He was fighting alone for Polish affairs
Colonel Kuklinski served Poland’s freedom and independence. He used a stratagem against the age-long Poland’s enemy. He managed to get the top secret strategic plans of Soviet Russia’s aggression against Western Europe and the NATO countries. Passing those criminal communist plans to America he gave a powerful blow against the Red Army; he weakened the empire of evil and might have prevented the outbreak of world war III.
First Polish officer in NATO
In his lonely and dangerous spy mission Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski referred to the Polish traditions of fighting for freedom. Becoming a conscious collaborator of the US intelligence agencies he was motivated by ideals and patriotism. After years he recollected, ‘The Red Army was the most powerful, biggest and most inhuman war machine mankind had ever known. I knew the aims of the Soviet marshals and generals. I knew some of them personally. The Soviet generals and officers I was dealing with were real professionals in the art of war. Many of them were eager to think of a military aggression against the West. I realised that only the United States within the framework of NATO could oppose these genocidal, possessive, aggressive plans. The effort of the USA caused that the world avoided a nuclear Holocaust, which Moscow had scheduled in its strategic plans. The knowledge of what was to happen in case of war was horrifying. For years I glued symbols of the nuclear explosion mushroom on the big ordnance map: blue ones in the places of possible attacks from the West and red ones where our attacks were to begin.’
In December 1970, after the massacre of defenceless civilians in the Gdansk Coast by the regular units of the Polish Army, Colonel Kuklinski made his final decision to collaborate with the United States. The first contact was made in August 1972. He introduced himself, giving his name and function in the Warsaw Pact and the Polish Army. Then he handed his ‘Declaration of Intent’, which he wrote himself in 1971 and signed after long considerations.
‘We, Poles, belong to the Soviet block now but it was not our choice. It was settled between you and the Russians. In case of war, defensive war against your aggression we will be with the Russians and other countries of the Warsaw Pact. However, it is a very improbable, if not excluded, scenario of a future military conflict in Europe.
We do not want to participate in any aggressive war against NATO, against the West. Do you think that there is any chance to have collaboration between the Polish Army and the American forces based in Europe in order to prevent war and in case it breaks out to help in any activities supporting the Polish national interests? It would mean the withdrawal of the Polish forces from the Soviet offensive against NATO and Poland’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact.’
Colonel Kuklinski’s ‘Declaration of Intent’ was an essential political act in the relationships between the United States and Poland. It was a secret act but historical and very important. Prepared by a single Polish officer the document began with ‘We, Poles.’ The declaration, preserved in the secret safes in Washington, was factually the very beginning of Poland’s integration with NATO. It was long before Poland’s access to the North Atlantic Pact in 1999. Colonel Kuklinski, commencing the collaboration between the Polish Army and the US Army, referred to the Polish-American tradition of independence fight, to the tradition of Kosciuszko, Pulaski and Washington. This collaboration began the alliance between the USA and Poland within NATO. Then Kuklinski did not realise that at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries he would be commonly known as the first officer of the Polish Army in NATO.
It was me that recruited America
When he decided to collaborate with the United States, the Soviet Union governed by Leonid Brezhnev was in the apogee of its political-military power. Communism aimed at dominating the whole world and this desire seemed to be more real and dangerous than ever before, commencing from the year 1917. The same communist-Bolshevik ideas were supported by the nuclear power and blackmail of the Kremlin. Then, in the early 1970s, in the very middle of the cold war, it seemed that time worked for the Soviet Russia, the more that the pacifist, anti-American and pro-Soviet tendencies increased in Western Europe.
The Polish officer took initiative, volunteered to collaborate, was not recruited by CIA and other American services. ‘It was me that recruited the USA and not them, to the fight for Poland’s freedom against the Soviet Russia’, Kuklinski wrote later. The top secret ‘Defence Doctrine of the Polish People’s Republic’ was neither defensive nor Polish. It was really aggressive and first of all Soviet. Like the Warsaw Pact, which was actually the Moscow Pact, considering the single thing that its General Staff consisted of only Russian marshals and generals and its headquarters was in Moscow. Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, the head of the Strategic Defence Planning Division in the General Staff of the Polish Army, knew more than other officers or generals. Even if some knew what he did they did not want or could not understand the threat for Poland and Polish people if a war broke out, world war III, since any other war was not possible.
‘The Doctrine’ assumed that between the sixth and the eighth hour after the Soviet Union began war the Polish People’s Army, or properly the Polish canon fodder, since it was the real role of Polish soldiers established by the Soviet marshals, would be involved in direct combat. The Soviet plans envisaged that the nuclear attacks would cause 50% of losses in the division of the so-called first strategic throw of the Warsaw Pact forces. It naturally concerned Poles.
