Hungary's Viktor Orban Clears the Way for Finland to Join NATO in a Matter of Months

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

One of the peculiarities of joining NATO is that any new member must receive an affirmative vote from all the other members. One negative vote has the same effect on an application as blackballing a fraternity pledge. So, as Finland crept closer to applying for NATO membership and Russian President Vladimir Putin and his henchmen became more shrill and incoherent in their threats, many thought Hungary’s Viktor Orban, coming off a major electoral victor on April 3 (see Hungarian Election Results Send the Left Into Fits of Rage and Viktor Orban’s Election Is Not a Win for Putin or a Loss for Zelensky and NATO, It Is a Win for Hungary), would carry Putin’s water for him and prevent Finland from joining NATO particularly since Finland and Hungary have recently engaged in heated rhetoric, with Finland accusing Hungary of violating the EU Charter.


On Wednesday, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö called Viktor Orban to discuss Hungary’s support for a possible Finnish application for membership.

On Thursday, Finland joining NATO appeared to be a done deal.

Orban paving the way for Finland to join NATO is one of the least “Putin tool” things Orban could do. It definitely was not on my Bingo card. As I noted in my post about Orban, he’s not a Putin tool or even a Putin ally. He’s a politician who knows on which side his bread is buttered.

Russia’s lawless invasion of Ukraine has put Orban in an uncomfortable position. He appears to want to position Hungary as a bridge between East and West. Hungary is a member of both the European Union and NATO. He also maintains cordial relations with Russia. He has gone along with sanctions on Russia. He is resisting sanctions on Russian gas because Hungary is reliant upon it. He is providing humanitarian relief to Ukraine and is sheltering about 140,000 Ukrainian refugees. He has supported Zelensky’s demand that Russia respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity. What he refuses to do is ship arms to Ukraine or let arms shipments to Ukraine pass through Hungary. This is more of a problem of appearances than anything else. Still, Zelensky has accused Orban of standing in the way of European solidarity. Zelensky is right. But Orban is the prime minister of Hungary, not Europe, and the voters agreed they wanted things to stay that way.



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