We strive for Hungary to be an independent country, and for the Hungarian people to be able to live in peace and security. This is one of the reasons why there is a need for the development of the Hungarian Defence Forces, and the implementation of the Defence and Armed Forces Development Programme, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő stated on 24 August, Monday, at a head of mission meeting organised at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for ambassadors.
In his address at the annual meeting of ambassadors, the Minister highlighted that a new world order is unfolding which is full of challenges, risks and threats. “Hybrid warfare” has emerged as a new military strategy which is able to exert its effects not only on soldiers and the country, but equally on public administration and the functioning of the state; today, military operations are also being carried out in cyber space.
He also mentioned that NATO has identified threats from two possible directions; Russia from the East and the unstable states of Africa, Asia and the Middle East from the South. For Hungary, the primary threat is the southerly one, and migration is a part of that. “It is for a reason that every year we send over 2,000 soldiers to peace-keeping missions” in order to create a livable world for people in the places where they were born and live, the Minister said.
Regarding NATO partnership, he said we will continue our high level of involvement in peace-keeping missions. Most of the latest procurements support our NATO objectives also directly, with special regard to the offer relating to a mechanised brigade which will be required to reach full operational capability by 2028.
The procurement of the air defence missile system, too, was implemented with regard to NATO requirements, he added. He said US support plays a key role in the development of special operations capabilities. At the same time, he stressed that also at present, special operations forces are participating in the operations of the Hungarian Defence Forces.
Mr Benkő highlighted that for several decades Hungary has been a major contributor to peace-keeping operations in the Western Balkans, as part of which Hungarian soldiers serving in the region account for almost two thirds of the mission involvement of the Hungarian Defence Forces. Hungary is among KFOR’s largest contributor as a leading nation of the Tactical Reserve Battalion.
The Minister pointed out that the establishment of the Multinational Division Command for Central Europe is going to plan. The command was a grassroots initiative of Hungary and Croatia with which they intended to further strengthen NATO’s lead-command capacity in the Eastern and Central European region, Mr Benkő highlighted. He said during peace time, the command centre will be a regional engine for capability development, interoperability, training, exercises and crisis management, while as its main mission it will contribute to the defence of the alliance.
Recently, the role of special operations in the management of non-conventional security threats has increased significantly. Accordingly, the establishment of the Special Operations Component Command with the support of regional partners (Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia and Austria) began on the basis of the cooperation of several decades characteristic of the region, the Defence Minister observed.
Mr Benkő also said Hungary assesses the security environment based on national criteria, but in a European and Transatlantic context. This is why it is important for Hungary to take part in the activities related to threats from the “East” and “South” identified as the main directions of threat by NATO. At the same time, illegal migration and the security threat posed by terrorism continue to remain absolute priorities for Hungary, the Minister added.
He pointed out that the main goal is to protect the security of Hungarian families, an outlook on life that rests on our national culture, and the social order that stems from our thousand-year-old Jewish and Christian past. At the same time, we must also face challenges from the South and the East, the Minister said continuing his address. He highlighted that we understand the threat sensibilities of our NATO allies; as a sign of our solidarity, we installed infantry companies in the Baltics twice, and took part in the air defence of the Baltic States in 2015 and 2019, the Minister recalled.
Hungary is committed to procuring the most modern and most effectively deployable equipment. The goal is to create capabilities which serve the protection of the Hungarian people and the best interests of the entire country. He also pointed out that a modern army cannot exist without modern equipment, and therefore the development and modernisation processes currently under way concern all areas of the air force and land forces. He said “we intend to manage everything in a complex manner, in a system, thereby avoiding the mistakes that were made by governments earlier in office.”
He recalled, however, that man – soldiers themselves – is at the centre of the development programme as without soldiers operating modern equipment, modern weapons are worthless. This is why they launched the defence career programme which offers soldiers not only a safe job, but also a fair and competitive pay, and provides them – and in some cases, also their family members – with a wide range of benefits in a variety of life situations.
He said the goal is to have 30,000 active soldiers and 20,000 reservists at the disposal of the country. To this end, efforts to make the military career an attractive option, recruitment, patriotic defence education and the cadet programme – as part of which further defence military schools and colleges will be established – are now at the fore.
Regarding the budget of the Ministry of Defence, he observed that next year as much as HUF 778 billion will be available. He said defence is a national cause, and so in the interest of the security of every Hungarian and of Hungary, there is an enormous need for a strong, effective and modern Hungarian Defence Forces equipped with 21st century technical equipment and capabilities, an army which plays a leading role in the region.
In the context of procurements, he said the Hungarian armed forces development programme and the pace of its implementation are remarkable also by European standards. Important elements of the procurements are 44 Leopard 2A7 tanks, 24 PzH2000 self-propelled howitzers and 36 multipurpose (H145M and H225M) helicopters. He pointed out that the purpose of the new developments is to strengthen the Hungarian economy, and to make the army self-sufficient. This is served by the relaunching of Hungary’s defence industry, for which a prime example is the weapon manufacturing plant which is being built in Kiskunfélegyháza.
Additionally, bus manufacturing and the light industry are also part of the renewal of the domestic defence industry; the training uniforms of soldiers are made in Hungary. The renewal of the Hungarian Defence Forces extends to leadership elements, the military career and the qualifications of soldiers, he added.
In his address, the Minister confirmed that the epidemic will not override Hungarian ambitions and NATO undertakings relating to the development of the armed forces, and Hungary continues to remain committed to meeting NATO requirements, meaning that by 2024, at the latest, Hungary’s defence budget will reach 2 per cent to GDP. The Minister also mentioned that the continuation of the Defence and Armed Forces Development Programme is likewise guaranteed; this firmly supports the attainment of alliance goals and the reinforcement of European multinational and defence capacities and capabilities.
Mr Benkő underlined that supporting processes of stabilisation in the Western Balkans and in Africa is a special priority for Hungary. Our continued presence in unstable regions as part of international, EU, NATO and coalition forces equally contributes to the fight against illegal migration and terrorism, the Minister said.