The West should either change the Russian “political system” or instigate a massive uprising, Lech Walesa believes

The world will never be safe as long as modern-day Russia exists, former Polish president Lech Walesa told French broadcaster LCI on Friday, claiming that Russia is “imperial” in nature and will always seek to “keep annexing peoples.”

Even if Western nations would help Ukraine to win its ongoing conflict with Moscow, they would still fail to make the world a safer place, Walesa argued, adding the international community would potentially see another conflict involving Russia “in five years.” “In ten years, we will see another Putin arise,” he added, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is increasingly portrayed as an autocratic strongman by Western officials and the media.

To avoid such a development, the West “must force [a] change of political system” in Russia, the former Polish president believes. If it proves to be impossible, “organizing an uprising” would be another option, he said.

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According to Walesa, Russia still has “60 peoples, who have been annexed like Ukrainians [are being annexed] today.” It would be “necessary to stir those peoples … to action” to bring Russia’s population “back to less than 50 million,” the former president said, pointing to a potential forceful disintegration of the modern-day Russia. According to the latest population census held in 2021, Russia’s population currently amounts to around 147 million people, the state statistical agency, Rosstat, said in April.

Walesa, who was a co-founder of the Solidarity movement that brought down the socialist government in Poland, also argued that the West should have “brought Russia down” but it eventually fell for the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev’s positive image and wasted its chance.

“We should have brought Russia down. But Gorbachev was too smart. We said to ourselves at the time: ‘There was Stalin, Brezhnev, but Gorbachev is nice’,” Walesa said, adding that “it was our mistake then.” According to the former Polish leader, Russia was allowed to “wait out” the hard times and to “carry on like they have done for centuries and keep annexing people into their empire.”

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The former Polish president also defended NATO and EU expansion by saying that, although the West has its own interests and seeks to exert its influence and power, it does so “in a democratic way.”

“There are two systems now: … the democracies and NATO, which want to expand but [do so] through democratic means, by seeking approval of the peoples, [and] … Russia and China, who have resorted to the old methods of annexation,” he said.

Walesa, who was president between 1990 and 1995, has recently emerged as one of Russia’s fiercest critics. In early February, even before the start of the Russian military action in Ukraine, the former Polish leader called on the world to “mobilize” for an “immediate response” to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. At that time, he said an attack on Kiev by Russia should be followed by “an attack on Moscow.”

Back in early February, Walesa still called Russia “a great country” that just “has problems.” He also admitted that he “respected Putin very much and supported him.”

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