‘Viktor Orbán should be booted out of NATO if he keeps chasing Putin’

Former chair of the UK’s Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood has issued a stark warning to Viktor Orbán after the Hungarian Prime Minister appeared alongside Vladimir Putin at China’s Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Tuesday.

The Conservative MP, who is one of Westminster’s foremost foreign policy voices, told Express.co.uk that Hungary’s membership of NATO and the European Union should be “questioned” if Orbán continues to court the Russian and Chinese leadership.

He accused the Oxford-educated Hungarian leader of deciding “more openly to show his cards” by appearing alongside Putin at the Chinese Communist Party-run event.

In a major coup for the Kremlin, 60-year-old Orbán was not only pictured shaking hands with Putin but also told him during a meeting on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum, that Hungary “never wanted to confront Russia” and that his Government’s intention “has always been to establish and expand mutually the best contacts”.

In a further blow for the western security alliance, the Hungarian prime minister added that he sought closer economic ties with Moscow: “We are interested in supporting this co-operation not only at the level of communication but also at the economic level.”

READ MORE: Putin embarrassed as European leaders storm out of event before Chinese speech

Following Orbán’s eye-catching comments in China, Mr Ellwood told this website: “The bedrock of European security over the last few decades has been the existence and commitment to NATO.

“And if leaders such as Orbán do not buy into European security and indeed European prosperity, through its membership of the EU, then it’s absolutely right that Hungary’s memberships should be questioned on both cases.”

Asked whether Hungary was emerging as a “chink in the armour” of NATO and the European Union, the MP for Bournemouth East said “completely”.

He continued: “Putin only needs to lure one European leader to his way of thinking to severely limit the collective impact of these two very powerful organisations [NATO and the EU.”

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Orbán recently said, during the autumn opening of his country’s parliament, that Hungary was in “no rush” to ratify Sweden’s membership of NATO. It remains the only member of the alliance, besides Turkey, not to ratify the Nordic state’s membership.

Mr Ellwood, who served in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, reaching the rank of captain in the British Army, went further, attaching blame to the Hungarian leader for NATO’s restricted involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

He said: “There’s no doubt, had Orbán not been so minded to support Putin that NATO itself could have taken a far more proactive role in putting the fire out in Ukraine.”

Hungary is one of three EU member states that defied an end to the Brussels ban on Ukrainian grain imports. Orbán said on social media after Budapest’s decision to continue to impose the grain ban: “The bureaucrats in Brussels are turning a blind eye to the problems of European farmers once again.

“It’s time to take matters into our own hands! Ukrainian agricultural products destined for Africa are flooding Central European markets.”

Hungary’s casual European solidarity is reflective of the distance between the perspectives of western leaders and Orbán, according to the Mr Ellwood.

He explained: “Orbán is not on the same page as the rest of Europe and is actually deliberately thwarting efforts to promote European security and by extension is then playing into the hands of both Russia and China and indeed Iran as well.”

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