The Hungarian Atlantic Council has launched a series of lectures addressing the challenging issues of our time. The presentations below have been joined so far online by the members of the HAC and the Hungarian Atlantic Youth Council.
At the General Meeting of the Hungarian Atlantic Council (MAT), it has become a tradition to hold a presentation assessing and analysing a topical issue before moving on to the official agenda. On the occasion of the MAT General Assembly on 13 May, 2022, the MAT Presidency invited Dr. József Kis-Benedek, Colonel (ret.), university professor and doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, to deliver a lecture on the Russian-Ukrainian war as an introduction to the organisation's General Meeting held for the re-election of its officers.
In his opening remarks, the Professor of the National University of Public Service stated that the Russian-Ukrainian war, which started on 20 February 2022, is likely to last for a long time. The speaker agreed with those who see the conflict as a kind of 'Russian-American' war, in which neither side is deploying its most modern military arsenal to any great extent. He said that, as things stand, Russia could lose its status as a world power, while the European Union, NATO and the United States are becoming increasingly cohesive in a process of constant coordination. The war could result in a stronger US emerging from the conflict, which could then clearly focus on competing with China. József Kis-Benedek said that the Russian-Ukrainian war is completely pointless, as it will both destroy Ukraine and bankrupt Russia economically: 'Moscow has not yet lost de facto, but has already lost the war de jure, as its ideas of a blitzkrieg have been shattered after a few weeks. In addition, the Russians have suffered huge human and material losses, said the speaker, who has no doubt that the West will rebuild Ukraine after the war, as large companies are already lining up to carry out reconstruction work. He stressed that the fundamental difference is that while Russian soldiers are not motivated at all, Ukrainians are fighting like lions for their homeland and their nation. Moreover, the Russians have made a series of mistakes, military logistics have failed and weapon systems are not functioning properly. By contrast, Ukrainians have organised their territorial defence impeccably, and Western weapons are further reducing Russian military superiority. The most worrying element, according to József Kis-Benedek, was that the parties show no willingness to negotiate and appear unable to reach an agreement in the current situation. The Russians will not return the territories they have occupied, and the Ukrainians will not accept heavy territorial losses. As a result, a new security policy regime could emerge, NATO will be strengthened and there will be huge military build-ups in the eastern part of Europe. The Russian-Ukrainian front is freezing somewhere in Eastern Ukraine, while it is questionable whether the Russians want to and can successfully occupy Odessa, a key for Black Sea shipping and trade. The speaker expressed a very negative view of the role of the UN, which is unable to operate effectively and efficiently in this conflict.
Statement of the Hungarian Atlantic Council on the aggression against Ukraine
The Hungarian Atlantic Council was shocked to learn of Russian aggression against our eastern neighbour Ukraine. We consider the escalation of the nearly decade-long conflict into a war to be a serious violation of international law, which threatens the security of the transatlantic region, therefore, we condemn it to the fullest extent.
The transatlantic community must force the aggressor by all possible peaceful means to return to diplomatic means, to civilized negotiations. The Government in Kiev should be continuously encouraged to ensure the collective rights of the millions of autochthon national minorities living in Ukraine in accordance with European practice, including the unrestricted use of their mother tongue in all areas of life.
The Hungarian Atlantic Council is concerned about the fate of the millions of refugees and will provide them with all the support and assistance they can within their own means.
We strongly call on the Government of Russia to immediately put an end to the bloodshed and to sit at the negotiating table with representatives of Ukraine in peaceful circumstances.
Budapest, 5 March 2022
Presidency of the Hungarian Atlantic Council
Statement by NATO Heads of State and Government on Russia's Attack on Ukraine
We have met today to discuss the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades. We condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, enabled by Belarus. We call on Russia to immediately cease its military assault, to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and to turn back from the path of aggression it has chosen. This long-planned attack on Ukraine, an independent, peaceful and democratic country, is brutal and wholly unprovoked and unjustified. We deplore the tragic loss of life, enormous human suffering and destruction caused by Russia's actions. Peace on the European continent has been fundamentally shattered. The world will hold Russia, as well as Belarus, accountable for their actions. We call on all states to condemn this unconscionable attack unreservedly. No one should be fooled by the Russian government's barrage of lies.
Russia bears full responsibility for this conflict. It has rejected the path of diplomacy and dialogue repeatedly offered to it by NATO and Allies. It has fundamentally violated international law, including the UN Charter. Russia's actions are also a flagrant rejection of the principles enshrined in the NATO-Russia Founding Act: it is Russia that has walked away from its commitments under the Act. President Putin's decision to attack Ukraine is a terrible strategic mistake, for which Russia will pay a severe price, both economically and politically, for years to come. Massive and unprecedented sanctions have already been imposed on Russia. NATO will continue to coordinate closely with relevant stakeholders and other international organisations including the EU. At the invitation of the Secretary General, we were joined today by Finland, Sweden and the European Union.
We stand in full solidarity with the democratically elected president, parliament and government of Ukraine and with the brave people of Ukraine who are now defending their homeland. Our thoughts are with all those killed, injured and displaced by Russia's aggression, and with their families. NATO remains committed to all the foundational principles underpinning European security, including that each nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements. We will continue to provide political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself and call on others to do the same. We reaffirm our unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, including its territorial waters. This principled position will never change.
