After Orban says Trump won’t fund Ukraine, Trump campaign says Europe should pay more of war costs

Written by on March 13, 2024

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends ADF Talks as part of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF) at NEST Congress and Exhibition Center in Antalya, Turkiye on March 01, 2024. (Emin Sansar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — After Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán claimed in a recent interview that former President Donald Trump told him he would suspend U.S. military aid to Ukraine to end its conflict with Russia, the Trump campaign is doubling down on Trump’s previous comments that other countries should pay more of the cost of the Russia-Ukraine war.

“President Trump has repeatedly stated that a top priority in his second term will be to quickly negotiate an end to the Russia-Ukraine war,” Trump campaign communications director Steven Cheung said in a statement when asked about Orbán’s remarks on the subject.

“Also, President Trump believes European nations should be paying more of the cost of the conflict, as the U.S. has paid significantly more, which is not fair to our taxpayers,” Cheung continued, adding the claim that the war between Russia and Ukraine would never have happened under a Trump presidency.

The latest campaign statement comes after Trump hosted Orbán at his Mar-a-Lago club last Friday, where he repeatedly praised the Hungarian leader — largely thought of globally as an authoritarian — calling him a “non-controversial figure.”

After the meeting, Orbán told Hungarian state media that Trump had told him he would “not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war … Therefore, the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet.”

On the campaign trail, Trump has been ambiguous on the issue of funding for Ukraine, simply insisting that he will end the Russia-Ukraine war immediately if he returns to the White House, without explaining how exactly he would do so.

At one point last year, however, Trump did urge Congress to stop funding Ukraine until the Biden family was investigated.

Trump’s reported plan to cut off funding for Ukraine and his campaign’s push to get U.S. allies to increase their defense spending also comes on the heels of recent backlash Trump faced for saying he wouldn’t protect a NATO nation that didn’t contribute enough defense funds and, instead, he’d “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want.”

“You don’t pay your bills, you get no protection. It’s very simple,” Trump said at a campaign event in Conway, South Carolina last month.

In response to the backlash to Trump’s recent NATO comments, his spokesman issued a statement last month swiping at “Democrat and media pearl-clutchers.”

“President Trump got our allies to increase their NATO spending by demanding they pay up, but Joe Biden went back to letting them take advantage of the American taxpayer,” the spokesman said. “When you don’t pay your defense spending you can’t be surprised that you get more war.”

Prime Minister Orbán has championed what he calls an “illiberal democracy” and has worked to dismantle the country’s political system to rule by decree to ensure his continued power.

He has also faced criticism for railing against immigrants and same-sex couples, and for arguing that countries should preserve Christian roots. In the past, Orbán has reportedly said he wants to prevent Hungary from becoming a “mixed-race” society.

Trump’s critics say his close association with Orbán is a prime example of how the former president has embraced autocratic leaders who have pushed for a shift from democratic norms, along with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I had a very good relationship with him,” Trump previously said of his relationship with Putin during an interview with NBC News’ Kristen Welker last year — while at the same time adding he was tough on Putin. “And yet nobody was tougher on Russia than me. I stopped Nord Stream II… Biden came in and he approved it. There was nobody tougher than me with Russia. And yet I got along with Putin.”

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