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Hungary–US arms deal halted as Orban blocks Sweden's NATO membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a NATO summit
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a NATO summit Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews
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Right-wing Washington lawmaker is using Senate procedure to halt arms transfers

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A lone American Senator is blocking Hungary from buying weapons from the US over its refusal to allow Sweden's accession to NATO.

Senator Jim Risch of Idaho is the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which reviews major overseas arms sales before they are given the go-ahead. His seniority gives him the prerogative to block deals unilaterally.

In a statement, Risch said his move was in direct response to Hungary's refusal to allow Sweden's accession, which requires the approval of NATO members. 

“For some time now, I have directly expressed my concerns to the Hungarian government regarding its refusal to move forward a vote for Sweden to join NATO,” he told the Washington Post. “The fact that it is now June and still not done, I decided that the sale of new U.S. military equipment to Hungary will be on hold."

According to the Post, the deal in question is worth $735 million (around €683 million) and would see Hungary receive 24 HIMARS rocket launcher batteries as well as more than 100 rockets and pods with associated parts.

Other NATO members are frustrated and in some cases puzzled as to why exactly Hungary is blocking Sweden's accession.

Some in the Hungarian government have said they are angry at Sweden for previously criticising the country's democratic backsliding, but increasingly authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also long sought to maintain good relations with Turkey, which is obstructing the Swedish membership process over the country's harbouring of people the Turkish government describes as wanted Kurdish militants.

However, both Turkey and Hungary have voted to allow Finland to join NATO, a major change to the alliance that counts as severe blowback from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Orban's stated position is that the war in Ukraine can only be resolved via diplomacy. In May this year, he told a summit in Qatar that "Looking at the reality, the figures, the surroundings, the fact that NATO is not ready to send troops, it is obvious that there is no victory for the poor Ukrainians on the battlefield. That’s my position."

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