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Now is not the time for “neutrality”

While most countries have decided their stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there are a few that pledge to remain “neutral” towards the parties of the conflict by neither condemning the war nor outright supporting it.

There is, for example, Israel, whose prime minister, Naftali Bennet, in an attempt to explain his silence on the Russian aggression, vowed to maintain his “neutrality” over the issue and even talked to Putin.

Then, we have China, which has been cooperating and coordinating its political stance in international formats and on various matters with Russia for years – to describe this new strategic alliance in global affairs the term “Dragonbear” was coined in 2015 by Velina Tchakarova. China now stated that it would maintain a “neutral stance”, as reports the government-aligned Global Times Newspaper.

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Lastly, also Hungary seemingly tries to appear as “neutral” as possbile in this conflict, despite the country being part of the EU and NATO and having aligned itself with the EU’s sanctions package. The government made it clear that it would neither allow weapons to transit the country nor send any weapons to Ukraine. 

Hungary has been criticised for its “neutrality” amongst others by Ukrainian president Zelenskyy. He also called on the Hungarian government to decide whose side they were on. As a response, Orbán argued that Zelenskyy’s requests were “outside of Hungarian interests”, trying to justify his indifference to the war that Russia is waging on Ukraine. He also seeks to portray himself on this issue as someone who only seeks to work for the Hungarian people and their interests. Given that before the start of the war Orbán faced a parliamentary election, without a doubt, his strategy was to cater to both camps of his supporters – those who support Putin and those who oppose Russia and the war, while also presenting himself as the “defender of Hungarian interests”. Yet, even after being re-elected as prime minister of Hungary, he did not toughen his stance on Russia and put aside his apparent dislike for the Ukrainian president. He continues trying to reassert Hungary’s “neutrality” towards this conflict. 

Nevertheless, as time progresses and this conflict drags on, more and more details of gruesome atrocities by the Russian military emerge. Thus, it becomes clear that states cannot maintain a “neutral stance” on this conflict. And they cannot continue arguing that their neutrality is only a way to keep themselves out of this conflict. 

To be “neutral” is to be complicit with Russian aggression and war crimes. As this conflict drags on, certain countries will have to come forward and show their true colours.

Sources

Reuters (2022): Hungary will not allow lethal weapons for Ukraine to transit its territory – FM, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/hungary-will-not-allow-lethal-weapons-ukraine-transit-its-territory-fm-2022-02-28/ 

Sheng, Y. & Yelu, X. (2022): China clarifies neutral stance as Russia, Ukraine poised for talks, Global Times, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202202/1253364.shtml 

Silverstein, R. (2022): Indifference to Ukrainian suffering could prove costly for Israel, AlJazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2022/3/18/indifference-to-ukrainian-suffering-could-prove-costly-for-israel 

Spike, J. (2022): Hungary’s Orban criticized for ‘neutrality’ in Ukraine war, APNews, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-putin-business-budapest-viktor-orban-c289237f0c626ce9447bd1c78ebcd8ae 

Tchakarova, V. (2020): The Dragonbear: An Axis of Convenience or a New Mode of Shaping the Global System?, Institute for Development and International Relations, https://www.aies.at/download/2020/IRMO-Brief-5-2020.pdf 

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