In light of Russia's actions, we will draw all the necessary consequences for NATO's deterrence and defence posture. Allies have held consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty. We will continue to take all measures and decisions required to ensure the security and defence of all Allies. We have deployed defensive land and air forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, and maritime assets across the NATO area. We have activated NATO's defence plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies and secure Alliance territory, including by drawing on our response forces. We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the Alliance. We will make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defence across the Alliance, now and in the future. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.
Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron-clad. We stand united to protect and defend all Allies. Freedom will always win over oppression.
Presentation on the National Military Strategy
The National Military Strategy, adopted on 24 June 2021, was the topic of an online presentation of the Hungarian Atlantic Council, on 19 January. Dr. Gergely Németh, Deputy State Secretary for Defence Policy of the Ministry of Defence, presented the document, which has a fundamental impact on the present and future of Hungarian defence policy.
As the Deputy State Secretary said, the National Military Strategy adopted last June replaced the Government Resolution No. 1035/2012 (21.02.) on the previous National Military Strategy. The document is the national military strategy of a Hungary where the transformation of the capabilities of the national defence and defence sector has already started in full force. It is intended to prepare us for the highly volatile 21st century, added Gergely Németh. And what is the aim of the strategy? To provide guidance for the Hungarian Defence Force and the defence sector. One may rightly ask: what is new about this? Among other things, it is a complex way of thinking about defence. There is no separation between the military force and the public administration and other actors of the state administration, but it responds to the challenges of the 21st century by interpreting military issues in a broader context. But this document is not only important for our country, it is also a message to our allies and potential challengers: we understand exactly what is going on around us and we are determined to maintain and enhance Hungary's defence in the future.
Gergely Németh added: 'We define the system of tasks for the Hungarian Defence Force and the strategic objectives based upon the security environment established, in accordance with the threats and challenges. As he highlighted, the country's given defence conditions also had to be reviewed in order to define the system of tasks. The transformation of the armed forces is being managed from the resources of the national economy, which are finite, so the resources that can be devoted to the development of the Hungarian Defence Forces are also finite. Thus, this transformation can and must be carried out in a modular way, along strategic objectives.
The document reflects the doctrinal and conceptual processes that NATO has launched since 2014. National cooperation, national resilience and international cooperation capabilities are important elements of the national strategy developed accordingly, the latter being the main focus of the State Secretariat for Defence Policy under Gergely Németh. Cooperation capabilities with NATO, European and regional partners are of paramount importance. But it is also important to stress that the focus of the Defence and Force Development Programme remains on the soldier, the man. All this will result in a renewed Hungarian Defence Forces, supported by a strong defence industry and a stable defence budget.
Gergely Németh stressed that we clearly state that Hungary has no enemies. At the same time, our country is preparing for deterrence: to be ready with our own forces to deal with any threat or challenge that may arise in the foreseeable future. We must start preparing today for the security of tomorrow, he added. This requires long term foresight and planning, as an example, it takes 5-15 years to build, equip and train an operational level unit, such as a infantry brigade, from scratch. Deterrence is based on two pillars: national self-reliance and international cooperation and collective defence. The latter is a force multiplier security guarantee for Hungary, Gergely Németh stressed. Thanks to this, Hungary is protected by military capabilities and security guarantees far exceeding our own capabilities. However, we must also know that this is not free of charge, as we must also develop our own forces in the spirit of federal solidarity. And it is also important to note that without a properly developed Defence Forces, we cannot cooperate effectively with our allies and partners. This is why national self-reliance is very important. Nor is "foresight" a simple task. As was said in the presentation, it is clearly seen with respect to the future operational security environment: one of the specific difficulties of globalisation is that it is easy for processes to converge, so that distant crises can spill over into our region - connecting us for good and, unfortunately, connecting us for bad. This is no longer a time to think only about regional security: a country's security is inseparable from global processes. This is why we need to think of a broader environment, a comprehensive operational environment, where different informational, economic, technological and diplomatic influences are intertwined and need to be addressed together," he added.
It has been said many times: our goal is for the Hungarian Defence Forces to become one of the leading military forces in the Central and Eastern European region. Many false narratives have also appeared in this context. He stressed that this does not necessarily mean that Hungary maintains the strongest military force in the region. Rather, it means that Hungary is a leader in defence cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. An excellent example of this is the Central European Multi-National Division Command (MND-C), of which we are a founding member, and its HQ is based in Székesfehérvár. Another notable example is the Regional Special Operations Component Command in Szolnok, where, in addition to our country, regional cooperation in support of NATO operations has been established thanks to the cooperation of Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia.
Gergely Németh answered questions from the guests after the presentation. Among the topics raised were the possible creation of a Single European Union force, the single EU defence policy and the role of Hungary in it, the emergence of space as a theatre of war, and the development of relations between NATO member states and Central Asian countries, in which Hungary has undertaken a pioneering role.
Young, energetic men are the first to arrive.
The Hungarian Atlantic Council organised an online discussion on the current issues of 21st century migration, with a special focus on the situation after the events in Afghanistan. The speaker was Dr György Bakondi, Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister on Homeland Security.
The moderator of the discussion was General Lajos Fodor, Vice President of the MAT, who, as is customary, first introduced the speaker to the once again large number of participants and then gave the floor to the speaker.
