On May 26-27 of 2023 the Hungarian Atlantic Council had the honor of co-organizing this year’s conference of the International Republican Institute's CASPER Program on “New Geo-Strategic Environment for Transatlantic Cooperation and Values”, in collaboration with NATO, the Heritage Foundation and the International Centre for Development and Democratic Transition (ICDT). The conference was held at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The closed-door conference brought together senior foreign policy thought-leaders from the United States, Europe, and especially Hungary to engage in discussions about security policy, hence enhancing strategic thinking and dialogue. The key topics included Trans-Atlantic cooperation in managing strategic pressures, in supporting Ukraine, and in combating malign narratives. Experts from NATO, the US, Europe, and Central-Eastern Europe analyzed the challenges posed by Russia and China in order to develop policy proposals for maintaining security and stability in the transatlantic arena.
Deterrence and defence, NATO's new strategic concept
The war between Russia and Ukraine could benefit the North Atlantic Alliance, analysts say. Increased and accelerating integration and the growing involvement of European nations could be the result of the conflict in Eastern Europe. Recognising the importance of the topic and the increased interest, the Hungarian Atlantic Council organised a discussion on the Madrid decisions in a Zoom conference system.
Dr. Zoltán Szenes, General (ret.), President of the Hungarian Military Science Society, was invited to give a lecture. The host was György Csóti, President of the HAC, and the moderator of the evening was Lajos Fodor, General (ret.), Vice President of the HAC. After the welcoming speeches and the introduction of the speaker, the participants enjoyed a thorough, yet accessible and comprehensive presentation.
The speaker said that the new strategic concept is one of the decisions of the NATO Summit in Madrid in June 2022. Other decisions taken in Madrid included the introduction of a new force model, long-term support for Ukraine and the invitation of Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. It was decided to strengthen cooperation with the Indo-Pacific partners. A decision was taken on a NATO-wide reduction of greenhouse gases - 45% by 2030 - a favourite topic of US President Joe Biden. Alongside this, a NATO Innovation Fund will be created, internal funding will be increased. It has also been decided that Vilnius will host the NATO Summit in 2023. There have been eight strategic concepts in the Alliance's history, but all have been classified. The good news is that these documents are now freely available in the archives. Interestingly, he noted, that the 1957 deterrence strategy is still relevant today. 'The Strategic Concept is an official document outlining NATO's enduring purpose, the nature of the organisation and its core security tasks,' Zoltán Szenes pointed out. In addition to assessing the basic characteristics of the security environment, it provides guidance for the transformation of the forces. The challenges include China, critical infrastructure protection, technological competition and human security. 'A new element in this highly political document is the Russian Federation - Not Russia!' - said the rapporteur, but the strategy also has a specific objective - deterrence. The most important element of the new force model is that 'Forward Presence' is replaced by 'Forward Defence'. Thus, the new force model envisages a force of 1.5 million, of which 100,000 troops will reach full readiness in ten days, 200,000 in twenty days and 300,000 in thirty days. To this is added the 'Armour Proof? Article 5. The objective is clear: To help Ukraine win and deter Russia. The last time the Alliance counted on such a force was at the Lisbon Summit in 1952.
The strategic shock that triggered all this was described in the following diagram:
The concept itself:
The presentation continued, as always, with questions from the participants. Questions were raised about the role of the Czech Republic, a lead nation, but not a flank country by virtue of its geographical location, just as Germany is not a flank country, either. In response to a question, the speaker also stressed that the Russian-Ukrainian war was entering its third phase.
Zoltán Szenes believes that the West's technological superiority has reached its purpose, as illustrated by the professional use of the HIMARS batteries handed over to Ukraine, noting that the already extremely weak Russian logistics are being crippled by the clever use of missiles. Sticking to logistics, the term 'bridge warfare' was used, explaining that the theatre of war is crossed by four major rivers, and Russian tactical thinking relies primarily on rail transport for both deployment and resupply. On the question of migration, the rapporteur replied that it was certainly mentioned in the documents as a security threat, but that it could not be solved by military force. It was also said, that Russia is not expected to see NATO's actions as an increased threat, and that it would not, therefore, resort to even tougher measures.
Thirty years of the Hungarian Atlantic Council
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the Hungarian Atlantic Council (MAT), the organisation held a full-day conference on 23 September at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The event was attended by the leaders of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, representatives of the diplomatic corps of NATO member states accredited to Hungary and invited guests.
