CONCORD — Lech Walesa, the Solidarity union founder and ex-president of Poland, urged America to lead efforts to advance democracy in the world and to encourage the Russian people to reject their leadership.
The former Nobel Peace Prize winner told a joint session of the New Hampshire Legislature Thursday that citizens should support resettlement efforts for the 2.6 million Ukrainians who have fled that war-torn country to seek asylum in Poland.
Walesa, 78, became the first, popularly-elected leader of his country and said American leaders in the late 1990s rejected his push at the time to “disintegrate” all remnants of the former Soviet Union.
With Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Walesa said now it’s time to finish the job.
“Looking at the current situation right and as a revolutionary, right now I think it is the moment to finish that task which I wanted to accomplish,” Walesa said to loud cheers from lawmakers in historic Representatives Hall.
Walesa had fought against Communist control of his home country and left no doubt his view of its future.
“It has proven totally ineffective outside the world. Mankind has no time for further experiments so Communism is out,” said Walesa, whose comments were met by a standing ovation.
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He said this is the perfect time for the U.S. to step in and assert its moral authority.
“Here I am on bended knee, to restore the leadership position of the U.S. in the world. The providence has given you such strong potential and you really can be the leader of the world,” Walesa said.
“If we are successful in this second part of our task, they will say of us in the future that not only did they demolish the old order but they constructed a good one.”
Part of that strategy will be to sow unrest with Putin among the Russian people, he said.
“We need to be intent on motivating them to oppose Russia and make them want to break free from Russia,” Walesa said.
“What we want to do is not against the Russian people. On the contrary, Russia and the Russian people will be grateful to us… instead Russia can be such a beautiful country but not bigger than 50 million inhabitants.”
After Walesa’s 20-minute speech, he went to view the Visitor Center at the State House and posed for pictures with admirers.
House Democratic Leader David Cote of Nashua said it was an honor to have Walesa address lawmakers.
“Granite Staters and people across the globe have long admired President Walesa’s fearless activism for human rights, labor justice and democracy,” Cote added.
“President Wałesa’s message was an urgent and imperative one — that a Democratic society is fragile and as a world leader, America must continue its leading role in preserving it.”