WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's former president and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said Thursday he believes that global solidarity in economic sanctions against Russia would lead President Vladimir Putin to change his aggressive policy in Ukraine.
"We can quickly win against Putin, but we need solidarity," Walesa told The Associated Press in an interview.
He said concerted and consistent decisions "not to buy something, not to sell something" would allow the world to "quickly lead Putin and Russia toward ending this idea of struggle."
"We need Russia," he said. "Russia means great opportunities, Russia is a huge country. So we need to help it to start thinking in the Western way."
European politicians have indicated that being united on an approach toward Moscow was a main priority, but also a difficult task. Financial and other sanctions that Western countries have imposed on Putin's government and pro-Kremlin oligarchs have so far done little to stop fighting in eastern Ukraine. Europe remains divided on the scope and duration of the sanctions.
Walesa, 71, spoke as Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz held talks with visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who is criticized by the West for cultivating political and economic ties with Putin.
Walesa said that Putin's policy of aggression against Ukraine was "hard to understand" in the 21st century but could result from a historic lack of democracy in Russia.
"Russia has never had democracy, it was never in this culture and it always needed an external enemy to keep internal order," he said.
Poland has a long history of conflict with Moscow. In the Cold War era it was — unwillingly — part of the Soviet bloc, but the Solidarity movement led by Walesa brought about a peaceful breakaway in 1989. Ukraine followed in 1991, as the Soviet Union crumbled, but it remained close with Russia. Poland borders both Ukraine and Russia.
Walesa suggested that business tycoons — hit by sanctions — may eventually remove Putin.
"If he doesn't do it (step down), they will help him because these oligarchs suffer such losses that sooner or later they must revolt."
Regarding his own life, Walesa said he feels only "half fulfilled" because he overturned communism in his country, but did not build the ideal political system he envisioned.
He said he didn't have any more ambitions in life.
"The only thing I still have to do, you know, is to die. Nothing more."