Dr. György Bakondi began his extremely data-rich, topical and interesting presentation with a conceptual clarification, because many people - intentionally or just due to lack of knowledge - confuse the two concepts. Migration is when people leave their home country for political, war or livelihood reasons and set off for other countries. Migration can be legal or illegal. The UN defines a refugee as someone who is forced to leave his or her country for any compelling reason and seeks asylum in the first country of safety. He cooperates with the authorities, if he has had the opportunity, he has his identity documents with him, he can prove his identity. The speaker stressed here the definition of the first safe country. On the migration crisis, he said that the reception infrastructure on the southern Balkan route is very weak. Underlining the security threat, he recalled that the perpetrators of the Paris massacre - despite having passports or residence permits - also reached France via the Balkan route, through Hungary. The only surviving terrorist, the Belgian-born, French citizen Salah Abdeslam, transported them from Budapest, making two round trips, which he could do without attracting attention because movement within the EU's external borders is already free. Human trafficking is a highly lucrative business for organised crime. This is illustrated by the fact that this year the Hungarian authorities have apprehended 1,002 human smugglers.
The causes of the 2015 migrant crisis included premature political statements as well as a misjudgement of the political situation. After claiming that it was our human duty to welcome refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, all those who arrived at the EU's external borders claimed to be from Syria. The characteristics of illegal migration are that it is massive, anonymous, organised in terms of communication, transport and resting places. It is managed in a conspiratorial manner, in violation of international law. Illegal migration is a threat to the internal security of countries and to society. Border protection in the EU falls within the jurisdiction of nations, integration is not considered very successful. Speaking about the measures taken in Hungary in 2015, the speaker pointed out that the decision was taken on the basis of national consultation. Hungary closed its external borders, we built a fence first on the Serbian and then on the Croatian border. Serbia was made a safe state by law, and transit zones were created for rule-followers in Röszke, Tompa, Beremend and Letenye. A complex border protection system was set up. In 2015, more than 100,000 applications were closed by the Hungarian authorities because the applicant left for an unknown destination in the meantime. The figures show that there were 400,000 border infringements in 2015, 37,000 in 2016, 21,000 in 2017, 6,500 in 2018, 17,000 in 2019, 45,00 in 2020 and 99,660 in 2021. A total of 3,661 human traffickers were apprehended. Last year, there were 20 organised attacks at our borders, involving 309 people. While the EU leadership refuses to fund border protection, fences or walls have already been built in eleven countries. Turning to the situation in Afghanistan, the rapporteur said that, according to Greek colleagues, no mass movements are expected this year. The reason is that the Taliban have closed and control the borders and those who want to leave their homes can only move on foot. Speaking about the Polish-Belarusian border, he said that Poland's position was that there was a hybrid war being waged against them.
After thanking the speakers, Lajos Fodor asked how to fight trafficking more effectively. In response, the rapporteur recalled that Europe was confronted with a very serious international network, which could only be weakened by close intelligence cooperation and control of financial flows. Ambassador Margit Sz?cs, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN in Geneva, asked two questions on the safe third country definition, on the experience with applications to embassies and how many of the migrants are women and children. On the issue of a safe third country, Mr Bakondi gave the example of Serbia, where migrants are not persecuted or subjected to violence, where there are civilised and comfortable reception facilities and where the institutional system for dealing with refugees is well established. The answer to the second question is that 99% of the arrivals are young men. In response to László Szabó, the speaker said that he also considers technical improvements necessary for border protection, and that there is no reason to build a fence along the Romanian border.
Self-defence comes first
"NATO helps defend its member states, but every state and nation must take care of its own security", said Minister of Defence Tibor Benkő PhD at an event organised by the Hungarian Atlantic Council and the Hungarian Youth Atlantic Council in Budapest on 23 September
In his presentation on the ‘"Achievements to date of the National Defence and Armed Forces Development Programme and tasks for the future" the Minister of Defence reminded: Hungary joined NATO, the largest and most powerful political and military alliance, in 1999. "Although Article 5 of the Washington Treaty provides for mutual defence, Article 3 states that each country is obliged to build and maintain its own power and capabilities to guarantee its own defence and that of the alliance", he said.
Tibor Benkő stressed that NATO is taking into account two threat directions, the Eastern and the Southern. Its point of intersection is in Central Europe and Hungary is involved in both directions. This is why the government set the goal in 2016 that Hungary should have a strong, effective defence equipped with modern military technology, with loyal, highly trained soldiers committed to their country, and supported by the National Defence and Armed Forces Development Programme, - Tibor Benkő said in his speech.
The head of the Ministry of Defence presented both elements of the Defence Force Development Programme in detail. As he stressed, the military career model was created to create a strong army, and the strengthening of social relations also serves this purpose. In addition, both the airforce and the ground forces are undergoing major technical improvements, making up for decades of backlog. Important elements of this include the recent inauguration of a central logistics base at Szentkirályszabadja and the Cyber Training Centre. Regarding the latter, the Minister of Defence recalled that hybrid warfare and cyber threat require a large volume of new equipment and intensive training, and continuous research and development in this field are also important. Tibor Benkő said that from the point of view of self-defence, in addition to the procurement of technical equipment, the relaunch of the domestic defence industry is also a priority, as is cooperation with neighbouring countries in the region. One important area of this is the Central European Headquarters of Multinational Division Command (HQ MND-C) established in Hungary, which Slovakia and Croatia have already joined, and Slovenia has also indicated its intention to do so. Austria, which is not a NATO member, has also joined the Regional Special Operations Component Command (R-SOCC).
During the discussion followed by the presentation, the Minister of Defence also answered questions on defence force development, cyber defence, the role of drones and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, among others.
