Donald Trump and Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, March 8, 2024

Donald Trump has hosted Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s hard-right Prime Minister and a long-time ally of Vladimir Putin, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The two aspiring autocrats met for about an hour. Trump then took Orbán to a “members only” tribute band concert at the resort.

Praising Orbán to the audience, Trump gushed:

He’s a non-controversial figure because he says, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ and that’s the end of it. Right?

He’s the boss.

Sources “familiar with the matter” played down the political significance of the encounter. One described a “social meeting” with no agenda. Another said it was “friendly”, and a third emphasized that Orbán had sought the meeting and was planning to be in the US on separate matters.

In contrast, the Trump campaign proclaimed a discussion of “a wide range of issues affecting Hungary and the United States, including the paramount importance of strong and secure borders to protect the sovereignty of each nation”.

“Illiberal Democracy”

Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002 and since 2010, Orbán has cracked down on rights and political space in Hungary in the name of “illiberal democracy”. He has taken control of Hungarian courts and the Government dominates the media. In response, the European Union has frozen €30 billion of support funds to Budapest.

Trump and Orbán are also linked by Russia. The former was helped by Moscow in his 2016 US Presidential campaign and is an admirer of Putin. The latter has tried to assist the Kremlin by blocking European assistance to Ukraine against Moscow’s invasion — albeit eventually backing down over negotiations for Kyiv’s accession to the EU and a €50 billion EU fund for financial and economic assistance.

The Trump camp has long courted the Hungarian leader. In 2022, Orbán was a featured speaker at Conservative Political Action Conference and travelled to Trump’s New Jersey golf resort. Polemicist Tucker Carlson, then at Fox TV, paid tribute with a fawning interview of the Prime Minister in Budapest last August.

On Thursday, Orbán spoke at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank pursuing the 2025 Project to take over US agencies if Trump returns to the White House. He posted afterwards, “Supporting families, fighting illegal migration and standing up for the sovereignty of our nations. This is the common ground for cooperation between the conservative forces of Europe and the US.”

At the event, Orbán met Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who is trying to spread hard-right indoctrination and political action across Europe.

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Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, also in Florida, proclaimed, “If Donald Trump had been elected President of the United States in 2020, the war in Ukraine, now in its third year, would not have broken out and the conflict in the Middle East would have been resolved much faster.”

US President Joe Biden had a far different view, telling a crowd in Pennsylvania:

You know who [Trump] is meeting with today down in Mar-a-Lago? Orbán of Hungary, who’s stated flatly that he doesn’t thinks democracy works. He’s looking for dictatorship.

I see a future where we defend democracy, not diminish it.