So much for the European ‘Union.’
The Financial Times reports that Brussels has a secret plan to destroy Hungary’s economy if Budapest obstructs a planned €50 billion aid package to Ukraine, set to be discussed at an emergency summit of EU leaders this Thursday. According to a document seen by the newspaper, if the Viktor Orbán government
does not back down, other EU leaders should publicly vow to permanently shut off all EU funding to Budapest with the intention of spooking the markets, precipitating a run on the country’s forint currency and a surge in the cost of its borrowing, Brussels stated in the document.
“This is Europe telling Viktor Orbán ‘enough is enough; it’s time to get in line. You may have a pistol, but we have the bazooka’,” said Mujtaba Rahman, Europe director at Eurasia Group, a consultancy.
It is unclear how the Hungarian government will respond to this blackmail plot, but it unquestionably marks a dramatic escalation against a European Union member state, treating it like an enemy for exercising its legitimate rights under EU rules. The European ruling class gasses on about the importance of democracy, while laying plans to wreck an EU member state that is playing by the rules—this, rather than admit that Viktor Orbán was right about the war all along.
It is increasingly clear that the two-year war between Russia and Ukraine is a lost cause for Kyiv, which has fought valiantly to defend its territory from Russian aggression, but is running out of soldiers, weapons, and options. Having supplied Ukraine generously with funding and weapons to resist the Russians, Washington is likewise running out of both patience and resources.
Congress is balking at President Joe Biden’s latest $60 billion request for further Ukraine funding. Republican House leader Mike Johnson questioned the wisdom of continuing to throw money at what looks like a losing cause. Though Biden still has the support of his party’s leadership, as well as hawkish Republicans, he faces rising skepticism of his Ukraine policy amid other, arguably more pressing threats to U.S. interests around the world and a tough re-election battle against Donald Trump, who is hostile to more Ukraine aid.
Meanwhile, the news from Ukraine goes from bad to worse. In a gutting recent dispatch from Ukraine published in Britain’s left-wing magazine The New Statesman, Andrey Kurkov, a Ukrainian patriot who clearly despises Russia for its war on his country, provides an extremely bleak picture of Ukraine’s prospects. Officials are press-ganging men eligible for military service and sending them to the front, which has become a World War I-like meat grinder.
“Around 700,000 Ukrainians liable for military service have crossed the border since the war began on 24 February 2022,” writes Kurkov. “This is more than the number of Ukrainian soldiers at the front.”
Kurkov concedes that these men will not return to Ukraine. What is there to come home to? The war has all but destroyed its economy, in part by forcing men of productive age to be deployed against the Russians. Time magazine reported last autumn that the average age of the Ukrainian front-line soldier was 43. That same week, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces conceded that the country’s much-heralded offensive had failed, and took personal responsibility for underestimating Russia’s capabilities.
Even before the war, Ukraine was an economic basket case, riddled with corruption and one of the poorest countries in Europe. Prior to the war, 2.5 million of its people—many of them the young that any nation needs to have a future—left for the West in the post-Soviet period. Today, with over six million of its people having fled the war, Ukraine’s population has sunk to its 1950 level.
Meanwhile, despite heavy military losses, and the strategic failure of losing formerly neutral Finland and Sweden to NATO, Russia’s economy has gained overall during the war. Last October, The New York Times reported that “the Russian economy has proved to be much more resilient than many Western governments assumed after imposing a punishing string of sanctions.”
The decoupling of European economies from Russia has been far more negative for Europe. Take Germany, for example, traditionally Europe’s economic powerhouse: the loss of cheap Russian gas due to sanctions has contributed to the steep decline in German industrial production, which has also been pressured by Chinese competition. “The economy is at a standstill in Germany,” Siegfried Russwurm, president of the Federation of German Industries, recently told The New York Times.
To be sure, nobody in Europe wants to see Russia rewarded for its aggression. But as the noted philosopher Mick Jagger has observed, you can’t always get what you want. David Pressman, the undiplomatic U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, told the Financial Times last week that the Orbán government is running a “fantasy foreign policy” that serves the interests of Putin.
