Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are “enemies of consensus”. The two leaders, in fact, carry on individual battles that block important decisions: the Hungarian prime minister opposes the oil embargo against Russia, a European measure that must be adopted unanimously, while the Turkish president blocks the accession process of the Sweden and Finland to NATO.
The two countries are part of Western institutions: they are in NATO and Hungary is also one of the countries of the European Union. Yet Ankara and Budapest not only evade the broad consensus of their partners, but conduct diplomacies that we could define as “transnational”, that is, they negotiate their own alignment.
The solitary opposition of the two rebel governments takes away from the West the image of unanimity that was widespread after the start of the war in Ukraine. This unity constitutes a strong point in front of Russia, which had foreseen greater divisions and reticence in the support given to Kiev.
Past glories and new influences
Orbán and Erdoğan have several points in common. They are both adepts of what is called “illiberalism”, that is, an authoritarian democracy, and belong to the category of “strong men” which has returned to assert itself on all continents. Finally, they are both at the helm of old empires that consider themselves mistreated by history and try to regain an influence worthy of their past glory.
Each applies their power to harm the process that interests them from a national point of view. Orbán is the only Union leader to admit his closeness to Putin. Although he accepted the imposition of previous sanctions, he now refuses to participate in the oil embargo, also because he himself is hit by European sanctions for violating the rule of law.
Erdoğan acts on another level. Before letting Sweden and Finland join NATO, he demands that the two countries renounce the support given to the Syrian Kurds and hand them over twenty Kurdish political refugees. The Turkish president also called for the release of US arms sales to frozen Turkey following Ankara’s purchase of Russian material. Obviously this behavior is not up to the war context, but the two leaders are aware of their power and want to monetize it.
How to avoid this kind of problem? There are two scenarios: the first is the extension of the field of decisions taken by majority and no longer by unanimity within the European Union. The change is under discussion and could constitute one of the reforms brought about by the Ukrainian crisis, with the aim of speeding up the decision-making process.
The second scenario is more complex. In the emerging multipolar world, several middle powers are trying to emancipate themselves. This is the case in Turkey and other countries in the Middle East. You have to get used to it. Alignment no longer makes sense to exist and it doesn’t necessarily mean bad news.
On the other hand, what is problematic is the fact that some countries are part of a “club” but do not respect its rules. Hungary and Turkey, each with its own agenda, clearly belong to this category. Sooner or later their position will have to be clarified.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)