Viktor Orban Wants Trump’s Help in the European Elections

“America First” Meets “Hungary First”

Salvini and Orban at a press conference in Budapest, May 2019 Bernadett Szabo / REUTERS

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will visit the White House today for a long-sought meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. The U.S. government has been officially critical of Orban for his warm relations with China and Russia and his attempts to block NATO exercises with Ukraine. On a visit to Hungary in February, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried and failed to get Orban to return to the transatlantic fold. But for all of his disagreement with U.S. foreign policy, Orban will offer Trump ideas they share: an international anti-immigration alliance and disruption of the European Union. Trump may well find he feels closer to Orban than to the foreign policy of his own administration.

Trump’s alliance with Orban goes back to the 2016 presidential campaign, when Orban was the first European leader to support the Republican candidate. In a telephone call after the election, the two men bonded over their common status as “black sheep” under the Obama administration. But Trump and Orban have not met in person—until now.

They have much in common. Trump and Orban have both built their political fortunes on blocking immigration, building border walls, rejecting asylum seekers, and spouting anti-migrant rhetoric. They both claim to put their countries first by rejecting long-standing democratic alliances in favor of working with dictatorships. Orban, like Trump, idealizes a time before “political correctness” and issues frequent dog-whistles to the far right. He hopes to win Trump’s support for the coalition he is building between center-right and far-right parties for the upcoming European Parliament elections.


For all that Trump shares with Orban personally, the Hungarian prime minister’s foreign policy has become a source of frustration to Washington. Hungary is now Russia’s closest friend in Europe. Orban, who has adopted a policy he refers to as an “Eastern Opening,” is the only EU leader to repeatedly welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin on official visits. In 2015, Orban signed an agreement with Russia to

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