Their exact number is not yet certain, but the order of magnitude suggests enough. More than a hundred senior Hungarian officers, including colonels and generals, have taken early retirement on orders from the Ministry of Defense. A new decree authorized Budapest to terminate the contracts of officials over the age of 45 and with at least twenty-five years of service.
According to Investigation of Independent media Telex, Between 100 and 200 of them have already been pushed towards the exits and their numbers are expected to increase in the coming weeks. Officially, this major purge is motivated by a desire to rejuvenate the army and boost its ranks with youth. The explanation was considered a bit narrow by many opposition members who sounded the alarm.
Indeed, the decision is all the more surprising as it is part of the context of strengthening the Hungarian military, a goal Viktor Orbán’s government has made since 2017. last year, After the outbreak of war in Ukraine At Hungary’s doorstep, defense spending has increased by 30%. By 2024 they have to meet the target of 2% of GDP recommended for all members of NATO.
According to Agnes Vadai, an opposition MP and former secretary of the Ministry of Defence, what is at stake now is a process. “Hungarian Army’s De-NATO”. “Officers over 45 years of age have international experience, speak foreign languages and are trained with NATO codes”, she insisted. The fact that many soldiers know about their early retirement adds weight to the hypothesis of political purges. According to telex, Some were summoned to Budapest to receive letters of thanks while on duty overseas or with NATO.
A challenging defense minister
In addition, the profile of the new defense minister appointed this summer has already raised many questions. Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, 52, a former diplomat and businessman, is suspected of maintaining ties to Russia through a Russian-Hungarian consortium active in the railway industry, in which he was a shareholder. He is suspected of a conflict of interest, this time as a shareholder in a Czech aircraft manufacturer that has now sold jets to the Magyar military.
Although Hungary is a member of NATO, Budapest worries the alliance. Parliament is yet to give its approval Finland and Sweden are NATO members, which makes Hungary the only country still blocking the process, along with Turkey. The country’s penetration of Russian intelligence services poses the threat of classified information being leaked to Moscow. After all, Budapest has stuck to its “pacifist” line, refusing to send arms to Ukraine or allow armed forces to cross its border. This week, however, Hungary approved sending 500 million euros in additional European military aid to Kyiv, while reaffirming its opposition to new sanctions.