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Hungary’s performance in NATO over the past 20 years – Past, Present, Future

This month marks the 20th anniversary since Hungary joined one of the main pillars of transatlantic political and security architecture in 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations. To celebrate the anniversary the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade has organized a roundtable discussion to evaluate the effects of the membership on Hungary – US relations, Hungary’s current military development, and what the future holds for NATO.

Hungary’s accession to NATO had both negative and positive consequences for the country. Dr. Péter Tálas, director of the Centre for Strategic and Defence Studies, highlighted that back then Hungary offered too much but was not prepared for the burdens that followed. Regardless of this, the country’s membership in NATO provided an educational experience that supported the development of the Hungarian Defence Forces for the past 20 years. Dr. Zoltán Szenes, former Chief of Staff of the Hungarian Defence Forces stressed that the current improvement phase which we are witnessing nowdays, enables a qualitative enhancement of the Hungarian Defence Forces. In turn, this results in a favourable change of perception towards Hungary within the alliance. Therefore, in the near future, probably one of the most important questions for Hungary will be how its military capability development can be synchronized with NATO's military standards.

Speaking on Hungarian-American relations, Dr. Gergely Varga, a senior research fellow of the Institute emphasized that the military cooperation and the alliance has always functioned as a stabilizing factor. For the next 20 years, one of the main challenges of NATO will be to counter the dominance of Russia and China in the field of cybersecurity. With regard to the current US administration and its stance on NATO, it is probable that in the near future Europe will have to take a bigger role within the Alliance to preserve its position in geopolitics.