It was the Hungarian statesman, Lajos Kossuth, who once said “neutrality, as a lasting principle, is an evidence of weakness.” After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, Hungary made a clear decision to join the Western community of nations as a proud military partner and NATO member.  Since then, few Eastern European countries have been as devoted to Western peacekeeping initiatives and antiterrorism as Hungary. 

Hungarians stand as resolute allies against extremism and violence. The most recent example of Hungary’s resolve to combat extremism is our commitment to stopping the cancerous spread of ISIS in the Middle East. As Hungary’s new ambassador to the United States, I’m proud to say that in April our parliament overwhelmingly authorized the use of Hungarian troops to fight ISIS.  

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For the next two-plus years, 150 Hungarian soldiers will help train recruits at a base in the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq. With assistance from U.S. troops and other coalition forces on the ground, we hope our soldiers’ efforts will equip Iraqis with the skills they need to contain – and ultimately defeat – the forces of ISIS. The world cannot permit radical terrorists to dominate such a strategically critical and culturally rich region. 

Hungary’s vow to help vanquish ISIS is very much in keeping with our past efforts to actively participate in urgent global security matters. Since our accession to NATO in 1999, Hungary has taken part in a host of large-scale NATO operations, including in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Sixteen years after our initial commitment to the NATO launched Kosovo Force, Hungary still has more than 330 military personnel keeping the peace in Kosovo. Beginning in 2003 Hungary started to deploy troops to Afghanistan to fight alongside U.S. forces against the Taliban, working to ensure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists. We reached peak strength with approximately 530 in 2012. Unfortunately six of our soldiers were killed in action in recent years. At present nearly 130 Hungarians are serving in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. 

Additionally, Hungary has dedicated hundreds of troops to more than a dozen UN peacekeeping and peacemaking missions, including Iraq (1988-2003), Lebanon (2006-current), Georgia (1994-2009), Uganda (1993-1994), Cyprus (1995-current) and Central African Republic (2014), among others.  

Hungary is currently participating in three UN missions, dedicating approximately $40-$75 million annually. Hungary’s standing military force consists of fewer than 30,000 active duty personnel, just 2.4 percent of the size of the US military. So when hundreds of soldiers are sent to keep the peace in a foreign land, it’s not an insignificant military or economic cost. But it’s one that Hungarians feel is our moral duty.   

For two generations after the end of World War II, Hungary was forced by the Soviet Union to remain isolated from the West. But in the 24 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, Hungary has worked tirelessly to integrate itself with the West, gaining full membership to the European Union in 2004.  

Hungary is proud to be part of the coalition of nations devoted to maintaining peace and stability in volatile areas around the world. The 150 Hungarian soldiers that will be stationed in Iraq will be honored to serve side by side with their Western compatriots – as they have in the past and will again in the future.

Szemerkényi is Hungary’s new ambassador to the U.S. She previously served as chief security policy adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.