Hungary

Hungary could force a conservative reckoning across Europe

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

The European Parliament passed a rare motion Wednesday condemning Hungary for violating the European Union's founding values, which center on democracy and respect for the rule of law.

The backdrop: Since 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has sought to transform Hungary into what he calls an "illiberal state," melding crony capitalism with a crackdown on the independent judiciary and media, a restructuring of the electoral system, and a string of other assaults on civil institutions.

Rising European fear: Strongman-dominated global "jungle"

June 28, 1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 5 minutes before his assassination triggered WWI. Photo: Bettmann/Getty

The spread of anti-establishment movements in the U.S. and Europe — fed by a gnawing sense of Western failure — suggests a restoration of "the jungle," the more dangerous, strongman-led politics that preceded World War II, according to a leading historian.

Why it matters: Over the last week, politicians and voters in Italy, Hungary and Sweden have reinforced Europe's move away from the U.S.-led order. But historian Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution says many forget that, prior to the war, normal European politics gave birth to fascism, Nazism, genocide and some of history's most predatory dictators.