In her newly published memoir of her 2010-2013 term as American Ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis discusses the U.S. State Department’s loss of faith in the administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, according to a June 19 review by the Washington Post.
In what the Post describes as a “far more forthcoming book — personally and analytically — than one would expect from a diplomat”, Kounalakis details her disappointment at what she saw as the Hungarian governmentʼs backsliding toward a more totalitarian government, similar to the one Hungary had under communism. Instead of the “New Deal” that they had anticipated, Kounalakis writes, Hungarians were getting “the Old Deal, with government having too much control over the people of Hungary all over again.”
According to the Post review: “It took the release of an ax murderer to raise alarms in Washington. In late August 2012, Orban suddenly repatriated Ramil Safarov, an Azeri serving a life term in Hungary for hacking an Armenian soldier to death during a NATO-sponsored training program. To nobody’s surprise, Safarov received a hero’s welcome in Azerbaijan and was immediately pardoned, promoted and given a new apartment. Armenia cut off diplomatic ties with Hungary, and tensions escalated in Nagorno-Karabakh, over which Armenia and Azerbaijan had fought a war in the early 1990s.”
“Don’t they realize that their little trick could cause a war?” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marie Yovanovitch asked Kounalakis on the telephone.
“Who will clean it up — Hungarians? No, Hungarians won’t clean up the mess. We will! We will be the ones left to fix it!”
Kounalakis reveals that this diplomatic fracas was ultimately what “ended Hungary’s two-decade status as a reliable strategic partner of the United States,” according to the Post.
That little trick, Kounalakis says, ended Hungary’s two-decade status as a reliable strategic partner of the United States.”