The 206-page report on Russian influence, written by the minority Senate foreign relations committee, said the Hungarian government had enabled Kremlin interference to shore up its own political strength.
And Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has welcomed Russian propaganda in his eastern-European country, as “it aligns with the themes that he promotes”, such as being anti-EU, anti-US and anti-migrant.
The report, named ‘Putin’s asymmetric assault on democracy in Russia and Europe’ said: “Within the EU and NATO, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is perhaps the most supportive leader of Putin, his style of leadership, and his worldview.”
Mr Orban has said on several occasions Hungary has shot itself in the foot by supporting sanctions against Russia, and that Moscow should be praised for opposing “Western attempts of isolation, regime change”.
The report said: “Given Orban’s positive orientation towards Moscow, his government has taken no discernible steps to stop or even discourage Russian malign influence, and appears to applaud the anti-EU, anti-US, and anti-migrant Russian propaganda because it aligns with the themes that Orban promotes.
“Instead of defending Hungary against Russian malign interference, Orban appears to have welcomed it.
“Russia has exploited this relatively unimpeded access by flooding Hungary with pro-Kremlin and anti-western propaganda and reportedly providing support to far-right political parties and fringe militant groups.”
Since returning to power in 2010, Mr Orban has embraced the concept of “illiberal democracy” modelled on the “sovereign democracy” advanced by Vladislav Surkov – a Russian politician regarded as the Kremlin’s “puppet master” – in Russia, the report said.
As Mr Orban deepens relations with Russia abroad, he has steadily eroded the democratic process at home, where Hungary’s political opposition has been marginalised and civil society watchdogs have a diminished voice, the report said.
According to the report, Russia exerts influence in Bulgaria through its dominant role in the economy, primarily in the energy sector, as well as propaganda, relationships with political parties, cultural ties, and a relationship with a Bulgarian military that continues to rely on Soviet-era equipment.
The Nordic States – Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden – are those most vulnerable to Mr Putin’s political charm “when it comes to asserting that the West is in a state of moral decline”.