Visegrad defense meeting called off over Russia split
The Visegrad Group meeting of defense ministers planned for this week was canceled Tuesday after Poland and the Czech Republic pulled out over Hungary’s tepid response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The meeting was scheduled to take place on Wednesday and Thursday in Budapest.
A spokesperson for Slovakia’s defense ministry told POLITICO the meeting was canceled by Hungary, and that Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď had “taken notice of Hungary’s decision to postpone the meeting.”
Budapest currently holds the rotating presidency of the Visegrad group, the regional platform bringing together Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia to discuss political, defense and cultural cooperation.
The most recent contretemps between the four Central European partners began last Friday when Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová pulled out of the meeting. “I have always supported the V4 and I am very sorry that cheap Russian oil is more important to Hungarian politicians than Ukrainian blood,” she wrote on Twitter.
Polish media then reported Monday evening that Mariusz Błaszczak, Poland’s defense minister, would also snub the meeting. The deputy head of the foreign affairs ministry, Marcin Przydacz, told Polish TV on Monday that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was “making a mistake” in his approach toward the war in Ukraine.
While Hungary has supported four rounds of EU sanctions against Russia over Vladimir Putin’s assault in Ukraine, it has argued that any measures targeting energy or plans to have an EU “peacekeeping” mission in Ukraine would constitute a so-called red line. Budapest has also refused to allow weapons to reach Ukraine through its territory.
Poland in particular has advocated fiercely for a Russian energy embargo, and the conflict has strained Warsaw and Budapest’s usually strong relationship.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called out Orbán at last week’s European Council summit for resisting harsher sanctions on Moscow. “Hungary, I want to stop here and be honest. Once and for all, you have to decide for yourself who you are with,” he said.