Relations between the United States and Europe, old challenges, new issues
The season’s finale of the Hungarian Atlantic Council's online discussions has been an unusual presentation. The presenter logged into the event from overseas, so a great transatlantic conversation about transatlantic relations ensued. Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi, senior adviser on transatlantic relations at the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington, D.C., was the speaker, introduced by György Csóti, President of HAC, to the audience attending again in high numbers. The conversation was also unusual because the event was a private conversation as the presenter shared her private opinion. The fact that this did not lower the standard of the conversation was mainly due to the wide range of experience of the presenter and her very deep knowledge of the subject. The timing of the conversation was also extraordinary, as it was held immediately after the G7 and NATO summits attended by the US President on tour in Europe - and also importantly - the day after the Biden-Putin meeting. It would, therefore, have been difficult to draw deep conclusions, and the rapporteur shared the latest information with the audience.
Thus, in the usual, high-spirited, one-and-a-half-hour conversation commanding the participants interest, a real dialogue developed, touching all areas without taboos. Firstly, strategic elements were discussed. Such was the key message of the G7 summit - "the US is back," Washington wants to settle the US-Europe relations, which includes re-establishing the PTC. The NATO 2030 vision is a programme to respond to the latest challenges, focusing primarily on identifying and jointly responding to common strategic threats. In addition to military advances, both Russia and China are viewed by Washington as defining elements of propaganda war, information war and hostile operations in cyberspace. These are commonly defined as soft power - and because peer reviews show that they are aimed at weakening the trust and cooperation of allies among themselves, these elements should not be underestimated. Traditional security policy thinking has not been unaddressed either, with a number of analysts underscoring the continuing importance for Russia, for example, the development and preservation of strategic depth outside its borders, especially as its weight in the world economy is not significant. Similar motivations can be seen behind China's international positioning, although its powerful technological developments are impressive, however, with respect to GDP per capita, China is ranking somewhere between Botswana and Equatorial Guinea. In Russian-American relations, the US first brought conflict management to great success, keeping a delicate balance between projecting power and maintaining cooperation under Ronald Reagan, which to this day is a serious strategic example for policymakers.
Just a day after the Biden-Putin meeting, the winter-spring season of HAC's online series ended with a well-timed discussion. György Csóti, President of the Hungarian Atlantic Council, believed in the need to continue the series of conversations in the autumn, with a physical presence, depending on the possibilities.
Caption Norbert Szépvölgyi, Vice-President of the Hungarian Youth Atlantic Council, asks the speaker
See you-all at the end of September.
Afghanistan: Cooperation or isolation
'Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the United States and NATO: cooperation or isolation?' was the title of the latest online discussion of the Hungarian Atlantic Council (HAC). The speaker this time was security policy expert Péter Wagner, who was introduced to the participants by Vice-President Lajos Fodor.
In a very informative and interesting presentation, Peter Wagner put Afghanistan in a historical context, spoke about the fate of the country and dispelled some urban legends about the - never glorious but rational - departure of various occupying empires.
To the question 'What makes Afghanistan important?', the answer was 'It has never been important! It was always in the way.' This bold statement was, of course, immediately clarified. In the game between rival Tsarist Russia and the British Empire, the British invaded the country first, fearing that the Russians would get too close to the borders of East India. While never managed to defeat the Afghans, they were never defeated either, and it was not in their interest to stay any longer. In this context, Peter Wagner underscored that Afghanistan was perhaps the only state in the world that had not decided its borders for itself, because it was either one of its neighbours or Russia and the British Empire that delineated them.
Even after the modern Afghan state was created at the end of the 19th century, Britain managed to ensure that Afghan foreign affairs were controlled and administered from London in return for an annual stipend to the Afghan ruler.
The Soviet Union first and foremost wanted to export its ideology and create a buffer zone along its southern sphere of interest. It withdrew before its disintegration, but was not defeated. Unable to financially support the Afghan regime it had created, due to severe economic problems, the Soviet Union gradually lost power and was replaced by the Taliban.
Its loss was caused by the US, because it provided a safe haven for Al-Qaeda. The US target was not really Afghanistan either, the army was on its way to Iraq, - and Afghanistan was in the way again. Now NATO and the US are pulling out of the country because on 29 February 2020 the US and the Taliban, who control about 30-50% of the country's territory, agreed that by 1 May 2021 the US would withdraw its troops from the country. Nothing is given in return.
The agreement reached by the Trump administration does not even stipulate a ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban and the terms of the peace agreement and power-sharing are not specified.
Following the change of US presidents, Joe Biden, after some delay, concluded that the reasonable timetable for troop withdrawals would be to start on 1 May 2021 and end on 11 September 2021. NATO, however, would leave in the summer, but there are fears that it will schedule the last troops to leave on 4 July 2021, another landmark date.
So there is still a lively debate about the circumstances and the why, but the biggest question is what will happen in Afghanistan after the withdrawal? Peter Wagner thinks that as long as external support - financial support - comes in sufficient amounts and in an orderly fashion, the current government will remain in power and the Taliban regime's gains will be contained. As for the current internal situation, it is good to know that even in Taliban-ruled territory, it is normal for a doctor employed and paid by the Afghan government to provide medical treatment, or a teacher with the same status to teach without interference - at most, he or she may have to drop one or two subjects. Incidentally, Taliban delegations - travelling from Pakistan, where they have their main military base - regularly turn up in Moscow, Tehran, or even China and neighbouring Uzbekistan. The neighbouring states have an interest in US withdrawal, but they are also concerned about the future. Now they seem to be giving the Taliban a chance.