In his welcome speech, György Csóti, President of MAT, said that the organisation was established in 1992 on the initiative of Prime Minister József Antall with the aim of supporting Hungary's accession to NATO and promoting the widest possible acceptance of transatlantic principles and values in Hungarian society. After the NATO accession in 1999, its task was to further promote the Euro-Atlantic values and the importance of cooperation in Hungarian society, as well as to cooperate closely and continuously with the equivalent NGOs of NATO member states with a similar Atlanticist commitment. "Today we can proudly say that Hungary is an important, significant and decisive member of NATO, and the superhuman work of the Hungarian Atlantic Council (MAT) has contributed to this," said the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence in his welcome speech. Tamás Vargha added that the MAT had played an important role in the 1997 referendum in which the people voted with a landslide majority for Hungary to become a member of NATO. He said that Hungary has transformed the Soviet mass army into an efficient, professional army, has done a lot to improve the appreciation of its soldiers, has launched a major force development programme and is continuing to work to make the Hungarian Defence Forces an important part of NATO. The State Secretary pointed out that NATO is the most important guarantor of security in the Euro-Atlantic area and Europe, and the role of the Alliance is becoming more and more important in the rapidly changing, unpredictable and complex security environment. Thirty years after the Cold War, we are faced with the fact that security cannot be taken for granted, but that serious efforts are needed to maintain peace and security," he said. He noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had significantly increased the unity of the organisation. It has been said that in this situation Moscow is the most immediate threat to our security and that only a change in Moscow's aggressive behaviour can change this, he said. He recalled that the Alliance has significantly strengthened and is strengthening its deterrence, defence and resilience capabilities in response to the Russian threat. He said that everything must be done to help restore peace in Ukraine. We will use all our efforts to protect the Hungarian people and to ensure that no external threat can put Hungary in danger, he added, stressing that Hungary is fulfilling the obligations expected of it in the Alliance. Péter Sztáray, Minister of State for Energy Supply and Security Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said in his welcoming speech that no country can be a credible and strong NATO member without a broad political base, and Hungary has this broad political support. He said that the referendum on NATO membership was important because its result showed that people supported NATO membership regardless of political affiliation, and that this has been an important reference point to this day. The politician explained that from the very beginning Hungary - partly thanks to broad political support - has shown a stable, consistent, consensus-seeking NATO membership, and has tried to take into account its own interests as well as those of its allies. He noted that, at the same time, "there is no blind Atlanticism", and although Hungary previously supported Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations in every way, it has blocked NATO-Ukraine consultations since 2017 because of the introduction of a number of measures in Ukraine that restrict the rights of the Hungarian national minority. This is not a bilateral but an international legal issue, and the rights of national minorities must be guaranteed, he said, indicating that Hungary is ready to review its position if the situation of national minorities improves. On the Russia-Ukraine war, he said NATO should be kept out of the conflict, but that did not mean individual member states could not support Ukraine. He recalled that for a long time, Hungary's defence budget was only 0.8 percent of the GDP, and "it was not easy to show credible strength to the allies". For a long time, the country was able to compensate for this by participating in operations, and it did so, in many operations, beyond its means, thus maintaining its credibility. He stressed that this was why the force development programme launched a few years ago was important, because it would finally allow Hungary to "inject" the resources into NATO membership on its side, which it would have needed from the very beginning. Hungary has now gained credibility in its NATO membership, and is also becoming politically stronger in the alliance, he noted, stressing that "there is no such a thing as being a member of NATO without a national force, and thus being able to participate in political decision-making". For Hungary, NATO has given a lot, and he said Hungary has given more and more to NATO and its allies over the past 30 years. E. Szilveszter Vizi, Honorary Chairman of the MAT, said that the organisation has had a successful 30 years. He stressed that the Hungarian people and the governments in office at any given time are committed to NATO membership. Following the speeches and the welcome addresses, panel discussions were held: in the morning on "Thirty years of transatlantic relations", and after lunch on "Challenges facing the transatlantic community". The event ended with a closing speech by MAT President György Csóti, who expressed his belief in the need for peace on the Ukrainian front as soon as possible.
The full video of the conference is available at the following link:
About the Hungarian Atlantic Council
The Hungarian Atlantic Council (HAC) was established in the spring of 1992 not as a governmental agency, but as a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation and association. Its history has been inseparably connected to the history of Hungary's accession to NATO and later on to her membership in NATO.
HAC has an important role to play in presenting, and disseminating knowledge about NATO's activities, our country's NATO membership and security policy, and in promoting the transatlantic idea. It represents a bridge between society and government, ordinary people and state leaders, as well as between Hungarians and NATO.
