It’s no secret that Russia has been agressively targeting Hungary and Bulgaria in its pipeline strategy – promising powerful roles as gas distribution hubs for the region (quite similarly to what Serbia was promised allegedly in exchange for allowing Gazprom’s bid to pass through on NIS). What is perhaps surprising is Hungary’s nomination this week of the KGB-trained Sandor Laborc as head of intelligence services, making him chairman of NATO’s intelligence community during the country’s one year rotation. At the official level there is silence, but many diplomats have gone off the record to register their worries, remarking that members may be less inclined to share intelligence with someone from a KGB background.
Poor Ferenc Gyurcsány – he just can’t seem to catch a break. In one moment, he finds himself backing the Blue Stream extension to help Russia defeat the Nabucco project, and in the next, he is erecting barriers to prevent Austria’s OMV from taking over MOL. Although OMV is suspected of being a trojan horse for the Russians, the prime minister still gets regularly lambasted by the opposition party for creating “Gazprom’s most cheerful barracks” and welcoming the return of Goulash State Corporatism.Some of these comments from unnamed sources within NATO about the matter are generating a lot of chatter.From the New York Times:
A diplomat from a Western country said: “It would have taken one phone call by the U.S. ambassador to NATO to stop this appointment. It would have been a signal to other countries which might think they can still get away with this.”Another NATO diplomat predicted that some countries would hold back intelligence. “Here we have a person who was trained by the K.G.B.,” the diplomat said. “I cannot assume that he has changed that much in his attitudes.” The diplomat added, “NATO, it must be said, is a very leaky organization.”Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic joined the alliance in 1999, and the rest of the former Warsaw Pact countries in 2004. After that expansion, military attachés from the Bulgarian delegation did not receive clearance to have access to a certain level of intelligence material.“You could bet that anything we shared with Bulgaria inside NATO went straight to Moscow,” said another senior Western European diplomat. “The old Communist nomenklatura and secret services is still around in Romania and Bulgaria. But I must say the case of Hungary is very, very disappointing.”In Hungary, Mr. Laborc’s appointment has deepened the mistrust and polarization between the governing Socialists and the Fidesz opposition because of the way that the prime minister bypassed Parliament’s national security committee. Until 2002 when the Socialists won the parliamentary elections, any Hungarian official who had served for more than a year in Moscow could not, for security reasons, be appointed to positions higher than a department head.“At stake is the fundamental regard for the rule of law,” said Janos Martonyi, a former Hungarian foreign minister and Fidesz supporter. After a five-hour debate by the national security committee in late November, Mr. Laborc failed to win a majority of the 11 votes.Fidesz contends that Mr. Gyurcsany, a former Communist youth leader turned millionaire who has close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, has been politicizing the secret services for domestic reasons.