In conclusion, the speaker argued that Afghan society was not yet at the same level of development as European countries or the US. It is divided, not only on cultural but also on tribal grounds and about 43% of the population is illiterate. The Taliban can behave reasonably and demonstrate legitimacy in the areas under its control. The speaker concluded his presentation by quoting General James Mattis, former US Secretary of Defense: 'The United States of America is not losing wars, it is losing its interest.'
Lajos Fodor thanked the audience for the interesting presentation and confirmed that the Soviet Union wanted to export its ideology. The Afghans are fighting successfully because they are at home.
Péter Siklósi agreed with the lecturer and stated that NATO's decision is to withdraw in September. He also mentioned that under the Trump administration, the Democrats were vehemently opposed to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and now they are in a hurry to withdraw, even if they are in delay compared to the original plan. He cited Russian and Chinese threats, which NATO is taking increasingly seriously, as the reason for the loss of interest. At the same time, most of the troop withdrawals are possible through Russia. It has been suggested that everyone expects 4th of July, which is a major problem for Germany in the first place. Since Turkish Airlines handles around 70-75% of the traffic at Kabul airport and the airport is run by the Turks, Turkey wants to stay, but it is also possible that the US and Germany will stay.
György Csóti added to what Péter Siklósi said that historical experience shows that in politics there is no such a thing as never and forever.
In response, the presenter said that if someone stays, they are in breach of the US-Taliban agreement. At the same time, China would be happy to be a peacekeeper, subject to a UN Security Council mandate.
How far can US pragmatism go, asked Péter Wagner, can the return of Al Qaeda be tolerated? According to him, there is no US-Afghan bilateral relationship, there is only US-Afghan relationship, that is why they can afford to keep women and education on the agenda. The US cannot bring Afghanistan home.
János Herman said he had difficult feelings about Afghanistan because as a decision-maker he himself was involved in the 'easy invasion'. In his view, it was not a loss of interest, but the great powers realised that terrorism cannot be fought with a regular army and that it is impossible to defeat it.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the challenges facing the organisation
The popular online discussion series of the Hungarian Atlantic Council (HAC) was continued with the presentation by Attila Mesterházy. The politician was invited as the Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and after being introduced to the participants by György Csóti, President of the HAC, he immediately gave a lively and coherent presentation on the organisation. After a brief historical overview, the MEP - who also served as President of the Assembly in 2020 - presented the organisational structure and composition. He explained that the Parliamentary Assembly is composed of parliamentarians elected by the member states on the basis of a quota. This means that there are currently 269 representatives from 30 countries in the Assembly, with the addition of 26 countries that have joined as partners or observers, bringing the total to between 360 and 400. The organisation, which is not part of the Alliance itself, is funded by the budgets provided by its member countries. Its main objective is to strengthen transatlantic relations. The members work in a number of subcommittees of five Committees and take decisions in the form of resolutions or reports.
As an interesting point, the speaker described the composition of the leadership of their own Committee, where currently the chair is American and male, while there are four women among the five vice-chairs (Albanian, French, Greek, Canadian and Hungarian). The current focus of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is the challenge posed by Russia and China. Attila Mesterházy also pointed out that, first and foremost as a security threat, the state of democracy within member states is currently on the agenda. Within the Assembly, the Centre for Democratic Resilience enjoys strong American backing. The idea for the Centre, which would be known within NATO as the Centre of Excellence, came from Democratic Congressman Gerard E. Connolly, who is the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. However, Attila Mesterházy also has considerable influence as rapporteur for the project.
The rapporteur also mentioned that in the current situation, only online assemblies can be held, which causes serious difficulties for Members who are used to attending in person.
As the first participant to take the floor, István Szentiványi thanked the speakers for his informative presentation and then asked about the state of relations under and after Donald Trump and whether there was any new momentum felt after the inauguration of the new US President? In his reply, the MEP stressed that the principles themselves had not changed, but the style had. He also said that there had been times when the Congress has sought to nuance president Trump's statement with a statement adopted by a bipartisan resolution. The new US administration is also trying to back up the relaxation with gestures. Péter Siklósi, who is currently Hungary's Permanent Representative to NATO, joined the conversation from Brussels and said that their main task at the moment, beyond expressing solidarity with the Czech Republic, was to prepare for the upcoming NATO General Assembly. He also mentioned that the Secretary General had not included an examination of the state of democracy in the agenda of the General Assembly. In his reply, Mesterházy said that in politics it is not only the projects that have been implemented have an impact, adding that this issue is primarily on the agenda because of Turkey, but that "Hungary is also on the podium".
Dorottya Zsiborás asked about Europe's position within the Alliance. The rapporteur said that this is one of the most exciting issues at the moment, and that there is a need to strengthen European defence capabilities. This makes real sense if the strengthening of capabilities is not competitive but cooperative. According to him, the increase in defence spending, the so-called 2% quota, already reinforces this.
