Hungarian PM Angers Moscow With Nuke Remark

Russia sharply rebuked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for a remark, published October 29 in The Toronto Globe and Mail, that Hungary would consider the deployment of NATO nuclear weapons on its territory during a crisis if asked to do so. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin charged that such action would be a "direct violation" of the May 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.

In the Founding Act, which was designed to ease Russian opposition to NATO expansion, NATO members pledged that they had "no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO's nuclear posture or nuclear policy." Since its inception, Clinton administration officials have viewed the act as a political, not a legal, document.

Orban subsequently clarified his remark, saying that there was currently no reason to deploy nuclear weapons in Hungary, but that Budapest "always considers all requests from the international community." The Hungarian government later released a statement asserting that its "interest lies in a well-managed cooperation between NATO and Russia," but that it fully supports NATO's military strategy, "including its basic principle of regarding nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantee of its members' security."