In useless photo op, Bolsonaro and Orbán show off to far-right supporters

orbán hungary bolsonaro
Jair Bolsonaro in Budapest. Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

President Jair Bolsonaro’s meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Wednesday involved concrete interests regarding trade relations and defense cooperation. But his stop-over in Budapest to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán lasted just a few hours — and was little more than a photo-op to show off to his far-right supporters. 

Mr. Bolsonaro called the Hungarian leader “a brother” who shares his conservative views: “god, patriotism, family and freedom.” He added that the pair “are aligned on roughly every aspect.” 

During a joint declaration to the media, the Brazilian president expressed a desire to “strengthen the commercial relationship” between the two nations. The Hungarian market, however, is insignificant to Brazil’s exports. 

Following what his supporters did on social media, Mr. Bolsonaro tried to take credit for helping de-escalate Russia-Ukraine tensions, as the Kremlin informed it was pulling some troops from the border on the day the Brazilian president arrived in Moscow. “Whether it was a coincidence or not, war is not in anyone’s interest,” he insisted. 

But U.S. officials claim Russia has added around 7,000 troops to border posts, despite its claims of a pullback. Moreover, the Russian government has expelled the American deputy ambassador to Moscow, a “escalatory step” that, according to Washington, limits the path to a diplomatic solution — of which Brazil is in favor.

Mr. Orbán, meanwhile, used Mr. Bolsonaro as a prop to galvanize his own far-right constituency. February 10 polls pointed out that the right-wing coalition has a six-point lead over the center-left ahead of Hungary’s April election. Sided by the Brazilian president, Mr. Orbán adopted an anti-immigrant speech, catering to his most loyal electorate. 

On a practical level, Bolsonaro’s trip resulted in three agreements signed, including one regarding the defense industry. Hungary recently bought two KC-390 military freighters for USD 300 million from Brazil’s Embraer, while other Brazilian weapon manufacturers seek to expand trade with the European country. 

Since the beginning of the Bolsonaro administration, Brazil has exported guns worth USD 69,000 to Hungary.