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29 Feb, 2020 10:19

Europe & US use Russia-Poland discord to their advantage, first post-Cold War Polish leader Walesa tells RT

Europe & US use Russia-Poland discord to their advantage, first post-Cold War Polish leader Walesa tells RT

Poland and Russia must lay “old ghosts to rest” as the US exploits their bitter strife to its own advantage, former Polish President Lech Walesa – who led the fight against Communist rule – told RT.

Moscow and Warsaw need to bury the hatchet and sort out their troubled shared history as part of an open and honest dialogue instead, Walesa believes, adding that the endless quarrels that have lasted for decades have so far led the two neighbors nowhere. 

“We can’t change history,” the former president told RT. Still, Walesa – whose Solidarity trade union movement led the struggle against the Communist rule and Soviet influence in his homeland in the 1980s – said it is high time the two nations laid “the old ghosts to rest” and started cooperating.

“We have this trail of mutual grievances, and until we deal with that we won’t arrive at a compromise,” he said, adding that the two nations are now engaged in a “useless struggle.”

Ghosts of the past

Relationships between Moscow and Warsaw, which have never been particularly cozy, have seen another downturn in recent months after Poland pushed a resolution through the European Parliament pinning part of the blame for the outbreak of WWII on the USSR. The move sparked an angry reaction from Russia, which has long been dissatisfied with Warsaw’s policy of WWII revisionism, including the removal of monuments to Soviet soldiers who died to liberate Poland from the Nazis.

The situation then spiraled into a diplomatic row as Warsaw continued to level accusations against Moscow. Russia, in turn, argued that Poland was “rewriting history,” while the US and Germany rushed to the defense of their NATO ally. This disagreement led to Polish President Andrzej Duda snubbing a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Jerusalem, simply because the Israelis had Russian President Vladimir Putin speak at the event but did not offer Duda the chance to do so.

This did nothing to calm the situation, and in late January Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski demanded that Russia pay its dues for what he called "war crimes" and "occupation" during the Communist rule. Walesa notes that, in its drive to blame past tragedies on Russia, Warsaw tends to ignore the role of its modern allies and friends in the West.

“Treaties were signed, securing the obligations and duties of the Western powers, but they betrayed us, and it was felt by everyone in Poland,” he said, referring to defense cooperation agreements Poland had with the UK and France before it was attacked by Germany in September 1939.

Perceived threats & imaginary allies

Even now, other nations still benefit from the continued and largely senseless rivalry between Moscow and Warsaw, he warned.

“Every time we ran into a disagreement between us, there were always some third parties profiting from it. They took advantage of our differences and disagreements. The time has come for us to put an end to this and build good relations.”

Even now, countries like the US – which Warsaw sees as a sort of bastion, helping protect it from the perceived threat posed by its eastern neighbor Russia – might in fact be pursuing its own goals under the guise of help.

“They made money off of us, off our conflicts. It is time to put an end to that. That is what Americans are like.”

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The former dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate recalled how Washington said it supported his anti-Communist movement while simultaneously cozying up to Moscow under Mikhail Gorbachev. “They said they were helping us, but they were actually helping Gorbachev. I had to fight that system and the US.”

“If we could come to an agreement with Russia, it would shock all of Europe and the US. They use the discord between us to their advantage.”

He also said that the ever-increasing American military presence on Polish soil, hailed by the current authorities as a boon to national defense, is in fact senseless and does not enhance Poland’s security.

“I think that it’s psychologically comforting to have US troops on Polish soil,” he admitted, before noting that “by all logic, there is no point in it.”

“As you probably know, we have so many weapons we can annihilate all life on Earth ten times over. Now they are arguing over the eleventh time. There will be no eleventh time.”

‘Populists & rabble-rousers’

It is not just some outside influence that drives Poland towards constant conflicts with Russia, though. Many national politicians are ready to sacrifice international relations to their own narrow political goals as well, Walesa believes. He explains that political leaders simply have no new ideas to offer their voters, and thus prefer to stir up nationalist sentiments and cling to outdated boogeyman stories.

Initial attempts at reconciliation between the two nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union were soon abandoned, and what we hear now is “the voices of populists and rabble-rousers” that managed to take power and hijack the agenda amid the lack of more sound political ideas.

The former president holds quite critical views on the EU as well. He did admit that Poland’s membership of the bloc helped it to move forward and adapt to the changing world. Despite this, he is under no illusion as to where the union is heading.

He pointed to the fact that most voters have grown weary of the mainstream political elite, signaling an urgent need to change for the whole system. “Lately, in many countries the majority of people don’t go and cast their vote. So I am asking you, how is this democracy then?”

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“In the near future, though, we’ll face a truly grave problem. Politicians will have disappointed people so much with their lying and stealing that the only ones to turn up for elections will be the candidates themselves.”

Yet the EU bureaucrats continue with their daily routines while sticking to the same old habits and simply silencing any dissenting voices. “Today a country is part of the EU, and tomorrow it becomes the fifth column,” Walesa said.

“What we have is the EU taking our money and acting against us. It is chaos and confusion all around… We should keep up with the times and the changes taking place. And what we do all the time instead is argue with the Russians, and nothing good comes out of it.”

To resolve these issues, the Poles, together with other Europeans, need to abandon the logic of confrontation and turn to genuine dialog instead – a dialog that should involve Russia as well.

“I’d say we’re all living in the era of discourse and discussions. We can find a different kind of solution. We need to reconcile with Russia. We need to leave the past behind and start building something new.”

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