Electronic Resource Centre for Human
Critical Choices for Hungary
Critical Choices for Hungary
Hungary's National Security
Written by: Tibor Dessewfy and Ferenc Hammer
Last day of data collection: July 20th, 1994.
Hungary at the crossroads
"A state that is constantly under external threat (or the fear of external
threat) cannot build democratic institutions, while a community unable to come to a truce
with itself cannot build a dialogue with its neighbors."
At the break-up of the Soviet Union many social scientists spoke about 'the end of history' when referring to the end of Cold War animosities. Paradoxically this period saw the out-break of wars on Hungary's borders. Since the rebellion in 1956 - that is for nearly forty years - there has not been armed conflict within Hungary. In the light of our stormy history, these years of peace should not be looked down upon. Who has not thought about when this period of peace might end? What can we do to make sure peace remains unbroken for as long as possible?
This question is difficult to answer because European defense policies have changed so
much over the past few years. We can no longer rely on the terms and ideas that we used
just five years ago to define our security interests. Some defense experts today say that
our armed forces need not be so prepared for a mass attack, as trained to deal with such
emergencies as an invasion of a massive wave of refugees, the sudden loss of imported
energy, or a campaign against organized crime.
This has all changed. In Hungary now we can talk about our role in our national security. To be able to determine how we need to act in the future we need to make a series of decisions: we need to know whether or not we have anything to fear from the direction of the former Soviet Union; and we need to decide where we draw our defense borders, or in other words, what responsibility (if any) Hungary has towards Hungarians living beyond its borders. And yet another issue is hidden behind these questions, the issue of. Who has the right to make these decisions?
To answer the questions we need to know whether we are afraid that Hungary will become involved in armed conflict. According to a poll carried out in 1994 we are even more afraid than the Czechs, the Poles, the Slovaks, and the Russians. Do we know who and what we flow? Do we know where the border lies between justifiable caution, and groundless few? After our experiences in the Cold War, do we know what it means to live in peace?
This chapter tries to find the common ground between discussions about these issues. In what follows readers will become acquainted with three concepts of Hungary's national security interests. Each of the three options approaches the problem of defense in its own way, and each regards differing methods as being the key to keeping the peace. These options are not mutually exclusive. They have been developed to help forum participants come to an agreement about what they believe important to Hungary's defense through a discussion of the ideals and concepts hidden within each option. According to experts Hungary has three major choices in its security policies: Joining NATO, and the Partnership for Peace; stressing diplomatic connections and peace treaties; and strengthening our armed forces. Let's take a closer look at the reasons for pursuing these choices.
(At the end of the chapter you will find a short description of the major political, historical, and diplomatic terms used here.)
"With the exception of short periods of time the small nations of Central Europe have always belonged to the sphere of interest of one great power or another. The situation today is only temporary. A vacuum of power never lasts long in this region. It would be better to choose our greater allies now than to be forced to make alliances later."
Time and again in the course of her history Hungary has been forced to defend her independence - with greater or lesser success - from much larger empires. The size and location of the country have always made alliances with greater powers unavoidable. Many believe that this is still the case. Russia, the greatest successor state to the Soviet Union, is still a power to be reckoned with and its internal affairs are unpredictable. Sizable nuclear arsenals are to be found in many of the former members of the Soviet Union, including Hungary's neighbor The Ukraine. Not a single day passes without armed conflict somewhere in the region once encompassed by the Soviet Union. A country as small as ours is unable to defend itself against such threats without help.
The leader of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, is the United States of America, and the USA is arguably the greatest military power the world has ever seen. This is guarantee enough that any member of NATO will enjoy protection from any external attack. This is why real security can only be provided by Hungary's full membership in NATO. We need to use every tool at our disposal to reach full membership as soon as possible, but in the meantime we should take advantage of what the Partnership for Peace proposal has to offer. As long as we are not NATO members we cannot expect military help from the West. But if we can tie ourselves closer to NATO member organizations and countries in other ways - for instance, through the Partnership for peace - we will be taking a step to discourage aggression from our neighbors.
It is common knowledge that Hungary will have to wait for some time for full membership in NATO. It is very little known, however, what advantages the Partnership for Peace proposal has to offer the country as it seeks links with the West. The Hungarian defense forces have been under reform for some time to make them more compatible with NATO. Under Partnership for Peace the armed forces' command structure needs to be modernized, and Hungarian officers should gain training in the use of the most up-to-date defense technology.
However, no matter how convincing arguments for joining the Partnership for Peace, serious arguments can be brought against over-reliance on the West.
"With the close of the Cold War such diplomatic forums as the European Parliament and the United Nations will play more important roles in the world. in fact many see such organizations as the key to conflict prevention in Europe in the future. Hungary should also seek to represent and protect her interests and to guarantee her security here."
Historically speaking, war has always proven to be the worst way for Hungary to solve her international conflicts. We have not won a single war in 500 years. This sad tradition would continue today if we were to enter an armed conflict. A country as small as Hungary can only provide a war with bodies. With today's modern weapons a single terrorist can cause enormous destruction, not to speak of an enemy's army. This is why we should not speak about how to win a war, but how to prevent war.
