Hungary says Russia sanctions fruitless, Putin visit timely
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The European Union’s economic sanctions against Russia have failed economically and politically because they have not achieved their objectives, Hungary’s foreign minister said Friday.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary had lost some $6.5 billion in export opportunities to Russia and other countries partly because of the sanctions the EU imposed on Russia over the annexation of Crimea and its role in eastern Ukraine.
“I don’t think we should celebrate that we hit the Russian economy because it’s bad news for Europe as well,” Szijjarto said. If the sanctions were truly effective, they should have had some impact by now, he added.
Szijjarto said the “timing is perfect” for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Hungary next week, given the change in administrations in Washington.
“The visit has great significance since there’s a great expectation all around the world about the improvement of the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship,” Szijjarto said. “We will be able to hear the Russian perspective about that.”
He said it would be the first time the United States won’t be pressuring Hungary as it tries to improve relations with the Kremlin.
“So far, whenever we tried to work on improving our bilateral relationship, we had to face American pressure not to do it and European pressure not to do it,” the minister said. “Now what we can be sure of is that as we try to further improve our relationship with Russia, there will be no American pressure not to do it.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, has said a new world order is being formed in great part thanks to Trump’s victory.
Szijjarto said that the “decisively more patriotic American government,” possible closer ties between Washington and Moscow, an “apparently deep antagonism” between Europe and Russia, and China’s economic expansion would all contribute to make 2017 “one of the most exciting years for foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.”
Szijjarto also said there were great expectations for improved relations with the United States and its new Republican leadership after years of “American attempts to influence Hungarian domestic policy,” such as a ban on six Hungarians, including the then-head of the Hungarian tax office, from entering the United States because of corruption allegations.