Hungary and Poland are arguably the only two nations in the Intermarium, the lands between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic seas, which share strong affinity for one another. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused an increasing dissonance among friends.
Historical ties between the Poles and Hungarians have been strong for centuries. Recently, having shed Communism and post-Communism, both nations are led by similarly conservative populist and nationalist coalition governments.
Faced with the ire of the European Union over sovereignty, Warsaw and Budapest present a united front against Brussels. Both refuse to bend to the diktat of the EU over illegal crossing of their frontiers, countenancing malpractice by their native post-Communist judges, and foreign interfering in their domestic parliamentary vote.
As a matter of fact, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz confirmed the widespread popularity of its program by security a sweeping electoral victory just this month. Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS) tops the polls consistently and its electoral prospects appear solid in 2023.
Yet, a serious split in the partnership has developed because of Ukraine. Warsaw has resolved to back Ukraine unreservedly, while Budapest has maintained strict neutrality. The Magyars refuse to countenance anything that they construe not to be in their best national interest.
In that respect prime minister Victor Orban has been faithfully emulating past precedents of national egoism.
Orban’s priority is to keep his country safe, including by strengthening the army. However, instead of effusively focusing on the plight of the Ukrainian people, the prime minister stresses that his primary interest is the Hungarians.
During the electoral campaign his party vowed to defend Magyar kids from forced transgendered reassignment treatment, and not the bombs falling on Kiyv. The prime minister also brings up the plight of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, recently targeted by president Volodimir Zelensky’s stringent language laws.
Although Budapest reluctantly has supported most sanctions against Russia, the Hungarians balked at the latest round. The Hungarians calculate that cutting themselves off from Russian energy as required by the EU would cost them over $800 million.
With no feasible alternatives, backing Brussels is unsustainable unless the EU bankrolls Hungary’s needs.
Strict neutrality does not preclude accepting Ukrainian war refugees: over 800,000 have been allowed in. But Budapest judges the war next door so grave a threat to the nation that it has introduced a “state of danger” in Hungary.
This is quite similar to the measures imposed earlier to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. The government will be able to rule by decree.
Orban has continued to refuse to allow any arms supplies to transit through Hungary to Ukraine. And he will not share arms from his arsenal with the Ukrainian armed forces.
His Polish friends, on the other hand, pursue a completely opposite Ukrainian policy. Where Orban is prudent, perhaps overly so, the Poles come across as reckless.
Initially, there was a bit of hope for prudence. In a brilliant maneuver, Warsaw offered to let U.S. President Joe Biden decide about delivering Polish MiGs to Ukraine.
But now all caution has been thrown to the wind. Poland is engaged with Ukraine diplomatically, economically, politically, and militarily because Warsaw views Moscow’s invasion as an existential threat.
Thus, notwithstanding the demographic implications for the future and in light of Ukrainian nationalist claims to Polish territory,
Poland has welcomed 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees, over 90% of them women and children. They automatically receive all social welfare benefits like Polish citizens.
Further, Polish government has pushed for the most stringent sanctions against Russia.
Next, Polish top politicians travel routinely to Kiyv with support and solidarity. On his last trip, Polish President Andrzej Duda talked about the need for a closer union of Poland with Ukraine.
With the latter fighting for its life under the Russian assault, the timing suggested jumping on a potentially sinking ship.
But the PiS government seems oblivious to such dangers. The Poles not only allow transit of all weapons to the Ukrainian front, but also have generously shared their own stockpile. There are further Polish volunteers fighting the Russians.
Apparently without any consultation, Warsaw has injudiciously offered to spearhead a peacekeeping force, thus sending a shock wave through NATO.
Generally, if Russia attacks its former satellites, both Hungary and Poland (and the rest) will succumb without American help. However, if Moscow takes over in a gradual, perhaps even a nonviolent way, Budapest will be in a much better position to deal with the Kremlin than Warsaw.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.