Do ‘all roads lead to Putin’? Russian leader goes to Budapest amid rumblings of Ukrainegate
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected in Hungary today at the invitation of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Whatever the results, their meeting is highly likely to irritate the US and the EU.
The two leaders will “discuss a range of issues related to Russia-Hungary interaction with a focus on trade, economy and culture” and “exchange opinions on some current international and regional matters,” the Kremlin said in a statement ahead of the visit, without offering any additional details as to what those might be.
One obvious candidate for their agenda is the ongoing process of expanding the nuclear power plant at Paks. The only one of its kind in Hungary, it supplies up to 40 percent of the country’s energy needs. Construction of two new power units was agreed in 2014 and approved by the EU in 2017, while Moscow has provided a €10 billion state loan for the purpose through 2025.
Hungary has also expressed intent to stock up on Russian natural gas before Moscow’s transit arrangements with Ukraine expire by the end of 2019, leaving the status of future deliveries in limbo. While Russia has built the ‘Turkish Stream’ pipeline to supply gas to the Balkans, extensions to reach Hungary have yet to be built.
Orban last visited Moscow in September last year, defying naysayers in Brussels insisting on cutting all ties with Russia. The Hungarian PM’s nationalist policies have already annoyed the EU establishment, but attempts to force Budapest into submission have so far been unsuccessful.
Conspiracy theorists on the other side of the Atlantic have also pointed the finger at Orban as the possible culprit for what they described as US President Donald Trump’s views about corruption in Ukraine.
Kiev’s language policies, aimed primarily against Russian speakers but also affecting the ethnic Hungarians living in western Ukraine, have been a source of tensions with Budapest.
While there is no evidence that Orban – or Putin – have somehow influenced Trump in that respect, the US media are likely to cast their meeting as sinister even if they merely discuss the weather.
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