After bilateral talks with British Secretary of State for Defence Penny Mordaunt and the signing of a declaration of intent, Mr Benkő told the Hungarian news agency MTI that the goal is to strengthen and tighten Hungarian-British bilateral relations.
In the past few years, various cooperation exercises have started, primarily between the air forces of the two countries. Additionally, officers of the two countries take part in joint missions in the Western Balkans region which is of particular significance for Hungary: British soldiers are also present in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Defence Minister stressed.
Mr Benkő said Hungary would like this close cooperation to continue also beyond the cessation of Britain’s EU membership (Brexit). Regardless of Brexit, the United Kingdom appreciates and accepts the responsibility it bears for Europe’s security, the Defence Minister said after his talks in London.
He added that he raised at the meetings that security factors are changing rapidly, ever greater challenges, risks and threats are emerging, including hybrid warfare which first appeared in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The challenges that are emerging in cyberspace are manifestations of this new phenomenon.
As part of a ten-year defence and military development programme, Hungary has begun preparations for cyberspace operations, and is seeking opportunities for cooperation also in this field as this is equally important for both countries, the Defence Minister said outlining the topics of his talks in London. He said Hungary has started the establishment of a regional headquarters of special operations forces, and NATO’s Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine operates in Hungary.
Mr Benkő encouraged British Secretary of State for Defence Penny Mordaunt to join these institutions. The British use methodologies that are different from those of the United States or Hungary, but from the respect of experience gathering and experience sharing, cooperation could be extremely important and valuable for Britain as well, the Defence Minister stressed. Mr Benkő said he stressed at his talks with British partners in London that it is a completely flawed claim that Hungary is hindering Ukraine’s NATO accession.
“We did help Ukraine a great deal, we agree that Ukraine, too, should reach the level where it can join [NATO]. However, Hungary cannot just stand by and do nothing when Hungarians in Transcarpathia are treated in an unlawful and insulting manner, despite the fact that Hungary had previously supported Ukraine’s NATO accession aspirations,” the Defence Minister said. He added that at his talks in London he said it is necessary for everyone to acquaint themselves with the history of each country and the given situations in order to arrive at the right conclusions, instead of “irresponsible statements made by various people in different places”.
At a meeting with experts, Mr Benkő confirmed that Hungary is honouring its undertaking to raise the level of its minimum defence expenditure to 2 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024. He added that, based on the results achieved so far, this target could be reached even before 2024.