The way Kuklinski saved the world

Piotr Semka

The film entitled ‘Gry wojenne’ [War games], which has been just on in Polish cinemas, pays homage, which was very much needed, to Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski and at the same time explains the meaning of his mission. Kuklinski is a known figure but we do not know the details of his merits of saving the free world from the Soviet army. The film director focused on several main aspects of Kuklinski’s mission. The first aspect is the circumstances of his decision to collaborate with the Americans. In the year 1972, a group of officers left the sailing club Legia under the pretext of a sailing tour. They were to observe the western territory of the future world war. Colonel Kuklinski used that occasion to send a proposal of contact to the American Embassy. He introduced himself as a high-ranking officer of the Polish People’s Army and he actually entered into such a contact. During the next years the Americans received several thousand documents that Kuklinski had copied using his spy camera. Thanks to those documents and explanations given by Kuklinski the Americans understood many things. The mentality of Western people could not let them accept what was obvious for the Russian officers: in case of the attack on the West the Russians considered very many casualties. The biggest number of casualties was to be in the territory of Poland and East Germany. The Soviet General Headquarters assumed that it was a normal and acceptable price for conquering the West. As one of the CIA analysts said in the film the significance of the information given by Kuklinski led to the understanding of the way of thinking of the Soviet generals. The analyst stressed that before they had approached the Russian giant as a blind man approached an elephant. If he touched the tail he would say that the elephant was like a rope. If he touched its trunk he would say that the elephant was like a snake. And if he bumped into its side he would say that the elephant was like a wall. But these particular parts of the elephant’s body did not decide about its essence. Because it was its size and the way it acted that determined the elephant’s essence. And Kuklinski explained the Americans how ruthless the Russians were as far as their military plans were concerned.
And the last important role of Kuklinski: warning the American of the possibility of the Soviet invasion in December 1980 after the ‘Solidarity’ trade union had been established. Then Reagan made the Russians clearly understand that they would pay serious political price for such actions. At the end of 1981 Colonel Kuklinski knew that the Russians were on his trail. He decided to run away. The film shows the dramatic circumstances of this escape, how at the last moment Kuklinski and his family were packed into the lorry of the American Embassy and transported to West Berlin.
The film has been enriched with attractive computer simulations, showing how the Soviet authorities imagined the Third World War in the territory of Europe. This film has a very personal character. The intelligence officers were moved speaking about the motifs of Colonel Kuklinski. They dot the i's and cross the t’s in the discussions whether Kuklinski followed pure mercantile reasons: to earn American dollars or whether he meant something else. The film director puts forward the thesis that Colonel Kuklinski, who had the chance to see the Russian plans, understood that the free world had to be informed about them since otherwise Poland and the whole European civilisation could have been destroyed. Is it not an exaggeration? We do not often eagerly accept such far-reaching theses that some individual saved the world alone. But in the case of Kuklinski it seems to be so.

"Niedziela" 6/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
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