György Csóti highlighted that he believed that one of the cornerstones of European security was to make Russia a partner and not an enemy, and asked whether the Assembly has any informal contacts with Russia today. Mesterházy claimed to be not aware of any, nor was he currently observing any such thinking. Of the European member states, Germany and France are the most open to accepting Russia as a partner, while Poland and the Baltic states are on the other side. Since 2014, relations have been suspended, and if Russia does not change, they will stay that way. Zsolt Becsey had two questions. One was inquiring about options where it would make sense to source weapons from, and the other was related to the West's actions with Russia and China. To the first question, the Vice President replied that it was appropriate to buy from within the Alliance, adding that he thought the Hungarian government was doing this skilfully in the current force development context. To the second question, the answer was that a Western boycott, even if it "brings" Russia and China together, is not a major challenge for NATO. He added that the Alliance follows the so-called dual track (deterrence and defence, maintaining dialogue). Anna Felkai asked about cooperation with the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) and its youth organisation, and how the Assembly is preparing for the NATO summit. The MEP said that the relationship with both organisations is fruitful and cooperative, and that they have no role in the preparation of the summit. Lajos Fodor raised the question of further enlargement, to which the answer was that the open-door policy is an important principle of NATO.
In his concluding remarks, György Csóti thanked the speaker for his presentation and underlined that the interesting and informative nature of the discussion was demonstrated also by the fact that almost all the participants remained in front of the screen throughout.
The past, present and future of the V4 cooperation
In his introduction, President György Csóti highlighted the historical roots of the V4 cooperation. The Polish, Czech and Hungarian kings met at the Royal Palace in Visegrad in 1335. Political and commercial cooperation was agreed at the Hungarian royal court, and the common goal was to reduce Vienna's influence.
It was on this basis that József Antall initiated the establishment of the Visegrad Group in 1991.
At the summit held at the Visegrad Palace, Poland, the Federal Republic of Czechoslovakia and Hungary signed a declaration that they would work closely together on the road to European integration. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Visegrad Four became a common name for the cooperation.
The extent to which these countries belong together was justified by the president of MAT, György Csóti, with three dates and locations (1956 Budapest, 1968 Prague and 1971 Warsaw), when he launched the online lecture and discussion, the reason for which was provided by the 30th anniversary of V4. He then introduced the presenter of the evening, Dr. István Balogh, Deputy State Secretary for Security Policy and Political Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The presentation was titled "The most important tasks facing Hungary and V4 Cooperation, how we prepare for the Presidency", and as is already customary, many interested parties were attracted to the MAT zoom room.
The rapporteur began the conversation with a thorough inventory, during which it was stated that on the road to EU-NATO integration, the members of the V4 Group met the expectations of good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, and learned to work closely together on strategic issues. Already as members of the EU and NATO, setting up coalitions has become a common force and instrument for the V4. The group has become a natural point of alignment for the participating countries. In the process, it is just as important that Visegrad cooperation has become a kind of brand name and thus an example to follow. Within the European Union, the group's members generally have shared interests in cohesion policy, agricultural policy, in countering migration challenges and with respect to a number of other initiatives. They also jointly support the EU's Eastern Partnership policy, the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans. Economically, the members of the group are among the EU's high-performing countries, and our aggregated economic potential is quite a force. For example, according to 2019 data, the V4 group had a total annual turnover of EUR 300 billion with Germany, which exceeded the volume of trade between Germany and the USA and Germany and China, respectively, in the same year. We agree that migration must be stopped and not managed. To do this, it is essential to address the root causes of migration locally. This is the purpose of development policy projects carried out under the V4 framework in Africa. The deliberate application of the so-called "V4+" format is a success story. In this format, we have already cooperated with more than 50 countries. Among the current tasks, it is important to implement the North-South infrastructure links and to improve road and rail transport. Natural gas connections from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic have essentially been implemented. In the field of security and defence policy, it is of the utmost importance to maintain the V4 Battlegroup. In this framework the V4 undertook to keep the V4 Battlegroup on standby duty for six months long periods in 2016 and 2019. Speaking of the actual political situation, István Balogh said that our most important task at present is to combat the pandemic and to create the possibility of reopening as soon as possible. Vaccine procurement by the EU has been slow and complicated because the Commission has applied existing established mechanisms to a crisis situation, where these methods cannot succeed. A good example is Israel, where, despite the high price of the vaccine, it has acquired a lot of it, because it still comes at a lower cost than shutting down the national economy over a long period of time. István Balogh also pointed out that from July Hungary, in addition to the rotating presidency of the V4 Group, will also chair the Council of the European Union, and we must try to find out where synergies can be between the two engagements.
The series of questions was opened by István Szent-Iványi, who was interested in the future of V4 in the first place, and wanted to know if the cracks in the group were deepening. In his reply, the presenter stressed that there are many opinions and comments that the cohesion of the V4s has weakened in the last six months. Hungary has not experienced this in practice. Overall, we see that the Visegrad countries have interests based on ?realpolitik? in keeping the V4 countries together, so cooperation remains close. The success of cooperation lies in looking for collaboration where we know that there are matching interests. Where this is not the case, we don't force it.
Lajos Fodor asked about cooperation in the military industry. István Balogh replied that Zrínyi 2026 program has a dual purpose: on the one hand, we acquire European and other assets that strengthen European defence and are in line with our NATO obligations, and on the other hand, we also try to develop a domestic base for the defence industry, which also has an economic importance. Among the V4 countries, it was Hungary alone which allowed its defence industry to be completely degraded after the regime changes. So, there is a something to be recovered, but the Zrínyi 2026 program is also a guarantee of development in this regard.
Miklós Dérer asked about the phenomenon of vaccine diplomacy. In this context, the speaker has explained that we must accept that international policy is a competitive space. In this competition, everyone tries to prevail and uses all available means to do so. This has been the case throughout history, we should not be surprised by this, it is a natural phenomenon. At the same time, he stressed that the Government does not interpret the vaccine issue as a political dilemma, but as a pure medical matter. The issue must not be allowed to be politicised, as human lives are at stake.
