Sharp Polish-Hungarian Differences Over Russia Threaten The Visegrad Group’s Unity

Poland and Hungary are now realizing that they have some irreconcilable differences over their respective visions, whether domestic or foreign depending on whichever government rules the second-mentioned country after next month’s elections, so they’ll have to reach some kind of compromise with one another if they want to preserve what they’ve already achieved thus far in this new reality.

A very serious rift is emerging in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) between conservative-nationalist allies Poland and Hungary over the extent of “containing” Russia, which threatens to weaken the unity of the same Visegrad Group that’s supposed to function as the core of the Warsaw-led “Three Seas Initiative” (3SI) throughout this geostrategic space. Poland is demanding that everyone in Europe strictly comply with its comprehensive “de-Russification” policies of completely cutting their ties with that Eurasian Great Power. This aspiring regional leader will also officially propose a NATO so-called “peacekeeping mission” to Ukraine that risks provoking World War III considering Russia’s threats to decisively defend its forces from any third parties who interfere with its ongoing special military operation there. All of these policies are self-serving and designed to expand Poland’s “sphere of influence” over the 3SI.

There’s just one major problem with this and it’s that Poland’s Hungarian allies who’ve thus far stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them against Brussels’ liberal-globalist pressure to their pro-sovereignty domestic reforms in years are completely opposed to these plans. Foreign Minister Szijarto said on Monday that his country is against cutting off energy imports from Russia as well as NATO imposing a “no-fly zone” in Ukraine or dispatching armed “peacekeepers” there. This wasn’t exactly unexpected, however, since those who follow Hungarian affairs know how close that country has become with Russia in recent years. That development wasn’t the result of some “Russian conspiracy” but is purely due to it being in Hungary’s objective national interests as its leadership understands them to be no matter how ridiculously its critics might imagine it to be otherwise.

The supreme irony is that while Poland and Hungary stood in solidarity with one another against Brussels’ meddling in their internal affairs, now Hungary must stand against Poland’s meddling in its foreign affairs. Despite their leaderships’ ideological closeness when it comes to their shared conservative-nationalist vision at home and for the rest of CEE more broadly, there’s no denying that their differences over Russia are irreconcilable and will very likely lead to some level of distrust developing between them with time. That’s because Poland is resorting to the same sort of hegemonic pressure upon its regional partners as it hypocritically accuses Germany and Russia of exerting upon the 3SI countries, which was one of the reasons behind why it called on them all to come together in the first place, while Hungary’s current leaders won’t sacrifice their national interests for anyone else.

Budapest would be forgiven for regarding Warsaw’s radical “de-Russification” demands of everyone as a betrayal of their strategic partnership since it likely thought that its partner would temper its expectations of others in the interests of pragmatism owing to the obvious differences between their respective relations with Russia that were developed to advance their national interests. That was a naïve assumption since Hungary didn’t calculate that Poland would revert to its historically hegemonic policies that it practiced for centuries during the time of its former Commonwealth. Budapest thought that the times had changed, but Warsaw still lives in the past exactly as former Russian President Medvedev recently wrote. Viktor Orban’s government will therefore have to accept this new reality as soon as possible in order to formulate the proper policies for best preserving its interests within it.

Be that as it is, this specific problem might actually end up being a moot one if the incumbent leader is deposed after early April’s upcoming elections like might possibly happen due to the very strong support being provided to the opposition by liberal-globalist forces like the EU and the Soros Foundation, among others. In that scenario, while Hungary might no longer practice conservative-nationalist policies and would therefore be at odds with Poland in this respect, it would likely end up aligning its foreign policy with that aspiring regional leader since the opposition is expected to be almost as fiercely anti-Russian as the Polish leadership presently is. Nevertheless, either outcome still creates a divide within the Visegrad Group that’s supposed to function as the core of Poland’s 3SI since Orban’s victory would worsen foreign policy differences with Warsaw while his loss would worsen domestic ones.

One way or another, this complicates Poland’s grand strategic plans for exerting post-modern hegemony over CEE through the 3SI. Without Hungary standing in full solidarity with it on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts, Poland will be unable to achieve its maximalist aims for transforming the entire region with time. It’ll ultimately have to accept either focusing on the domestic or foreign policy components pending unpredictable political developments in its partner countries that can’t be foreseen with any confident degree of accuracy at this time. All that’s known for certain at the moment is that Hungary’s incumbent government opposes Poland’s “de-Russification” demands while supporting its domestic conservative-nationalist agenda whereas an opposition-led one would oppose the latter while embracing the former. Either way, Poland can achieve all that it’s aiming for in the region.

With the Visegrad Group destined to remain very sharply divided in one way or another, Poland’s regional leadership plans through the 3SI will remain limited. It largely requires Hungary fully supporting Poland but that’s no longer possible for the reasons that were explained regardless of which government ends up leading it after next month’s elections. This new reality in the CEE space will also create opportunities for those forces like Germany that are eager to divide and rule these two hitherto allies. Poland and Hungary are now realizing that they have some irreconcilable differences over their respective visions, whether domestic or foreign depending on whichever government rules the second-mentioned country after next month’s elections, so they’ll have to reach some kind of compromise with one another if they want to preserve what they’ve already achieved thus far in this new reality.

By Andrew Korybko Via https://oneworld.press/?module=articles&action=view&id=2627