Hungary wants to redefine its NATO status to opt out of supporting Ukraine

Friday, 24 May 2024 —

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said that Hungary is working to "redefine" its NATO membership status to allow it to opt out of NATO’s deepening support for Ukraine.

According to Bloomberg, during an interview with Hungarian state radio on Friday, 24 May, Orbán said that Hungarian officials and lawyers are working on a new set of NATO membership principles for Hungary.

"Our lawyers and officers are hard at work to see how Hungary can maintain its NATO membership in a way that it wouldn’t have to take part in NATO actions outside of NATO territory," Orbán said.

Bloomberg reported that the Hungarian government is an "important contributor" to two NATO missions outside of Hungary: in Iraq and in Kosovo. NATO members also have the option to opt out of any military missions, though participation is always encouraged.


Orbán’s remarks come as NATO is drawing up a package of support for Ukraine to present at its leaders’ summit in Washington, DC, in July, which is expected to include a greater role for NATO at the operational level in coordinating weapons deliveries and training for Ukrainian forces.

In the interview, Orbán said Hungary was committed to NATO’s mission to defend members should one come under attack, but Hungary was concerned that financial and military assistance for Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, would eventually lead to greater military involvement, including the deployment of NATO troops there.

Orbán stressed that Hungary fundamentally disagreed with some NATO members’ assessment that Russia would invade NATO’s eastern flank after Ukraine. He said the current war should be considered one between "two Slavic countries".

Orbán said that view is not shared within NATO, which has set up working groups to explore its potentially expanded role in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

As a NATO member, Hungary participates in these discussions, but Orbán said its role is effectively that of a "non-participating member" that opposes sending money and weapons to Ukraine. Orbán believes that giving Hungary a formal opt-out would amount to a new concept of NATO membership.

"It’s a situation where we’re sort of there and not there. I don’t know how long this can be maintained," Orbán said.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has claimed on numerous occasions that neither Russia nor Ukraine can win the war and said that Ukraine would not exist without Western support.

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