Lech Wałęsa: Moscow is closer to Poland than New York

In an interview with the pro-Kremlin Russian news website Sputnik, the world-famous former Polish anti-communist Solidarity leader and president Lech Wałęsa deplored the current state of Polish-Russian relations and said that he would like to meet with Putin, whom he deemed to be “a wise man”.

Poland’s former president claimed that Poland could have had better relations with Russia now if he had better capitalised on his friendship with Boris Yeltsin when he was in power. “Together with Yeltsin we could have set relations right with Russia. I had plans that I could have succeeded with him. He was an open man,” said Mr Wałęsa.

Poland’s former president Lech Wałęsa criticized himself for setting the goal to improve relations with Russia as part of his second presidential tenure that would have started in December 1995. However these plans never came to fruition due to his defeat to Aleksander Kwaśniewski in the presidential elections.

“We really would have different relations now because we must have good relations. When the two of us [Poland and Russia - ed.] quarrel, a third state starts making money out of it. We must step off this path. We must seal a deal. We must understand each other … and this is possible. And it was possible with Yeltsin. The only thing is that I left it for my second tenure and I lost the elections, I didn’t get a second tenure,” said Mr Wałęsa.

Poland’s former president also said that he had tried discouraging Boris Yeltsin from pursuing superpower, as well as the federal policies that the country was seeming to embrace more and more with the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“I explained it to Yeltsin and he understood me. I told him ‘Russia is a beautiful country. Russia is a car: a Mercedes, a Ford. It’s beautiful! But you have piled clutter on this beautiful car, some armchairs, like when you’re moving from place to place, you know. Get rid of this clutter! Get rid of those republics! If they want to join Russia, they need to look good,’” said Mr Wałęsa adding that Mr Yeltsin had liked what he heard.

Mr Wałęsa claimed that he could explain his rationale to the current president of Russia Vladimir Putin. “Russia is beautiful but … somewhat hegemonic. But I think I could explain that to Putin as well. If only I had more talks with Putin … I could convince him, because he’s a wise man. He’s wise but he needs to be given more arguments,” stressed Mr Wałęsa, adding that he would go to Russia to talk with its president if only he was invited. “I have no invitation,” he explained, even imploring the journalist to sort out an invitation for him. “Get me an invitation and I will go. Without a doubt!”

Mr Wałęsa also said that he does not like the fact Poland resorts in its policies to the US. Upon the Sputnik interviewer’s naming the US “Poland’s Mecca”, Mr Wałęsa said that he does not like the current Polish government's policies, that he is against it and that “Moscow is closer to us [Poland - ed.] than New York.”