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Pompeo seeks to end Hungary's eastward drift on Europe trip

AFP  |  Washington 

US is hoping to stall inroads of Russian and Chinese influence as he visits two of the European Union's most quarrelsome members, and

The top US arrives Monday in and will also visit and Poland, in each NATO ally highlighting Washington's role in the fall of communism 30 years ago.

Poland, eager for a strong US relationship amid a resurgent Russia, is teaming up with to hold a two-day conference on the Middle East, which has drawn limited interest as Europeans balk at Donald Trump's hawkish line on

has drawn especially deep concerns among Western powers as shows growing authoritarianism, buddies up with Russian despite Western worries over and willfully exercises Hungary's veto within the 28-member EU.

A US said will raise concerns about Orban's support for the Russian-backed TurkStream gas pipeline, Moscow's financing of the in Hungary - and especially the country's agreement to let develop its 5G mobile networks, as accuses the Chinese of undermining global security.

The right-wing leaders of and Hungary have been among the few Europeans to praise Trump, sharing his hard line against refugees, his extolling of Christian values and his antipathy toward the power of multilateral bodies such as the EU.

The initially welcomed engagement with Orban, who received the cold shoulder from former US Barack Obama, but concerns have mounted in that Hungary has moved no closer into the US orbit.

Last year, Hungary disappointed the by sending two suspected Russian arms dealers wanted by back home.

And despite the US ambassador's intervention, Budapest's renowned last year said it was moving key programs to due to tough requirements imposed by Orban on institutions it considers foreign.

The university was founded by US-Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, an outspoken proponent of liberal values, who is vilified by the far-right in both countries with imagery that is at times anti-Semitic.

The State Department said that Pompeo would not shy away from raising concerns with Orban and would meet in Hungary with groups.

Orban's scoffed at Pompeo's meeting with non-governmental groups, telling reporters: "If a US meets organizations receiving support from America, then no one should be surprised about that."

The US adamantly defended engagement with Hungary, saying the paid too little attention to while Putin visited twice last year alone.

"We have to show up or expect to lose," the said.

"Those vacuums that were created by the US not being more strongly present in these places, they do get filled and they have gotten filled," he said.

But Joerg Forbrig, an expert on at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said that Orban is a who knows that Washington has even less leverage over him than the EU, which he has defied for years despite the bloc's power of the purse over Hungary.

"This small country called Hungary, whether it's on Western values or traditional partnerships or existing integration schemes like NATO and the EU, they are completely spitting at this, and very consciously," Forbrig said.

He doubted that the and could coordinate much on Hungary in light of Trump's poor relationships with major European allies such as and

"I'm not sure Orban will be quite laughing Pompeo out the door, but I'm not sure he's taking his trip very seriously," Forbrig said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, February 09 2019. 15:45 IST