Duncan WelchUS Ambassador left red faced
Aug. 10, 2000
US Ambassador Peter Tufo was left with egg on his face when Admiral Guido Venturoni, Chairman of the Nato Military Committee, said Hungary's MiG-29 fighter planes should be refitted to make them fully compatible with Nato's requirements.
Tufo, speaking last month, said Hungary would be wrong to deplete its reserves by refitting the MiG-29s.
"I have been outspoken in my belief that it is a mistake for Hungary to spend scarce resources on outmoded defense technology not suited to Nato's needs.
"Even upgraded MiG-29s will not serve to enhance Hungary's position within the Alliance," said Tufo, who advocated the use of American F16 or F18 aircraft.
The remarks prompted an immediate response from Defense Minister János Szabó, who pointed out that Nato was aware of Hungary's financial situation when it entered the alliance.
His statement that upgrading the MiG-29s was sufficient for Nato requirements was validated last week when Venturoni asserted the modifications would comply with Nato's defense systems.
Lajas Fodor, commander in chief of the Hungarian Air Force, said Hungary had presented its MiG-29s to Nato prior to joining and added: "These fighter jets, however, will only meet Nato's requirements if they have been refitted.
"At present the idea of purchasing new fighter aircraft is not on the agenda in Hungary. Nor has the State budget earmarked any amount for the purpose," he added.