On issues related to China, István Balogh stressed that Hungary is interested in pragmatic cooperation with China. The 17+1 cooperation cannot be interpreted as breaking up EU unity, on the contrary, Hungary sees the format as more likely to strengthen cooperation between the EU and China. A priority initiative is the Belgrade Budapest railway project. Obviously, we want to take advantage of the economic uplift in China ourselves. The infrastructure developments, the Chinese capital that may be made available for this purpose, serve the development of Hungary, so it is in the Hungarian interest. At the same time, it is to be noted that our country has a minimum weight (1.2 %) in EU-China trade relations. The significant economic interests arise in the case of large EU Member States.
With great interest - about China
The Hungarian Atlantic Council (MAT) continued its series of discussions with online lectures. This time, Dr. Tamás Matura, assistant professor at the Institute of International, Political and Regional Studies, Department of International Relations, Corvinus University, spoke about "China in the 21st century".
The participants were greeted by György Csóti, president of MAT, who said in his introduction that there was even more interest than usual, with seventy-five people registering for the event in advance. Then, in connection with the ancient "China is the centre of the world" thinking in the Far East, he recalled the story that took place in Berlin at the end of the 19th century, that the strangely dressed, German-speaking Chinese man was addressed by children gathered around him by loud shouts "Hey, look! A foreigner!" he told them, with benevolent kindness, "You're wrong, I'm Chinese! You're the foreigners!"
The moderator of the evening, István Szent-Iványi, briefly introduced the presenter to almost half a hundred participants, began by saying that, unlike the mainstream, he did not want to talk about how China would soon become the world's leading power, ahead of the USA, but why it will not be. The first factor is GDP per capita, which is 1/6 of that of the US, when compared. The next is the significantly different geopolitical location of the two countries. While the north-south neighbours of the US are allies, or weak, and are bordered and protected by oceans east-west, China borders 22 countries. Of these, Russia, India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, while Japan can become a nuclear power if it wants to and, because of its bases and fleet, the US should also be included here, as a distant neighbour. Pakistan and North Korea are allies. China, by the way, doesn't make military alliances with anyone. From China's point of view, the fact that both the population and the economy are concentrated on the coast should also be mentioned as a disadvantage.
Socially, China's demographic advantage through cheap labour could easily been converted to an economic advantage recently, but they are now in demographic lows, so growth can no longer feed on this dividend. The working-age population has been declining since 2017, and they will soon have to care for more elderly people than the entire US population. At the same time, the population of the United States will exceed the EU population by 2050. The Xi turnaround is also a stopping point, because innovation and development also need freedom, and the current pro-police measures, such as the placement of 300 million facial recognition cameras, do not point in this direction. China's huge military budget is only the second largest in the consolidated national budget as more is spent on homeland security. The presenter included as a disadvantage of China, the difficulty of learning the Mandarin language, which is therefore a hindrance to its cultural expansion.
The fact that we listened to an interesting lecture is also a good indication of the activity of the 47 participants, there were many questions, but before the question was asked, almost everyone thanked the speaker for a truly new approach to analysis. Adding to this, the moderator mentioned that he did not think deglobalisation would occur because it would mean the disintegration of the supplier network. The first question was asked about Taiwan's situation. The answer was that time does not work for China, because Taiwanese identity is gaining strength. War is not going to be started by Taiwan, it's not in China's interest either, because what if it doesn't win? An internal social quake is not expected either, because the vast majority of the population is satisfied with the state party.
Former Foreign Minister László Kovács first stated that he was surprised by the approach, but said that we were given a realistic China picture, which also makes the sense of danger realistic. Péter Kugler asked about the shadow banking system, which is supposed to make up 60% of the economy. Tamás Matura said that although official public debt is 60% of GDP, the country's total debt is 270% of GDP, of which 160% is the debt of public companies. Máté Vargovics asked "Who is more afraid, the West or China?" and the speaker replied: "The West plays chess, China plays go." (The West plays chess, where the goal is to knock down the opponent's pieces, and China plays go, where the player who occupies more territory wins. Ed.)
This is also where it was noted that around 14% of the EU's national ports are Chinese-owned. (Here I would like to remind you of the previous online conversation, where this method was mentioned by the presenter among the hybrid warfare tools). Former Foreign Minister Géza Jeszenszky was interested in the situation of the mainland and the Chinese diaspora (see Singapore). According to the answer, there is a noticeable presence in the US of a neo-McCarthyism manifested in its dislike for Asian-looking people. Other examples include Australia, where sentiment towards the Chinese has also become hostile. Félix Á. Debrenti asked about the situation of the 17+1 formation, including the Baltic states' intention to leave, while Katinka Zsófia Mossóczy was interested in the EU-China relations. The reply stated that cooperation did not bring the expected economic benefits, that for China the EU is more important than any of its independent member states. The answer also well illustrates China's relationship with our country. László Bálizs asked about the China-Russia and China-India neighbourhoods. According to the speaker, the relationship with Russia is most clearly described by the term 'frenemy', while in relation to India he mentioned that India's GDP per capita is currently only a quarter of that of China. Anna Felkai's question about the situation in Tibet closed the evening. In view of the presenter, there will be no particular change, noting that there are 1200 million Han nationalities compared to 12 million Tibetans.
