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30 Jan, 2022 00:35

Hungary does not need NATO reinforcements amid Ukraine standoff – minister

Budapest continues to oppose Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, as it deems Kiev’s actions “unacceptable” for the alliance
Hungary does not need NATO reinforcements amid Ukraine standoff – minister

Hungary doesn’t need any NATO troops deployed to its territory amid the ongoing Ukraine standoff, Defense Minister Tibor Benko told local broadcaster InfoRadio in an interview on Thursday.

The official confirmed reports that the US and NATO have been negotiating with all the member states bordering Russia, Ukraine, or both, on additional deployments of troops from the bloc. Budapest, however, believes its own military is capable of providing all the security it needs, without any help from NATO troops. 

“Hungary has already created such a national force, developed such national capabilities that in the current situation it is not necessary to rely on other foreign forces and troops,” Benko stated.

In current situation, we do not consider it appropriate – nor do we ask for – the NATO reinforcements to be deployed here. We can handle this.

US President Joe Biden on Friday told reporters that America will increase its military presence in Eastern Europe, deploying a small number of additional troops in the region “in the near term.”

The move comes amid heightened tensions over Ukraine, which is supposedly the target of an allegedly looming Russian invasion, according to Western media and top officials. Moscow has consistently denied such claims, insisting it has zero intent of attacking the neighboring country.

Hungary’s defense minister also reiterated his country’s opposition to Ukraine’s aspirations of joining NATO. While Budapest originally supported the move, its stance changed as Kiev demonstrated behavior “unacceptable” for a potential member of the alliance, Benko explained.

“Ukraine acted against the Hungarians living in Transcarpathia, and behaved unacceptably for the alliance. After that, the government maintains the position that Ukraine is not ready to join, as it does not meet the standards of NATO,” Benko stated.

Kiev and Budapest have long been at odds over the treatment of the ethnic Hungarian minority living in the western Ukrainian region of Zakarpatye. The region remained under Hungarian rule until the early 20th century, changing hands several times and ending up as part of the Soviet Union after World War II. Relations between Ukraine and Hungary rapidly deteriorated after post-Maidan Kiev authorities adopted a controversial education law, which heavily restricted the rights of ethnic minorities to be taught in schools in their native language.

In late 2018, the row escalated when Ukrainian media aired footage purporting to show a Hungarian consul handing out the country’s passports to ethnic Hungarians living in western Ukraine. The scandal – aggravated by the fact that holding dual citizenship is technically illegal under Ukrainian law – resulted in expulsions of diplomats and a heated war of words between the two nations.