Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hungary Risks NATO Unity on Ukraine

By Catherine Harris and Nataliya Bugayova with Molly Adler

Key Takeaway: Hungary is acting in support of Russia’s longstanding objective to distance Ukraine from NATO. Hungary attempted to block Ukraine from participating in the annual NATO Summit in Brussels on July 11 - 12. Russia will continue to exploit rising tensions between Ukraine and Hungary in order to isolate Ukraine from the West and fracture NATO. The U.S. and its allies should pressure Hungary to support Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO.

Hungary’s efforts to block Ukraine from the NATO Summit play into the hands of Russia. Hungary stated that it will block the NATO-Ukraine Commission from meeting at the upcoming NATO Summit on July 11 - 12 due to Hungary’s opposition to a recent language bill that Hungary asserts infringes on the rights of Hungarians in Ukraine. The Kremlin is pursuing a comprehensive campaign to target Ukraine via Hungary as outlined by the Institute for the Study of War in 2017. The Kremlin has attempted to influence a wide range of decision-makers in Hungary and fostered separatist narratives among Hungarians in Western Ukraine in order to destabilize Ukraine and distance it from the EU. The Kremlin is actively pursuing a broader region campaign aimed at driving a wedge between Ukraine and its neighbors such as Poland.

The U.S. and NATO allies should pressure Hungary to support the membership of Ukraine in NATO. Russia will continue to seize similar instances of bilateral friction as opportunities to distance Ukraine from NATO and erode the overall cohesion of NATO. The U.S. and NATO should use the upcoming summit to pressure Hungary to find an alternative venue to resolve its disputes and support Ukraine as a strong signal of united resolve towards Russia.