Europe needs significant reforms. Reforms aimed at developing neighborly, civilized relations, as envisioned in the early 1950s when constructing the prototype of the European Union after WWII. Reforms that prevent states from regressing will protect them from the Kremlin’s gas traps and the move to authoritarian rule.
Politicians formed in the harsh post-war realities of demolished cities, devastated towns, rampant unemployment, and a shortage of basic necessities would never have imagined, even in a nightmare, that contracts for the reconstruction of Paris, Prague, Budapest, or London could be secured by bribery and misuse of office, falsehoods, and deceit of voters.
Without pathos or populism, the leaders of the time genuinely cared about the well-being of their communities and people. Most importantly, they made sure that their neighbors likewise lived in wealth. The European Coal and Steel Community was founded on these values and served as the foundation for the formation of the European Union (1951).
Unfortunately, Europe, mainly central Europe suffering from the post-Soviet syndrome, has degraded significantly during the last 10-15 years. First and foremost, the level of corruption among European politicians and authorities has increased dramatically. The morale of high-ranking officials has deteriorated. The public and non-public behaviors of individuals in power are two separate worlds, where one is crystal obvious, virtuous, and decent, and the other is bribery in enormous sums for their benefit, lies, populism, and voter manipulation.
“Worse, corruption and bribery have been the foundation of some countries’ official policies, leading to wars, destitution, and slavery and therefore developing violent dictatorships. Putin’s Russia has been a source of global instability for a long time.”
Lukashenko is Putin’s vassal, and Belarus is Russia’s economic colony
The establishment of Russia-Belarus ties, in which the Belarusian people found themselves in slavish dependency on Russian officials and oligarchs, is a vivid example of colonialism. Because the Belarusian army and special services are infiltrated with Kremlin agents, mass physical elimination of opponents has become widespread in this country. All of this is masked by the nominally beneficial cooperation between Moscow and Minsk, particularly in delivering supposedly inexpensive oil and gas. Still, in reality, Belarus has become one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a violent authoritarian dictatorship.
How could this happen? It is pretty simple. As a result of his repeated charges against the United States and Europe for supposedly attempting to impose their “order” on Belarusians, Alexander Lukashenko has pushed ties with major Western partners to an absurdity. And this at a time when European corporations, in particular, hesitated to do business with him.
As a result, Belarus has become nearly 90% dependent on Russia for oil and gas. This condition of affairs is immensely beneficial to the Kremlin and has its name: economic occupation. Putin sells Lukashenko gas and oil at huge discounts, providing conditions for a significant wealth of the ruling Belarusian elite.
Only a few enterprises identified by Lukashenko (on instructions from Moscow) have been allowed to make excessive profits by distorting the constitution and the rule of law. These surplus revenues are used to fund the secret police, secret security forces, and the repressive machine that persecutes and eliminates opposition politicians and public figures.
Almost all mass media organizations have long been under Lukashenko’s control. Total dependence, particularly on energy, eventually leads to political occupation and, as a result, military occupation. As we can see, Belarus has degraded from a formerly strong nation to the poorest country in Europe, with a totalitarian system driven by the Kremlin, in just ten years.
Hungary is a target for the Kremlin
Putin has practically implemented this scenario in Ukraine, where a full-fledged war has begun, killing civilians and destroying hundreds of towns and villages. And, as in Belarus, it all started with Russia’s monopolization of the Ukrainian energy market. Putin is using gas as a political weapon. The same is true for Hungary and the rest of Europe.
A similar scenario of Russia’s economic and political development occurred in 1956 when the Hungarian people revolted against Russia’s communist dictatorship. And here, the economic occupation is traced first, followed by the military occupation.
Hungary, like in communist times, is rapidly becoming an economic puppet of the Kremlin under Viktor Orban’s leadership. And the difference is that behind the garb of populist political slogans fooling Hungarians, some authorities have the opportunity to enrich themselves enormously through corruption schemes involving gas and oil.
A new gas agreement, new corruption schemes
Peter Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade visited Russia on August 30, 2021. In St. Petersburg, he met with Alexey Miller, CEO of Gazprom. There was a discussion over Russian gas deliveries to Hungary. The group also reviewed the Russian capital’s involvement in controlling Hungary’s national gas transmission network.As a result, on September 27, 2022, a gas contract was signed. The signing ceremony in Budapest was attended by E. Burmistrova, Deputy Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, and P. Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, indicating the significance of the event for Russia. The signed agreement is for 15 years, with the option of renewing the terms after ten years. Hungary will get 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year under the arrangement, with 3.5 billion cubic meters coming from Serbia (through the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and its onshore extensions) and 1 billion cubic meters from Austria.