Hybrid warfare - 21st century presentation of a 21st century product
After a short winter break, the successful series of lectures of the Hungarian Atlantic Council (MAT) continued in the online space. The year of 2021 was opened by Dr. Álmos Péter Kiss, General Counsel of the Honvéd Scientific Research Institute, with an interesting lecture on this century's subject, with a significant number of guests joining online.
General Lajos Fodor (ret.), Vice-President of MAT, introduced the speaker, highlighting his military career and the background to his research work. The general also revealed his curiosity about the subject, because during his long career as a military leader, the subject was still virtually unknown. Dr Kiss gave a detailed look at NATO's approach to the hybrid threat (Wales 2014) and what has happened since then. It was interesting to hear about the tools that attackers could use - not even raising the suspicion of a well-meaning, naive civilian - economic assistance, loans, the sale and installation of military equipment by their own advisers. Of course, the defensive side's responses can also be open or covert. As an example of a countermeasure, he cited the Iranian cyberattack on Israel's water supply system in April 2020. The attack was successfully thwarted by the Israelis, and in response caused a system collapse in the computer network of the Iranian port of Sahid Rajaei and crippled traffic at the port for days. This was both a retaliation and a warning strike. Analysing Hungary’s exposure, it was mentioned that unfortunately our country could be an attractive target. An attacker can be attracted by the national minorities outside our borders, as well as the fact that our energy supply is not sufficiently diversified and that economic concentration in Hungary is excessive (i.e. 80% of GDP is produced by 50 large companies). As usual, the presentation ended with questions and answers, where, in addition to a few clarifications, it was stated that the current Zrínyi 2026 programme could also bring about significant progress in this area.
Spyware stays hidden for a long time
This was revealed, among other things, at a presentation by Prof. Dr. Zoltán Rajnai, which he gave on 26 November at the request of the Presidency of the Hungarian Atlantic Council entitled Outlook on National and International Cybersecurity.
At the beginning of the online lecture and discussion, again attended by many online viewers, András Levente Gál introduced the speaker, the head of department of Óbuda University, who is, among others, Hungary's national cyber coordinator and the national representative of Hungary at ENISA. His main professional areas are education and research in the fields of cybersecurity, information security and the security of ICT and telecommunications systems.
Captions: A smarter mug to keep your beverage hot; It is high time to have smart curtains; Smart glasses can already interpret for you; Whether or not you want it, IoT is here to stay; 5G technology: when is the time for the breakthrough?
After a brief review of the recent past, the speaker pointed out that in addition to data theft, the sale and purchase of complete electronic spying networks are now widespread, with some bot networks available for some $10 or $100. Since spyware remains hidden for a very long time, without the knowledge of the computer owner, your device can become part of the clone network. It has also been said that a few years ago 160,000 systems in 150 countries were attacked with ransomware.
A special feature of the presentation was that the speaker requested the audience for their votes, and then we were able to see the percentage statistics and the real numbers in summary of the opinions. We learned from the present times that hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are the most at risk, and then we heard about the IoT challenges of the future. The lecture ended with the Q&A session.
Today, the typical perpetrator is an Islamized radical
Dr. Péter Tálas, Director of the Strategic Defence Research Centre of the National Public Service University, came to this – at the first hearing - surprising but certainly thought-provoking conclusion at another event in the online lecture series organised by the Hungarian Atlantic Council (MAT). The presenter of the cloud meeting was greeted and introduced on behalf of MAT by Vice-President Dr. Ilona Hardy.
It was quickly clarified that 11 November, which is not supposed to be a symbolic date, is such a date indeed, in many respects, because from 00:00 that day the security measures applied in times of emergency were tightened and the Armistice Day (French: jour de l'Armistice) is held every year in memory of the signing of the Armistice Agreement of Compiégne, which ended the First World War. At the same time, the presentation proved that life and joint thinking do not have to stop in times of emergency.
Dr. Péter Tálas analyzed the terror threat of our time in his lecture "9/11 - the beginning of a new era: terrorism in everyday life", which attracted a great number of interested people in the online space, sharing a wealth of data and new knowledge with the audience. It has become clear, logically understandable why terrorism is a particular form of political violence. The "seemingly odd years" (2014, when terrorist losses ranged from 23% to 33%) were discussed as well as why the presenter thinks that "Editorial boards love terrorists". This a serious problem because the public is vital to terrorists.
On the terror threat of the world's regions
- Source of data: Global Terrorism Database (GTD)
- Terror threat increased in the world until 2014-15 and decreased thereafter
- Outstanding years: 2001 - WTC, 2007 - Iraq, 2012-15 - Syria (ISIL)
- Seemingly odd years: 2015, 2017, 2018 - more dead than wounded
- Cause of the odd years: the high number of dead terrorists, particularly from 2014 (23-33%)
- Number of the dead between 2000 and 2018 - 294587
- Number of dead terrorists between 2000 and 2018 - 62720
- Number of suicide attacks between 2000 and 2018 - 6860
A particular interesting aspect of the analysis was that, although the EU falls into the category of 'low' threat according to the death toll, the main reason for this is the developed state of the Union: the possibilities of a modern health care system allow many victims to be saved after an attack. This is how the number of wounded is already classified higher, as "moderate".
In conclusion, the speaker stated that he believes that the room for maneuvers for the terrorists is reduced in Europe, therefore the mode of perpetration of attacks is becoming simpler (knife attack, hit-and-run) and that the main threat is not posed by the immigrants, but by so-called home-grown terrorists.