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posted by FerrasB on September, 2005 as Imperialism

Lech Valesa / Photo: Courtesy Roanoke Times

Lech Valesa / Photo: Courtesy Roanoke Times
Poland’s Walesa Warns Against Coercive Democratization of Post-Soviet Regimes

Created: 30.08.2005 13:17 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:17 MSK > document.write(get_ago(1125393468)); </SCRIPT>

The world needs Russia for it has huge resources, but the world wants to see it not as a hegemonic system but as a developed, democratic country, Lech Walesa said this week as he prepared to resign from Solidarity, the union he led to help shatter communism in Poland, the TimesOnline website reported.

In a statement made this week for the press, Walesa spoke of the development in Russia warning the West it should beware of Russia.

While Warsaw is filled with rumors about how the West and in particular Poland, should force the hand of President Lukashenko of Belarus, Lech Walesa said that Russia should not be provoked by an over-ambitious West keen to establish democratic governments on Russia’s borderlands, be it in Belarus or Moldova, or in Central Asia.

“Russia is at a crossroads,” he said. “Will Russia in future be a threat or a friend? That is the question. Russia is needed by every country — it has huge resources, but of course it is needed not as a hegemonic system but as a developed, democratic country.”

Lech Walesa was speaking as veteran Solidarity underground activists, erstwhile dissidents from across Eastern Europe and Western human rights campaigners met to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Solidarity. The union was born as the result of strikes led by Walesa in August 1980.

Western non-governmental organizations believe that they helped towards a remarkable Solidarity-like change of power in Ukraine and in Georgia. Polish Solidarity activists are now actively helping Belarusian dissidents to set up printing presses.

Lech Walesa fears that Poland is stumbling into a dangerously anti-Russian policy. Were the regime in Belarus to fall soon, with a helpful push from Poland, relations with President Putin would deteriorate.

“Belarus is propped up by Russia, so the question is whether the European Union and the West are prepared to compensate the Belarusians for what they lose,” Walesa said. “So I say to the Belarusians, go for democracy — but don’t make the mistakes we did in Poland.”

The Gdansk shipyards, he recalls, were dependent on orders from the Soviet Union. When communism collapsed, so did that market, and the yards — Walesa’s old workplace — were all but bankrupt.

“We have to offer these societies a new Marshall Plan,” he told The Times, referring to the U.S. postwar reconstruction aid for Europe. Were the Belarus regime to be toppled and the West to be reluctant to bail out its economy, the outcome would be an unstable state on the edge of the EU and an angry Russia.

Walesa received support yesterday from Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was National Security Adviser to President Carter. Revolutions, he said, had to be sparked from within, not transplanted from the West. “Building democracy as an imposition from abroad is a form of imperialism,” he said.

The message from Walesa and Professor Brzezinski is not particularly popular in Poland. Impatience with Belarus is growing and most politicians on the Centre Right — likely to come to power in impending elections — are willing to risk upsetting the Kremlin.

A radio station is being built up in Poland to transmit into Belarus. Non-governmental organizations are helping to train independent-minded Belarusian teachers. Polish universities are taking in Belarusian students banned from universities at home. Two EU members, Poland and Lithuania, see themselves as in the vanguard of change ahead of next year’s Belarus presidential elections.

“Russia’s problems are in proportion to its size,” Walesa said. “As long as Russia is burdened by vast economic and social dilemmas, it will be liable to seek out scapegoats elsewhere. We have to find a way of talking with the Russians, sitting together and sorting out problems, freely, and as equals.”

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