Orban met with Putin in Moscow in early February 2022, during which the Russian president, in particular, stated: “It is essential that even now, Hungary buys Russian gas five times cheaper than the market price in Europe.” Orban responded, saying: “We met for the first time 13 years ago. This is our thirteenth meeting. This is unique. Almost many of my colleagues in the EU countries’ leadership are not like that. It turns out that we have acquired the most crucial recollections of Russia and the EU’s past during the previous 13 years. … As a result, I have realistic expectations that we will work with you for many years “.
If you pay attention, Mr. Orban’s statements are as sycophantic as Lukashenko’s, which he continually addresses to Putin. The phrase “long-term cooperation” sounds particularly foreboding, as if Orban intends to construct a corrupt regime similar to that of Belarus’ ruler.
And, in fact, Orban has every right to say so, given that the Hungarian Prime Minister has someone to look up to for guidance on how to turn the country and its people into vassals of the Kremlin, namely Lukashenko. As a result, Hungary is heading toward debt accumulation and destitution for the vast majority of its people, toward a country with rigid caesura and selective enrichment for exceptionally close people.
What caused the need for a new gas agreement, and what has changed?
Hungary consumes 9-10 billion cubic meters of gas each year on average, with consumption varying according to climatic conditions, particularly in winter. Panrusgaz (a joint venture between Gazprom and Hungarian energy trader MVM) was the sole supplier of Russian gas to Hungary until October 1, 2021. Two long-term contracts for natural gas delivery to Hungary were signed in 1996 by Gazprom Export and Panrusgaz for the period up to 2015, and these agreements were then extended until 2021. The delivery of 8 billion cubic meters of gas has been contracted.
Supplies were sent in two directions under these contracts: Berehovo on the Ukrainian-Hungarian border and Baumgarten on the Slovak-Austrian border. For accurate figures, Gazprom supplied 8.6 billion cubic meters of gas to Hungary in 2020, and 10.5 billion cubic meters in 2019. Approximately 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas were delivered through Ukraine.
According to public statements by representatives of the Orban government and Gazprom, the volume of supply under the new agreement is 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, including
- 3.5 billion cubic meters per year via a new gas pipeline with Serbia,
- 1 billion cubic meters per year via the existing route from Austria,
However, the cost of gas is not published; only that the new arrangement is significantly more profitable than the 1995 agreement is indicated. Moreover, based on Putin’s words, it can be believed that the contractual price is USD 200 per 1000 cubic meters of gas. The absence of transit through Ukraine, which significantly raises the cost of transit to Hungarian homes, is the essential characteristic of the new deal.
Populism and Belarusification of Hungary are the key trends of the Orban dictatorship
Without getting into detail, Hungary has a relatively weak economy compared to other countries, even the average ones in the European Union, with a shallow level of its own innovative and technology production and substantial reliance on Russian, not entirely legal capital. This is where the most intriguing thing appears.
As previously stated, overall gas consumption is roughly 9-10 billion cubic meters. Gazprom has consistently supplied approximately 90% of Hungary’s total consumption. As a result, it appears unlikely that the gas supply will be limited to 4.5 billion cubic meters, as specified in the agreement. More likely is the scheme in which 4.5 billion cubic meters are supplied through the energy company MVM Group at an estimated contract price of $ 200 per thousand cubic meters. Another 4.5 billion cubic meters are provided at market prices at an estimated price of $ 1500 per thousand cubic meters through commercial entities affiliated with Gazprom and the Orban regime.
As a result, the difference between the contract and market prices is the amount Hungarian officials and Gazprom structures can pocket – 1.3 billion dollars.
Orban will continue to laud Putin’s Russia while blaming the European Union and the United States for attempting to diversify the country’s energy source so that regular Hungarians can have heat in their homes. Furthermore, such funds can be used to exorbitantly increase the repressive machinery, further repressing the opposition and imposing punitive measures on individuals with a vision for improving Hungarians’ lives.
This leads to a further logical query. Suppose Hungary’s energy dependence on Russia is the same as in Belarus. What kind of energy security can the Orban government talk about, given that Hungary’s energy dependence on Russia is 90%? Economic expansion will definitely be followed by political development, which usually ends with tanks, machine guns, and cannons.
Hungarians must remember 1956, so they do not tread on the same rake again. The Orban government is actively guiding the country in the Belarusian situation. As a result, the answer to the issue of when Russia will come rattling guns at the Hungarians is only a matter of time. So, if the current tendency continues and nothing changes, we can expect another corrupt and cruel dictatorship in the heart of Europe, a puppet of Russia.