We shouldn't forget about the Hungarian minorities living in neighboring countries. To improve living conditions for minorities we need to soothe historical tensions. We need to make it clear that we have no intention of seeing our borders change. The best way of doing so is to establish mutual trust through diplomatic negotiations, and not to increase tensions through mutual defense alliances. The treaties recently signed with Slovakia and The Ukraine will serve this purpose. The only way to achieve Kossuth's old dream of a regional community with porous borders where people can move freely is through such treaties. The trust and understanding built at diplomatic negotiations are what Hungarians living outside the country's borders need most. Such regional negotiations could fit into the Helsinki Accords, as all Europe has acknowledged that nobody could win another general war on the continent.
Taking into account the fact that catching up with Western Europe economically, politically and militarily is at least as important to our neighbors as it is to Hungary the representation of our interests in international diplomatic organizations will make it less likely that our neighbors will risk their integration efforts for short-term military advantages.
Many people, however, say that as history is full of examples of injustices, and uncalled for aggression that have been made valid by time, one should not put too much trust in simple negotiation.
"NATO came to be as a response to the Soviet threat, and the Council of Europe's organizations have not yet proven their effectiveness in a crisis. As long as we cannot entrust others with our security we will have to provide for our own defense."
It is easy to agree with the two options that preceded this argument. If the world's most powerful defense alliance is willing to ensure our defense, and if we are able to work out our differences with our neighbors in diplomatic negotiation, then we have no real reason to fear for our security. Unfortunately it is clear that these options will not be realized in the new future. The question is, what should we do to protect ourselves in the meantime.
The revolutions of 1989 resulted in more dm just the fall of communism, they changed the map of Central and Eastern Europe. These changes reached us as well. Of Hungary's seven neighbors, only two have unchanged names and borders. Hungary's regional significance has changed too. We may not have become a great power, but Hungary's role has grown with her neighbors' reduction in size. If we take a look at the size and quality of Hungary's military we can see that (with the exception of The Ukraine). Hungary's armed forces are a match for any military power on her borders (though not up to attack from two neighbors at once).
In the new international atmosphere it is in Hungary's best interest to develop a strong, well equipped military. Even though we may not want to enter a conflict with any of our neighbors, we should be able to defend ourselves. In fact, we need not fear an attack from one of our neighbors, but we do need to be able to prevent the spread of existing conflicts. Of course, even a powerful army would be defenseless against nuclear attack, but a strong Hungarian defense force ought to be able to turn back renegade military units, or handle a wave of refugees.
A strong Hungarian military, and the representation of Hungarian interests internationally would not contradict with Hungary's efforts to join NATO, nor with her diplomatic attempts to solve conflicts as was the case when Hungary did not allow NATO to use her airspace in its maneuvers against Serbia.
Even though we might have no aggressive intentions our negotiating power might change if we were able to back up our position with our military might. A solid defense policy backed on our own might would make Hungary more credible in her attempts to solve questions with her neighbors diplomatically, and would provide Hungary with greater respect in international organizations.
A well equipped armed forces can also have positive effects on the health of the economy. Arms production would create new workplaces and would help economic recovery. This is no small consideration.
There are serious arguments against a strengthening our Hungary's armed forces. Perhaps the most important is the lack of funds for such development. Many of us may well support the establishment of an armed forces equipped with the most modern weaponry, but this would cost so much that it would break the national economy. And even if we were able to come up with the enormous amount of money needed, such an armed forces would only serve to bring the fears and insecurities to life that have caused so much suffering in this region in the past. It is ridiculous to say that a strong Hungarian military would help our integration with NATO. A Hungary that awakens her neighbors' fears will not be able to count on the support of the West.
International experience also shows that a strong military can act as a destabilizing force in national politics, especially when a young inexperienced democracy which has not had the time to prove itself follows decades of dictatorship.
We have had a look at three ways to provide for our national defense. We first took a look; at our chances of joining NATO and the Partnership for Peace. One of the major paradoxes here is that NATO will only accept a new member if it is internally stable, and has good relations with its neighbors. In Hungary's case, we could say that we will be able to become full members of NATO when we no longer need it to defend us.
Under the second option we looked at the security possibilities offered by diplomacy. The main dilemma here is that though we may have all believed that through a comparison of our conflicting needs, beliefs, and desires we will be able to come to acceptable compromises with any negotiating partner, the wars that have broken out over the past few years and the failure of diplomatic negotiations to resolve these conflicts have proven this belief to be somewhat naive.
Finally we looked at our ability to develop a strong national defense force. Here the security provided by a powerful military has to be weighed against the destabilizing effect the establishment of one might have on our relationships with our neighbors, and against its enormous cost.
As we have seen, there are reasons for and against each option. Perhaps you now have some idea of the policies Hungary should pursue to ensure its security, if you didn't before. There are a number of important issues we have not even touched upon here. Some of these issues probably came to mind while you were reading the three options. We have listed a few of these below:
Over the past few short years Hungarians have had to make more decisions about the future of their country than other generations have had to make for decades. Decisions made today or tomorrow will determine the
course of our nation's history for decades and even centuries to come, and somehow or another these decisions will be made.
