After having qualified for the UEFA European Championship 2020, Hungary finished last in its group that included France, Germany and Portugal too. The two ties, 1:1 and 2:2 respectively against France and Germany were celebrated as actual victories, while the 0:3 defeat to Portugal in Budapest was hailed as a quasi-triumph on the account that the match stood 0:0 until the 84th minute. The Prime Minister Viktor Orban, members of his cabinet as well as top functionaries of his FIDESZ party, and the more excitable fans celebrated the actual elimination of the national team from the most important European competition as a clear sign that Hungary’s redemption from domestic and international oblivion has taken a decisive step forward.
Contrary to the one-party rule propaganda, the grim reality is that the Viktor Orban-led Hungary is in multiple crises. Since 2010, when the Hungarian voters in their boundless naivete rewarded Viktor Orban with two-thirds majority, the country has gradually reverted to the pre-1990s one party rule. As in the old Communist times, a single individual controls everything, from all three branches of the government, through the nation’s economy, to the written and electronic media.
Indeed, as during the Soviet occupation, the fear of the despotic powers has overcome the population. Life, property and personal freedoms have been subject to arbitrary decisions. Ownership of lands and successful businesses have been unsafe from well-connected greedy individuals who have enjoyed impunity from illegal acts by the FIDESZ-controlled police and prosecutorial authorities. Corruption has been pervasive, systematic and thus out of control. The well-educated have been leaving Hungary in droves. Young people have seen no future for themselves and their children in a country that does not value knowledge, experience and merit-based accomplishments. Nepotism and loyalty to Viktor Orban have been the new symbolic “little red Communist party membership cards” to professional and financial success.
Meanwhile, investments in the productive sectors of the economy, in education and in health care have been almost non-existent. Yet, monies have been poured unaccounted into erecting an irrational number of soccer stadiums, building other sport-related facilities and attempting to secure the rights to organize a variety of European and World competitions in Hungary. Under Orban, soccer has become the great political unifier of the Hungarian nation. In the government propaganda, Viktor Orban has reminded Hungarians incessantly that the country’s national soccer team represents more than a team. According to him, it embodies Hungary with its past, present and future. His slogan “We are bound together by the Red, the White and the Green” references the national colors of Hungary. To add an oversized enthusiasm to this absurd and existentially meaningless political hype, Viktor Orban also claims that “Together we are the greatest team.”
All this should serve as a spooky reminder to the morbid practices of the East German and the Romanian Communist leaders. Erich Honecker, the long serving Communist leader in East Berlin sank huge sums of money into a wide assortment of sports to prove the superiority of his political regime vis-a-vis the truly democratic Federal Republic of Germany. In the same spirit, the other Communist despot in Bucharest Nicolae Ceausescu feverishly built soccer stadiums, the majority of which was never used during his lifetime. East Germany disappeared from the map following the successful unification of the divided Germany on October 3, 1990. Nicolae Ceaușescu was summarily tried and executed immediately thereafter with his wife by a firing squad on December 25, 1989. Today, heirs to these dead Communists are Viktor Orban and his pal on the crossroads of Europe and Asia Recep Tayip Erdogan. However, as in East Germany and Romania of the not so distant past, only the mentally handicaped think in Hungary and Turkey that their respective countries’ general situation would improve because of the progressive performance of their soccer teams.
In addition to expediting the erosion of the nation’s value system, Viktor Orban’s self-serving and narcissistic psychopathy has contributed to the disintegration from within the post-Communist Hungarian society. Having been a Dopey Ignoramus by nature, Viktor Orban reminds Hungarians of their past and present miseries and their innermost feelings that their country historically has constantly been under siege by external enemies. For this reason, he has suggested that the present hostility from NATO and the European Union toward Hungary must be countered domestically by a pervasive government oversight and vigilant interventions in every aspect of the citizens’ lives.
Under the current structure of the one-party state, in which Viktor Orban’s utterances cannot be challenged, his exaggerated and aggressive chauvinism has created a thriving cult of paranoia. Thus, during the 2018 national election campaign, posters went up, warning people to watch out for foreign enemies, such as the financier George Soros, the liberal establishment in Brussels, as well as the allegedly unpatriotic machinations of his domestic opposition. In rural backwaters, he and his party warned of Western-backed “destructive influences” and “anti-Christian infiltration.”
No wonder that Hungary’s authoritarian turn has reverberated far beyond the borders of the country. As Viktor Orban has sought to eliminate foreign and domestic challengers, his ruthless efforts have sparked mistrust in Brussels and Washington, D.C. As Viktor Orban’s personal despotism faces another electoral test in the spring of 2022, his ambivalence about the durability of his over a decade long reign shows the fundamental uncertainties and even failures of his soccer symbolized political project. Accordingly, less than a year before the next elections, Hungary is more an underdeveloped country than a developing one with an insignificant geostrategic value for the United States of America as well as NATO. Yet, this relative insignificance does not mean that Viktor Orban’s Hungary cannot pose a serious threat to the unity of NATO and the European Union by the way of emerging Chinese and Russian penetrations.
The United States of America in particular has the opportunity to take an active and effective stand against what Viktor Orban has been doing and would attempt to do in the future. The Biden administration could convey to the Hungarian government its objections to the hardening of authoritarianism, its shameless corruption and its demonization of the opposition. Moreover, the Biden administration could communicate its displeasure over the Hungarian situation internationally. In this context, the White House and the State Department could utilize the written and electronic media to expose Viktor Orban’s destructive, irrational and immoral regime in its entirety. Finally, President Biden should warn Viktor Orban in no uncertain terms that the continuation of his anti-NATO as well as anti-European Union policies would further perpetuate his status as an outcast within both organizations.
Time is of the essence. The White House must take the lead to state unequivocally that the member states of NATO and the European Union will not stand for Viktor Orban’s anti-Western political vandalism. Viktor Orban’s vaingloriousness aside, Washington, D.C. and Brussels cannot afford the kind of disruption to their core interests and fragile unity that he and his regime represent. The threat of Chinese and Russian penetration of NATO and the European Union, coupled with a burgeoning regional instability by Viktor Orban’s destructive chauvinism, makes the Hungarian situation absolutely untenable for the West. For this reason, the situation in Hungary must be met now with an urgent coordinated response from the community of free nations. In closing, Viktor Orban must be shown the soccer’s red card by the leaders of NATO and the European Union that stands for the sending-off from the field of players who exhibit violent and illegal conduct or purposeful obstruction of a goal scoring opportunity for the opposing team. By doing so, the Free World could demonstrate its resolve to assist every member state that lost its way to full democracy to find its path back to political, economic and moral well-being.