Safarov Repatriation Ended Hungary’s Status As A Reliable Strategic Partner, Says Former US Ambassador

Former US Ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis
Former US Ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis

Former US Ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis

(Washington Post)—In her newly published memoir of her 2010-2013 term as American Ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis discusses the US State Department’s loss of faith in the administration of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, according to a June 19 review by the Washington Post.

In what the review 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.”


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  1. Jack Kalpakian said:

    We do not see any price paid by Hungary for this. NATO and the complex of security relationships it brings has become a get out of jail free for its members for all manner of fracas.

  2. Mkhitar Yepremyan said:

    Oh, now you are realizing the goof up! Better now than never.

  3. C said:

    RIGHT… The US just couldn’t abide by Hungary’s cozy relation with Azerbaijan…

    Just ask Matthew Bryza, US Ambassador to Baku in the period before/after Safarov “liberation”.
    Or his successor since 2012, Richard Morningstar, previously championing human rights
    in such domains as the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Nabucco pipeline plan,
    and as “Special Envoy” for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy/ Eurasian Energy.

    What did the US actually DO to “clean up” or “fix” the (Armenia-)Azeri situation following Safarov? Was there a war I slept thru, and NKR is now free from Azeri threats and violence?
    Strange that the US still cannot recognize NKR’s vote to secede from Azerbaijan… nor even the legal parameters of Azerbaijan’s own secession from USSR, explicitly allowing NKR’s own vote of secession…

    But at least we can rest peacefully, knowing the US ceaselessly works to protect human rights all over the world, it’s global surveillance networks allowing it to reveal SOME corrupt foreign politicians’ evil doings, as in Macedonia or FIFA… Bizarre how the US’ global surveillance seems to have missed the criminality and corruption of it’s close allies in Poland (Civic Platform) and Saudi Arabia (to name two recent examples). …Obviously, HAD the US known of that corruption, it would have taken a stand for liberty and freedom, rather than play games of blackmail and collusion with such criminals.

    But we can still dream of a world where even Hungary aim to follow the glowing lead of the US in matters of human rights and ethics.