The Self-Proclaimed Peacemaker: Orban Meets Trump After Kyiv, Moscow, and Beijing?

Whether he will meet with Trump in the US or only attend the summit marking NATO's 75th anniversary

by Sededin Dedovic
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The Self-Proclaimed Peacemaker: Orban Meets Trump After Kyiv, Moscow, and Beijing?
© Kent Nishimura / Getty Images

A few days after Hungary took over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Kyiv, Moscow, and Beijing as a self-appointed spokesperson and self-proclaimed peacemaker.

In a video he posted on the platform X on Monday, Orban praised China as the only global power "clearly committed to peace" between Russia and Ukraine, presenting himself as a man on a peace mission at the end of his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"This is important for Hungary and the entire European Union," he said in the same video posted on X from the tarmac in Beijing, adding, "we will continue our work." Although he did not explicitly state that he represents the European Union, some believe he intended to leave that impression.

Kaja Kallas, the next High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, earlier said that Orban "exploits" Hungary's presidency of the Council and tries to "sow confusion" regarding EU policy towards Ukraine, reports DW.

In an earlier post, published on X on July 5, Orban admitted that he did not have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the EU. However, he sent mixed signals when he added, "we cannot sit idle and wait for the war to miraculously end.

We will serve as an important tool in making the first steps towards peace." The EU severely reprimanded him after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, stating that he "does not represent the EU in any form."

Victor Orban and Vladimir Putin in Moscow 2024© AFP News Agency / Youtube channel

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said that Orban's meetings should be viewed as a bilateral matter, not an official EU engagement.

However, Orban once again proved to be the enfant terrible in the 27-member bloc. Experts say that Orban's latest antics are part of a long-term plan to portray himself as a leader of the far-right in Europe and to count on the return of American Republican candidate Donald Trump to power.

What are Orban's political goals?

There is nothing new in Hungarian Prime Minister Orban's support for Russia or flirting with China. Over the past two years, he has consistently opposed European Union sanctions against Moscow and has tried to block aid to Ukraine.

And at a time when the EU is trying to reshape trade with China and mitigate the risks of critical supply chains, Budapest has improved trade with Beijing and entered into a comprehensive strategic partnership in May this year.

Julien Hoez, a political advisor and expert on EU affairs, said that Orban's latest tricks are aimed at scoring points at home after his party Fidesz recorded its worst election result in history in last month's EU elections in Hungary.

Although Orban's party and allies received 44% of the votes, they lost to Peter Magyar, an insider turned rival widely described as a threat to Orban. But that is just one of the things Orban wants to achieve. He also wants to present himself as the leader of the growing far-right in Europe and build an "illiberal axis" from the US to Europe, said Hoez.

"He is trying to position himself as the leader of those in Europe who are Eurosceptic, more interested in relations with China or Russia, or do not want to be involved and generally show isolationist tendencies similar to those we see in the US," says Hoez.

On Monday, Orban's Fidesz party joined a new far-right group in the European Parliament, alongside French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, called "Patriots." In addition to emerging as a leading figure in the far-right ecosystem in Europe, Orban also wants to portray himself as a kindred spirit to Donald Trump, writes DW.

A mediator for Trump in Europe?

Pierre Haroche, assistant professor of European and international politics and a fellow at the Jacques Delors Institute, said that Orban is currently doing "preparatory work" to have a deal ready for Trump if and when he retakes the US presidency.

"Orban is working on a deal he thinks Trump will accept," said Haroche. "Trump has said he wants to end the conflict (the war in Ukraine) within 24 hours. Orban wants to be able to say, look, I have already talked to the stakeholders and make himself an indispensable mediator."

Victor Orban and Vladimir Zelensky in Kyiv © AFP News Agency / Youtube channel

"Having influence in the EU through the group will make him more useful to Trump," added this expert.

Orban's games have shaken Brussels. Later this week, when the permanent representatives of the EU member states meet, they will likely discuss the role of the rotating presidency and whether Hungary can be a fair mediator.

Experts say that the EU cannot do much to punish Orban. Although the "nuclear option" of limiting Hungary's rights under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union is often whispered about, it is unlikely to be used. Meanwhile, in response to the aforementioned Orban post on X, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.

praised the Hungarian leader as a peacemaker, "like my father." Orban's next stop is Washington, and there is speculation whether he will meet with Trump in the US or only attend the summit marking NATO's 75th anniversary. Source: Deutsche Welle, Wesley Rahn

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