HAC's original mission was to promote Hungary's accession to the community of Atlantic countries and to promote the acceptance of Euro-Atlantic principles and values in Hungarian society as broadly as possible. The work of hundreds of members of the organization, which also includes many prominent members of Hungarian public life, the organization of countless professional conferences, symposia, lectures, exhibitions and other events, was an important contribution to the wide-ranging presentation of the sphere of Atlantic ideas, as a result of which Hungarian citizens voted overwhelmingly, with 85% majority, in favour of our NATO accession in the decisive referendum in 1997.
During our annual events, we were convinced that the Hungarian people unanimously support the Hungarian Government's maintenance of our NATO membership.
As a result of the changes in the world in the 21st century, it is important to create new forms of political and military cooperation in order to maintain peace and stability in Europe and throughout the world and to prevent the escalation of regional tensions around the world. Today's world is facing serious problems: the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the presence of other weapons of mass destruction, illegal immigration, the possibility of cyberattacks. Mass migration and terrorism create new dangers for mankind. People's mentality and way of thinking have also changed and they are increasingly feeling insecurity in their daily lives because of mass migration.
That is why we aim to convince people every day that, according to our philosophy, NATO is an umbrella organisation: countries and their citizens are safe within this organisation. Maintaining this umbrella organisation is in our common interest: the interest of our country, of our citizens. All these also require international cooperation, the HAC intends to contribute to its realization by its modest means.
HAC - over and above the general objective of promoting, strengthening and asserting Euro-Atlantic integration, taking into consideration our fundamental national and common interests - also has the specific aim of strengthening and intensifying transatlantic cooperation, helping to stabilise the destabilised regions, coordinating Atlantic and national ideas and aspirations in the fight against terrorism, and representing Hungary in NATO, ATA and other international security policy fora. HAC intends to contribute to the implementation and success of the Government's foreign policy agenda through these objectives.
HAC's concrete, practical activities continue to include national-scale educational presentations and fora on NATO's most important tasks, Hungary's successful participation in peacekeeping missions of NATO and the UN, international counter-terrorism actions, addressing global challenges, addressing the origin and root causes of the migration wave aiming at Europe.
HAC organises meetings, conferences, forum events ("tea parties") to achieve these general and specific objectives, releases publications and supports research on these topics, organises exhibitions and educational presentations.
In order to achieve these objectives, it cooperates with many national and international organisations committed to the transatlantic thought and goals - within the framework of a formal cooperation agreement with many of these entities - and participates in harmonising the activities of these organisations as well.
The youth section of HAC was established in 1995 as the Hungarian Youth Atlantic Council (HYAC) with the aim of familiarising the Hungarian youth with the transatlantic idea and the importance of European integration. In addition to general security issues, its events addressed the decisions of NATO summits, presented and analysed the National Security Strategy and the National Military Strategy and participated in NATO runs.
HAC is a member of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) and HYAC is a member of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA).
The recognition of our international work has been reinforced by the election of Zsolt Rábai, member of the Hungarian Atlantic Council, as Secretary General of ATA at the Autumn General Assembly of ATA in 2018, while the President of HYAC, Félix Á. Debrenti, Vice President of HAC, was elected Vice President of YATA.
The Hungarian Atlantic Council is led by an 8-member presidency chaired by György Csóti, one of the founding members of the Hungarian Atlantic Council, while its honorary chairman and former President is Prof. Dr. Sylvester E. Vizi, Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The Council's work is monitored by a 3-member Supervisory Committee.
Budapest, November, 2020
Afghanistan: in together - out together
Hungary will remain committed to the cause of settlement in Afghanistan, State Secretary for Defence István Szabó said at a video conference, held on Wednesday, March 17, of the defence ministers of NATO member states with a peacekeeping contingent, under Germany?s leadership as a framework nation in Afghanistan.
Introducing Hungary's position, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence said that Hungary is determined to create and maintain the security of unstable regions and therefore continues to make an active and significant force contribution to NATO operations. These operations strongly support the international community's stabilisation efforts and thus contribute, among others, to countering the illegal migration and terrorist threat, he added.
István Szabó also said that the existence of the political and military conditions on which withdrawal is based is a matter of importance for Afghanistan's fate and lasting peace. It is important, also for this reason, to implement the planned changes to the operation and national contributions in consultation with the nations involved in the settlement, in cooperation with the framework nations and the Alliance.
At the end of his remarks, István Szabó stated that Hungary will remain committed to the cause of settlement in Afghanistan, and that we will stick to the principle of "in together - out together".