On Monday, 21 February Defence Minister Tibor Benkő received in his office Lieutenant General Roger L. Cloutier, Commander, NATO Allied Land Command (NATO LANDCOM), with whom he discussed, among other things, the emerging crisis around Ukraine.
Lieutenant General Cloutier said that during his present tour he is visiting the allied states affected by the tense security situation around Ukraine, focusing on the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe. He underlined that the Alliance has so far primarily made preventive measures, and increased the readiness posture of the NATO Response Force (NRF). He spoke highly of the joint training events and exercises organized and conducted by Hungary, and of their importance.
At the meeting, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő reaffirmed that Hungary has all the military capabilities necessary for defending the country in the present situation. Besides, in the interest of coordinating their defence capability, the Hungarian Defence Forces hold regular joint training events in the framework of bilateral and multilateral forms of cooperation. Tibor Benkő added that to strengthen its cooperative capacity, Hungary had already started the establishment of the Headquarters Multinational Division-Centre (HQ MND-C) in 2018, and has been continuously developing its armed forces, as a result of which the Hungarian Defence Forces are going to become a premier force in the Central European region.
Lieutenant General Cloutier spoke with appreciation about the Hungarian results in the field of armed forces development, the declared forces and the Hungarian efforts, which have so far been made to preserve NATO’s unity and resolve the conflict around Ukraine through dialogue. Besides, he highlighted the importance of joint exercises, in which Hungary has so far done and is visibly doing its part. The Commander of NATO LANDCOM warned that we must prepare for the escalation of the Ukraine crisis, but he sees that Hungary and the Hungarian Defence Forces have some concrete concepts and plans in this area as well.
Tibor Benkő noted that even with the tense situation around Ukraine, we must not forget about the security of the fragile Western Balkans. “Besides addressing threats from the east, the “tackling of challenges from the south” is a strategic priority for Hungary”, the minister said, adding that since we attach particular importance to the security of the region, the majority of Hungarian troops deployed on international operations are serving in the Balkans. “We are participating in regional cooperative frameworks such as the Italian–Hungarian–Slovenian Multinational Land Force (MLF) and the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC), one of whose main focuses is to preserve the stability of the Balkans region”, said Tibor Benkő.