In May, President Trump welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to the White House. It was his first visit since Bill Clinton rolled out the red carpet for him in 1998.
Two decades ago, Mr. Orban was a centrist who praised the U.S. government for helping Hungary to escape Russian influence by joining NATO. Since that time, he's gradually adopted more autocratic tendencies. He has slowly sought to undermine democratic institutions and the personal liberties of his people. What is perhaps most concerning, in recent years, has been the Prime Minister’s attempts to align his nation more closely with Russia and China, fervent opponents of American influence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has wisely expressed concerns about the influence Russia and China wield in Hungary and other Central European countries. These sentiments have been echoed by Republican and Democratic Senators on Capitol Hill, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch. They were correct to offer a candid assessment about Hungary’s “downward democratic trajectory and the implications for U.S. interests in Central Europe.”
To this day, Orban continues to stand in the way of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO. He has dismissed requests from the international community to stall the expulsion of the Central European University, an American college in Budapest whose continued presence was a stated foreign policy goal of the Trump administration. It also took Orban months to agree to a defense cooperation agreement with the United States which, though finally signed in April, has yet to be ratified by the Hungarian Parliament — a body he largely controls.
Rather than granting Mr. Orban an international platform of prestige, the Trump Administration framed the May meeting as an attempt to persuade the Hungarian government to give greater priority to American foreign policy and national security interests.
More than two months later, that remains to be seen.
Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen, the world's largest breast cancer charity, has served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary, U.S. chief of protocol, and as a Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control to the U.N.'s World Health Organization. She is continuing her work in efforts to end death from cancer. The opinions expressed here belong solely to the author. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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