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Growing Alliance Between Orbán, Trump and the US Far Right Is Very Disturbing

Viktor Orbán is isolated in Europe and needs a friend in the White House in order to fulfill his larger agenda.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held at the Hilton Anatole on August 4, 2022, in Dallas, Texas.

I’ve been following Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s increasing influence on the American far right for some time as he hosted the likes of former Fox News celebrity Tucker Carlson and held a CPAC meeting in Budapest. (They’re doing it again in April with Orbán once again doing the hosting duties.) He was the darling of a certain faction of the conservative coalition even before Donald Trump won and whose election in 2016 super-charged the “illiberal democracy” ideology here in the U.S. which we now know as MAGA. He likewise hopes to consolidate the European far-right into a MAGA-style movement throughout the continent.

Orbán’s CPAC appearance got a thunderous ovation last year and just last week he came to meet with members of the Heritage Foundation which is busily putting together “Project 2025” for the second Trump term. One imagines he had quite a few tips for them. He wrote the book on how to turn a modern country into a repressive autocracy without becoming a full-fledged police state.

Trump himself doesn’t seem completely sold on that idea since he’s pushing for mass round-ups and deportations of non-citizens by National Guard troops and a total lockdown of the country to keep foreigners who “don’t like our religion” (or Israel) out of the country. And he’s promised to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections” which leans more in the direction of Putin’s Russia or Pinochet’s Chile. But Orbán’s ideas about how to make the government bureaucracy into a patronage operation, gerrymander the legislature in ways that pretty much strangle real democracy while turning the independent media and academia into impotent irrelevancies are being observed very carefully by the Trump 2.0 planners and they will be implemented if they gain power. (It’s also the case that Orbán demonized migrants as a political strategy and even built a fence to keep them out, so they do have that in common as well.)

After the Heritage meeting, Orbán made the pilgrimage down to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump. (Notably, he wasn’t invited, nor did he ask, to meet with the actual president of the United States.) Trump was very impressed with his guest. He apparently feted him at the usual party that takes place every night at this social club and introduced him to the crowd of paying guests saying, “He’s a non-controversial figure because he says this is the way it’s going to be, and that’s the end of it. Right? He’s the boss.”

I’m not sure why anyone questions Donald Trump’s intentions when he says things like that. It’s always been clear that he is an instinctive autocrat. He couldn’t understand why the Department of Justice didn’t act as his personal lawyer, for instance, or why he was constrained by the Constitution from exercising power over the entire government. He said repeatedly that he had “an Article II” which allowed him to “do whatever I want” and that the president has “total authority.” Even today he argues that the president has “total immunity” which is now pending before the Supreme Court. Of course he admires dictators and autocrats and believes that’s what the presidency should be.

It’s pretty clear that Orbán sees Trump as an important ally. He’s even cutting campaign ads for him on that theme, calling Trump a “man of peace” which is so ludicrous it makes you dizzy:

The truth is that Orbán may need Trump more than Trump needs Orbán. He’s isolated in Europe and in order to fulfill his larger agenda he needs a friend in the White House, and Joe Biden will not be that. Over the past month, his party has been in turmoil with the resignation of the president and former justice minister over a pardon scandal involving a notorious child sex abuser. This has placed Orban in a difficult position since he has waged a Ron DeSantis-style crusade against LGBTQ rights and pedophilia (which he conflates for political purposes.)

He has been the last holdout in the European Union for Ukraine aid and allowing Sweden to Join NATO and both issues were finally resolved in the wake of the scandal just in the past couple of weeks. There’s no sense that Orbán is in serious trouble but cracks are beginning to show. It turns out that his Potemkin democracy still has some tiny life left in it, with some independent journalists able to use the internet to get the news out even though all the mainstream news sources have been coerced or co-opted into doing Orbán’s bidding. It’s just possible that his hold is shakier than it has been in years.

If Trump wins all that changes. Orbán sees his friendship with Trump and Putin puts him right at the center of a major new alliance and it’s not at all an unreasonable assumption. He and Trump, and his lackeys in the U.S. Congress, have, so far, successfully given Russia a major gift by refusing to authorize funding for the Ukraine war effort. Trump even went so far as to say that he would tell Putin to “do whatever he hell he wants” to any NATO country he deemed to be sufficiently “paid up.” We have every reason to believe that if Trump wins, Ukraine will be gone and Putin will have prevailed. What happens to the Ukrainians if that happens is going to be a nightmare.

All of this is very peculiar in light of Orbán’s central thesis about “national sovereignty,” which he spelled out in this video (featuring such luminaries as Steve Bannon and Vivek Ramaswamy) that he made after his meeting with the Heritage Foundation. Apparently, Ukraine is not entitled to that particular privilege nor is any NATO countrysuch as Hungary if Putin or Trump decide otherwise.

This alliance between Orbán, Trump and the American right is very disturbing. It’s easy to dismiss a Hungarian prime minister as just some guy from a small European country who is punching way above his weight and isn’t really relevant. But this is one of those moments when you really have to wonder if you aren’t watching the beginning of a tectonic shift in the world order. The movement to appease Putin and force Ukraine to surrender has taken hold on the right and the threat to Western Europe that flows from that is very real. If Trump wins, the chances of a major escalation are very high. Trump and Orbán like to call that “peace” but it’s actually just a demand for capitulation. That’s what dictators do and that’s what they are.

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