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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban urged Joe Biden to “take note” of his country’s position and proximity to the Ukraine war, arguing Americans have a more detached perspective of the conflict.
The Hungarian leader said on Saturday that Americans fail to understand the actual threats of a nuclear war on Ukraine’s neighbouring countries.
He said: “From America, the world shows a completely different picture.
“The risks of weld politics show a different picture, then if you look at history from Budapest, God forbid, Sfantu Gheorghe, or Kosice, or Berehove.
“So that’s why when the Americans hear about an escalation of a war and they conjure up images of a nuclear war, they know that they have a large arsenal and that they have deterrent power.
“When I hear about nuclear weapons, or that a Western European country is taking depleted uranium weapons to Ukraine, I think of Chernobyl.
“An American would never think of this, but we know that if something happens in Ukraine it’s best if people don’t go out into the streets, so we know what happened then.
“Or if in America they hear that someone died on the Ukrainian-Russian front, they obviously sympathise because it’s a loss, but it is not the same feeling as ours, because I immediately think that the person who died could be a Hungarian person from Transcarpathia.
“Everything that happens there becomes a part of our lives that very day.
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“The dimension of the Americans is quite different, so I say that we rightly expect the United States to take note of Hungary’s special situation, its proximity to Ukraine, and to understand that we are therefore on the side of peace and want to stay there.”
The comments came after the Hungarian leader sought to bring down the temperature on spiralling tensions between his government and the United States on Friday.
In an interview on state radio, Orban said that the International Investment Bank, a Russian-controlled financial institution which US officials have argued could serve as a conduit for Russian espionage, “could have played a serious role in developing Central European economies.”
While the war in Ukraine had limited the bank’s effectiveness, Orban said, the US sanctions against IIB and three of its top officials had “ruined it”. The Hungarian government withdrew its membership in the bank on Thursday, the day after the sanctions were issued.
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“(The bank’s) operations have been rendered impossible. It can’t serve its function,” Orban said. “We decided that under these circumstances, Hungary’s participation in the bank’s further work has become pointless.”
The sanctions — a broader package targeting the financial networks of two of Moscow’s wealthiest businessmen but also, in the case of Hungary, a rare step aimed at a NATO ally — brought rising tensions between Budapest and Washington to a head.
US officials have grown increasingly dissatisfied with Hungary’s approach to the war in Ukraine, criticism of war-related sanctions on Russia and continuing close ties with Moscow, which have given Orban a reputation as the Kremlin’s closest ally in the European Union.
Increasing anti-American rhetoric in Hungary’s government-tied media and assertions from senior officials that Washington seeks to force Hungary into the war have added fuel to the fire, bringing diplomatic relations to their lowest point in years.
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