It may that national referendums will be held about which alliances Hungary should join. The question is, will we know what we are voting for? Will we know what we will be sacrificing with a 'no' or a 'yes' vote? Our decision will be determined by how much we are willing to sacrifice for security, and how much insecurity we are willing to accept. Do we really know who we can trust? Can we make decisions about the dilemma between assuring our short-term security, and seeing our long-term interests realized?
One thing is sure about all of these questions - we can't decide alone. We will only be able to make responsible decisions about our national defense if we reflect on others' views and ideas. And clear, positive defense policies can only be made if citizens have a clear idea of the choices facing the nation.
There is no way of deciding the 'quality' of any given political decision. Besides the 'technical minimum' of obeying the rules of the political game there is only one ideal we can use to make our judgment of the quality of government. This is the ideal of the common good, the interests of the nation and the people, and a determination of what makes up the common good rests on the public - on us.
However, for our private opinions to take the form of public opinion we need to publicly discuss our opinions and to act to convince others - and of course, ourselves - of the how right we are. And there is something greater at stake here too: if we come up with a few thoughts or ideas that the majority of people find acceptable, then we have a chance of reaching a common understanding or - God forbid - of working together despite our differences.
People often say that politics are not for ordinary people - that politics are a crooked game for the ruling class. And while it's true that not many people are actively involved in party politics, who do you think should make national security decisions? These are questions about which we, as citizens, should make decisions about so that we can make our views known to the representatives we choose - and to do so we need to discover what we expectations we citizens have in common of our politicians.
In the Spring of 1993 the principles of the Hungarian Republic's security policy were passed by a six party consensus. This document provides an analysis of Hungary's security concerns, and a declaration of the what the nation will strive for. In addition, it serves as a basis for the axioms to be served by the National Defense Forces.
Our concept of security is not to be restricted to military security, but should include politics, economics, human and minority rights, and cultural and ecological factors. Developments since 1989 do not indicate an outbreak of war in our region, but do point to the dangers which might arise from internal conflict in neighboring countries. The economic and social hardships citizens will suffer from as a result of the modernization of countries in our region, and the political and social instability that may arise from these hardships will have effects on our nation's security. Unresolved national and religious minority questions have the potential of putting Central and Eastern European security issues at risk, but these issues can only be resolved by political means. One potential source of danger worthy of mention is the appearance of international terrorism and crime in Hungary - or a massive wave of immigrants or refugees. One basic factor is the realization of the fact that security in any given nation is not to be improved at the cost of security in any other nation.
Therefore, whenever possible we will try to ensure our national defense through cooperation with other countries, and do not regard any country as an enemy.
Hungarian defense rests on three pillars. The first is political, economic and military integration with Western Europe which will guarantee our national security in the long-term. We mean to take part in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program which is one step on the way to full membership in NATO. We have signed a military agreement with the European Union's military organization, and have been granted associate status in the E.U. The CSCE may play an important role in the conflict prevention.
The second pillar is cooperation with countries of the region. While the Visegrad countries, the Central European Initiative, and the Adriatic-Alp Organization are loose-knit forum for consultation in our region, and not alliances, they may yet serve as forum to improve our security. We believe that bilateral attempts to improve relations between countries are of extraordinary significance here. Signed or signal treaties and agreements as to economic, cultural, or military cooperation serve the goal of improved security. And although the significance of military factors has decreased, the role played by the third pillar of national security - by the Hungarian Defense Forces - is vital. In size it meets European norms, and in accordance with the Paris Accords the number of its aggressive weapons has steadily decreased, and their location and the policies of their use are in accordance with defense, and thus are not of threat to a single neighboring country.
Hungary's defense policy's goal is to ensure the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, internal stability of the Republic of Hungary and to protect its citizens' rights and security, and thereby to maintain peace and security in Europe.
August 4, 1994. Alba Circle's Position:
We the members of Alba Circle - The Nonviolence for Peace Movement - are categorically opposed military service and any method of preparing for war. However, we do not oppose self-defense, and practice the only long-term form of self-defense - nonviolence. Violence cannot solve any problem, it can only postpone or stifle the solution of any problem.
We believe that greeting enemies with open instead of loaded arms will lead to fewer victims, and is more effective than armed conflict.
The nation or minority that uses resolute, but peaceful methods is less likely to become the victim of attack than those who strike back or shoot back. We believe that the war in Yugoslavia proves this point.
We also believe that a reduction in Hungary's armed forces would not lead to a reduction in defense.
We believe that the country should discuss Hungary's need for an army. If the majority of Hungarians decide that the armed forces are necessary to ensure Hungary's integrity, we will accept a defensive military force.
However, we cannot accept Hungary's current draft system. Hungary's draft violates modern human rights, and presses generations into slavery. The enforcement of the compulsory draft prevents the development of independent civic-thought among the young, and encourages their social dependence. The separation of the armed forces and the state would lead to a reduction in the prestige and amount of social violence.
July 27, 1994.
Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
Critical Choices for Hungary