Walesa: World needs to combat Iranian threat

Former Polish president to 'Post': UN "ineffective;" new organization must be created to fight terrorism.

walesa 88 (photo credit: )
walesa 88
(photo credit: )
The founder of Poland's anti-communist Solidarity movement and former Polish president Lech Walesa said Monday that a new organization is needed to lead the fight against international terrorism in the 21st century and deal with the Iranian nuclear threat since the United Nations has proved itself to be woefully ineffective in facing the challenges of the global world. "No institution has been effective in the fight against terrorism so we need to establish a new body which will deal with all the global issues or ask the US to lead the world in the fight against terrorism," Walesa said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post during a trip to Israel. The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose Solidarity trade union helped topple communism in 1989, added that it was "pure fact" that the UN had been ineffective in dealing with the three major problems of the 21st century, which he listed as terrorism, shifting borders and anti-Semitism, racism, and ethnic cleansing. He noted that the UN was established at a time when there was a bipolar system with two conflicting blocs, and was now anachronistic in dealing with the central issues facing the world today. "Unless we allow ourselves to undergo global control, we shall not survive this century," he said. Walesa argued that global agreement was essential to work out everything from Iran's nuclear threat to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, conflicts, he opined, which paled in comparison to the fight against communism. "You can see the example of [past] peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians which haven't worked and some individuals were even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but has anything come out of it?" he asked, adding that long-term stability can only come from a global - not local - approach to the conflict. Questioned over the realism of such an approach, Walesa responded that while fighting communism a quarter century ago none of the world leaders he spoke to believed that they stood a chance of bringing down the communist system short of a nuclear war. Walesa's visit, which included meetings with President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, came 17 years after he became the first Polish president to visit Israel, a year after Israel and Poland established diplomatic ties following the fall of communism. The highlight of his landmark 1991 visit was an historic address at the Knesset, in which he asked the Jewish people for forgiveness for his country's mixed past. Returning as the head of a Polish business delegation from the Rome-based Unicredit Markets and Investing Banking a decade-and-a-half later, Walesa said he was dumbfounded by the changes and development the country has undergone, and was pleased by the blossoming in Israeli-Polish relations during this time. "Israel is one huge construction site," he said, adding that he has not seen any other place in the world where so much building is going on. At the same time, Israeli-Polish ties are blooming, he said. "It seems we understand each other so very well and are doing so well together that we could establish the United States of Poland and Israel," Walesa quipped. He added that in his worldview there was "no room" for anti-Semitism in Poland or elsewhere in Europe, but, in light of a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe over the last several years, conceded that you will find "bastards" in every nation. In the interview, Walesa said he was most proud of the fact that the trade union he founded was able to defeat the communist system without bloodshed, and that despite repeated imprisonment he survived the ordeal. "If I had not survived there would definitely have been a bigger funeral," he said, matter-of-factly, referring to his drop in popularity in Poland after his one presidential term between 1990-1995. In an ironic turn of events, a year-and-a-half ago Walesa quit the former trade union that he founded in 1980 after a bitter falling-out with former comrades. He said his trade union, with some 10 million members, was more a social movement used as a base to fight for the liberation of the country, whereas the current organization, with fewer than 500,000 members, while better educated, was more limited in outlook and functioned more strictly as a trade union. "My baby has grown up and become independent," he said. "We did not get along so well together, so I said thank you very much I don't have to pay membership dues any more." Turning to Russia, Walesa said the echoes of the Cold War coming out of recent actions and statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin were symptomatic of the Russian philosophy of governing, in which an adversary, either genuine or fake, was always needed to run the country. "We must not forget that Russia, in order to be managed, needs an enemy of some kind," he said. "If no real enemy exists, they need to invent one because the concept of governing in that country is that an enemy brings Russians together." At the height of his popularity back in the 1980s, Walesa turned down a $1 million offer from Gillette to shave off his trademark mustache for a commercial, he said. "At the time it was impossible to accept at any price," he said, pointing out that he was from "the old school." Years later, when he was ready to begrudgingly face the blade the offer was no longer on the table. "This is why I remain poor," he joked. Immensely popular around the world even after his heroic image began to fade away in a democratic Poland, Walesa is also a father of eight and grandfather of 11. But Walesa, who keeps busy in the lecture circuit and media interviews around the world, doesn't like to see himself as a grandfather. "I never admit I am a grandfather," he said. "I am married to a grandmother."