Pressman also criticized Orbán for “actively participating” in the U.S. election campaign by endorsing Donald Trump, saying this is “not something we expect from allies.” But Washington, which once upon a time was up in arms about supposed Russian interference in U.S. politics, last year pledged millions to fund Hungarian opposition groups. Last weekend, a list of Hungarian opposition media outlets receiving U.S. government funding surfaced. In 2022, Hungarian opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay publicly thanked Western sources for providing 4.6 million Euros in campaign finance support, but a post-election Hungarian government intelligence report alleged that an additional 3 billion Euros had flowed from the West into the pockets of the opposition, which nevertheless took a thumping at the polls. This is not something the Hungarians expect from allies.)
At this point in the Russia-Ukraine war, who are the real fantasists? Washington and Brussels, who insist, in the face of brutal experience, that money can work magic on the front lines? Or Viktor Orbán, who has said from the beginning that the only way to end hostilities is through a negotiated settlement?
The fantasists have always been the Westerners, who substituted dreams for reality and accused anyone who dissented of being shills for Moscow. Here’s a tweet from a fellow of the Center for European Policy Analysis that will live in infamy:
Jessica Berlin was not alone, of course. Magical thinking has driven Western policy towards Ukraine for years. At some point, you have to wonder when the leadership class of Western democracies will run out of credibility. Some of us are old enough to remember how the George W. Bush administration promised that sufficient application of U.S. force and finance was sure to turn both Iraq and Afghanistan into liberal democracies, and that anyone who disagreed was unpatriotic. Some of the same politicians, pundits, and experts who pushed that absurd line have also been ultra-hawks on Ukraine.
What do we have to show for it? The realists—most notably the foreign-policy professor John Mearsheimer—have been thoroughly vindicated. At some point, sputtering that your critics are nothing but defeatists and closet Putinists won’t work anymore. This push by the ruling classes in Washington and Brussels to continue propping up a valiant but failed war effort must be understood in a broader context of failing ideological legitimacy.
These are the same people, note well, who will not secure Europe’s or America’s borders against mass illegal migration. These are the same people who repeat the mantra diversity is our strength even as mass pro-terrorism demonstrations by resident Muslims fill the streets of European capitals, and local governments seem more concerned about natives who notice the problem than those who cause it.
Under this ideological regime, institutions of government, academia, and private industry lower standards to accommodate woke fantasies. Women lose opportunities in athletics and privacy in bathrooms to males who masquerade as women, and schools and media now educate little children to mistrust their own given bodies. In the U.S., a number of liberal states have declared themselves to be sanctuaries for trans youth, meaning that if a minor child who wishes to change sex against his or her parents’ wishes can reach those states, the governments there will not return the child to the mother and father. In other words, this regime has embraced state-sanctioned kidnapping to facilitate the permanent sexual mutilation of children.
Meanwhile, militaries in both the United States and the United Kingdom have fully embraced racial bigotry as policy, and wonder why whites will not sign up to fight for countries whose ruling classes despise them and their ancestors.
You know who doesn’t have these problems? Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, where the government feels the burden of its responsibility to its own electorate. The Financial Times reports that EU member states have a ‘plan B’ to send money to Ukraine outside the EU’s budget, with national parliaments having to ratify the subsidies. This plan would “cause delays and uncertainty,” writes the newspaper, no doubt cognizant of the fact that European national publics are divided over these issues. That it is considered ‘problematic’ to put such an important issue, both economically and in terms of national security, before parliaments that are directly responsible to the taxpayers who would be funding the measure, tells you something about the way the transnational European ruling class thinks.
We are seeing that ‘democracy’ is what happens when peoples of the nations arrive at political outcomes favored by Brussels and Washington. If Hungary has to be destroyed for the sake of this sham idea of democracy, well, hey, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
It can’t go on forever. Soon, and probably very soon, the luck of the ruling class will run out. Whatever his sins and failings may be, Viktor Orbán isn’t presiding over the decline of the West. It is, alas, true that Orbán stands naked before the mighty Brussels bureaucracy, determined to siphon off more taxpayer money to continue an unwinnable war, in the name of a pan-European fantasy, when they ought to be spending it on serious needs at home (for example, have you seen how feeble European militaries are?). They may, in the end, force him to capitulate. But if you look closely, it is Orbán, the despised outsider, who informs the Emperors of the Inner Ring, the embodiments of a failing imperial ideology, that they have no clothes.