BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Western countries that are providing weapons and money to assist Ukraine in its war with Russia have already “drifted” into becoming active participants in the conflict, Hungary's prime minister said on Friday.
In an interview with Hungarian state radio, Viktor Orban said Germany's Wednesday decision to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks to Ukraine was emblematic of the increasing role Western countries are playing in the war, now in its 12th month.
Rather than arming Ukraine, the West should pursue “a cease-fire and peace talks,” Orban said, without giving details of what he imagined such negotiations would mean for Ukraine's future territorial integrity.
“It started with the Germans saying they were willing to send helmets, because they wouldn’t send lethal tools into the war since that would mean participation in it. This is where we started,” Orban said. “Now, we’re at battle tanks, and they’re already talking about planes.”
Orban, who has refused to send weapons to neighboring Ukraine and has held up some European Union efforts to provide aid packages to Kyiv, has consistently argued against EU sanctions on Moscow and portrayed countries that assist Ukraine as being “on the side of war.”
His right-wing populist government has pursued increasingly close economic and diplomatic ties with Russia over the last decade, and concluded major agreements on purchasing Russian gas, oil and nuclear fuel. Hungary has threatened to veto any EU sanctions that would affect its access to Russian energy.
Orban said Friday that Hungary getting drawn into the war in Ukraine “is out of the question as long as I am prime minister” but he thinks it is too late for other countries in Europe.
“The others are not only in danger, they have already been swept away," he said. "If you send weapons, if you finance the entire annual budget of one of the belligerents, if you promise more and more weapons, more and more modern weapons, then you can say whatever you want. No matter what you say, you are in the war.”
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