Hungary’s populist leader Viktor Orban had a one-word response to the head of NATO, after he visited Ukraine and promised eventual membership to the war-torn country.
“What?!” Orban tweeted on Friday, as he shared a link to a Politico article with the headline: “Your place is in NATO, alliance chief tells Ukraine on first wartime visit.”
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Orban often clashes with his Western partners, even though Hungary is a NATO and European Union member.
For years, Hungary has complained about Ukrainian ascension, largely over the rights of about 150,000 Hungarian speakers in western Ukraine after Kyiv passed a law in 2017 curbing minority languages.
— Orbán Viktor (@PM_ViktorOrban) April 21, 2023
And unlike most NATO countries, Hungary has refused to sever ties with Russia and has accused the EU of prolonging the conflict.
In February, he cast the war as a battle “between two Slavic countries that are fighting against one another”.
“This is their war, not ours,” he said.
Along with Turkey, Budapest is also blocking Sweden’s path to NATO membership.
Jens Stoltenberg, head of the world’s largest military alliance, made his first wartime trip to Ukraine on Thursday.
Standing alongside President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he told reporters that “Ukraine’s rightful place is in the Euro-Atlantic family”.
Zelenskyy accepted NATO’s invite to a July summit in Lithuania but said what Ukraine really needed was NATO membership.
On Friday, as he headed into a meeting of Ukraine’s Western allies at the Ramstein airbase in Germany, Stoltenberg told reporters: “All NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member.”
One of Russia’s main war aims is to block Ukraine from ever becoming a NATO member, a point the Kremlin reiterated on Thursday.