Vladimir Putin, in one of his first moves after ending a still-mysterious 11-day disappearance, deployed a squadron of Russian bombers to Crimea — bombers capable of being armed with nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Russians also sent a battery of sophisticated, nuclear-capable Iksander missile systems to a military base in Kaliningrad, right on the border with Poland and Lithuania, both NATO allies.
The moves brought a dire warning from one of the men most responsible for shattering the Iron Curtain and bringing down the Soviet Union, former Poland President Lech Walesa (pictured above right), who said Tuesday that Putin appears intent on igniting a war that could kill millions.
“Putin has started a war with the whole civilized world,” said the 71-year-old Walesa, who as leader of the trade union movement Solidarity in the late 1980s and early 1990s led a series of protests and strikes that broke Soviet control of Poland.
“He broke agreements, contracts, guarantees… The world cannot just leave it like this. If something like this happens, only force is left. How can we win, if he is boxing, and we are playing chess?”
Walesa went on to express confidence that “freedom and democracy will win” in the possible war against the Russia of Vladimir Putin. But that victory will not come without a price, he said — especially to Russia itself.
“If Russia takes a risk and attacks Poland and other countries, it will fall into pieces,” said the revered statesman who served as Poland’s president from 1990 to 1995. “I see what will happen to Russia. Of course, a million will be killed, ten million maybe.”
While Russian defense officials said the sudden deployment of nuclear bombers and missiles to Crimea and the Polish border were simply part of a “surprise combat readiness inspection,” Poland’s current prime minister saw a political purpose behind the seemingly ominous deployments.
“Russia is making this gesture before the European Council meeting. It is trying to influence European Council decisions concerning extending or adding new sanctions,” said Ewa Kopacz.
The younger brother of Ukraine politician and Mayor of Kiev Vitali Klitschko, world heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, added his voice to Walesa’s Tuesday in warning about dire consequences to Putin’s increasing military build up.
“What is happening at the moment could set off a Third World War,” said the junior Klitschko — whose brother was also a heavyweight boxing champion before retiring to lead what was then the Ukraine opposition in late 2013.
“I think that the European community is sleeping. Putin is doing what he wants to,” said Wladimir Klitschko. “In boxing we have a saying ‘be aggressive towards the aggressor.’ He will not stop there if we do not show him where the limits are. He will continue to march forward.”
While the reasons for the strange disappearance of Vladimir Putin have yet to be fully explained, the Russian strongman appears to have picked up where he left off, now that he is back in the public eye.
[Images: Junko Kimura/Andreas Rentz/Martin Rose/Getty Images]