magyar Nemzet. Tamás Pilhál rejects the message of the billboards as clearly criticising the position of the Hungarian government, which urges an immediate ceasefire and peace in Ukraine. As for the famous slogan of the 1956 revolution ‘Russians go home’, Pilhál writes that Hungary might send the same message to US Ambassador David Pressman whom ‘we did not receive in our country to be lectured by him’.
On Mandiner, Gergely Vágvölgyi accuses the US Embassy of duplicity, as in 1956 Hungary was left in the lurch by the United States while its revolution was being crushed by Soviet troops. He adds that Hungarians were at that time waging a proxy war on behalf of the United States just like the Ukrainians are at present.
Hungarians know what fighting for freedom means, he concludes, and need no lecturing from people who ‘don’t understand’ that.
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