As the new-era cold war escalates, China and America are each taking steps to ensure that their allies are not investing in the competitor’s technology. The most recent in this conflict is Mike Pompeo’s announcement in Hungary: the U.S. will consider halting some of its programs in Europe if the allies will go on cooperating with China’s telecom giant Huawei. Pompeo is currently touring Central Europe and his choice of the country is not left to chance: Huawei has a massive presence in Hungary, which is both the EU and NATO member.
In his speech, Pompeo explained that while Hungary was an independent country, he strived to clarify the risks associated with Huawei technology. He pointed out that such use could result in gross privacy violations. The 5G technology allows for faster internet speed, but it also opens unprecedented levels of connectivity of devices using it. Pompeo noted that he has already discussed the situation with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and that a conversation with the prime minister was on the way.
Szijjarto responded by admitting Huawei’s presence in the Hungarian market, at the same time downgrading its significance. He pointed out that Hungary’s share in the overall EU-China trade was only a little over 1 percent, adding that this guaranteed his country full privileges of keeping the status of an ally.
Pompeo will iterate the same message in Poland and Slovakia, which he visits this week. He says the goal of the tour is to re-engage the Central European countries, which were left out of the U.S.’s focus for years. As a result, Russian and Chinese influence in the region is on the rise, politically and economically. Pompeo emphasized in his Hungarian speech that both states were notorious for their authoritarian regimes and the dangers of allowing them to gain a foothold in Central Europe were very real. The ultimate threat, he noted, was the possible split that such impact can cause between NATO allies.
Hungary’s political establishment, despite the country being part of the European Union, is shadowed by accusations of authoritarianism itself. Viktor Orban, the prime minister, is tough on migrants and continuously seeks to restrict press, labor unions and civil liberties. Hungarian civic groups met with Pompeo to discuss the restrictions as well as ways to foster transparency in their country with the U.S. aid.
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