The American General William E. Odom gives a very important testimony about the essence of Kuklinski’s collaboration with the USA and how much the United States owe to the Pole. General Odom, the head of the National Security Agency, recollected, ‘In the early 1970s Colonel Kuklinski initiated contacts with us. It turned out that the man who had prepared top secret strategic documents for Marshal Ustinov and Marshal Kulikov, commanding the Soviet Army, who made scenarios of the big manoeuvres of the Warsaw Pact, passed all these documents to the United States. Can you imagine the fury and anger of those people in Moscow when they learnt that we knew everything about them? Especially if you look at the whole matter from a wider perspective? And how much more furious with Kuklinski was the General Staff of the communist Polish army […]
Then we received the information, which Kuklinski had sent, that the Soviets attempted to improve the so-called effectiveness of strategic operations. Practically, it meant winning the whole of Western Europe and advance of the Soviet forces as far as the Atlantic coast of France within only two, three weeks! The earlier Soviet plans spoke about two months. If we had had the Soviet aggression in Europe it would certainly have evoked a nuclear revenge of NATO against the Warsaw Pact. Since the Russians chose Poland to place their forces consisting of many million soldiers. In this situation the fights between such big armies in Central Europe must have made Poland a big cemetery […].
Kuklinski’s reports were of great information value for the USA and apart from that they opened our eyes to the Soviet military tactics. The fact that Kuklinski revealed the plans of the Soviet aggression against Europe and also his strategic commentaries to these plans brought about changes in the American conception of defending Europe by conventional means instead of nuclear weapon. Colonel Kuklinski showed us how the Russians could transfer huge masses of their troops. We did not realise that. Consequently, we created rapid reaction forces, which were most successful in the Persian Gulf War.
Kuklinski’s extremely effective collaboration with the USA was the reason of his personal tragedy – the death of his sons. He was so harmful to the Soviet Empire that the Russians revenged on his family. The Russians always do so. I personally know many such examples. By the way, they have murdered several million people.’
In the Soviet generals’ good graces
How did Colonel Kuklinski win favour with the Soviet generals and gain their confidence? In the turn of August and September 1973, during the great manoeuvres of the Warsaw Pact, in the region of Magdeburg in East Germany there was the field headquarters of Marshal Dmitri Ustinov, all-powerful Minister of Defence of the USSR, Brezhnev’s right hand. Over a big map they were training a dummy attack against Western Europe using among other things over 40 tactical nuclear rockets. They were to ‘strike’ from the border between East Germany and West Germany towards Portugal. At the same time the Polish forces should attack Denmark, Holland and Germany. Suddenly there were some bad things happening on the big map, something went clearly wrong. Then Marshal Ustinov, standing at the background of the big map, stretched on the ground, speckled with arrows and little flags, scolded in a low voice the marshals and generals standing at attention. They did not understand what he meant. And then, quite unexpectedly, a small man wearing socks, stepped on to the map, moved several flags and returned to his place, holding the shoes in his hands. The bearish Ustinov approached him, kissed him and clapping on his shoulders he said, ‘Wot, molodiec.’ It happened in front of the whole General Staff of the Warsaw Pact – all high-ranking officers. From that moment Kuklinski never aroused suspicion as a reliable officer of Marshal Ustinov himself. Soon after that event he was sent to the elitist Marshal Voroshilov Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR. And then, in 1973, Kuklinski had already collaborated with the Americans for two years!
Reagan – Gorbachev meeting
The former Secretary of Defence Caspar Weinberger recollects that during the meeting of President Reagan with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavík, Iceland, all the world TV stations spoke about the beginning of the détente and new relationships between the USA and the USSR. But Gorbachev was not eager to compromise at first. A certain less known incident changed his attitude. At some moment of the discussion the US Secretary of Defence, the famous chief of the Pentagon Caspar Weinberger handed some documents to Reagan. In turn he gave them to Gorbachev and then to the Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Army, the outstanding Marshal Siergiei Achromieiev. He looked at them and grew pale. Since he was holding the detailed location plans and instruction schemes of the most important strategic Soviet bunkers to be used in case of nuclear war – world war III! The Americans had known their locations for several years! The Marshal explained that to Gorbachev and he understood it at once. It was a disaster! And the American-Soviet negotiations continued.
That was how the Russians began withdrawing. No other participant of those world political level talks knew how the top secret documents were in Reagan’s hands. And it was Kuklinski who had delivered the data about the powerful Soviet centres – command bunkers in the late 1970s.
General John Galvin, NATO’s Supreme Allied Europe and Commander in Chief of US Military Forces, says how much detailed and extremely important to America the documents gained by Kuklinski in Moscow were. Both Billy Clark (President R. Reagan’s advisor) and Fréd Iklé (Secretary of Defence C. Weinberger’s adviser) knew well that the ultimate target of the Soviets was the United States. Since they had over 2,000 pages of top secret documents prepared by the Soviet General Staff. Colonel Kuklinski delivered them. The plans of the Warsaw Pact, which they had, were limited to the invasion on Western Europe but the important notes on the margins contained information about the brotherly collaboration with the Asian comrades.
Robert Gates, a former CIA director and US Secretary of Defence, the Chief of the Pentagon during the presidency of G. W. Bush and currently during the presidency of Obama, recollects the Polish officer in his memoirs entitled ‘From the Shadow’:
‘During the period of the Cold War the Polish Colonel Kuklinski was the most valuable source of information in the whole Soviet block from Vladivostok to West Berlin. He passed to the United States over 30,000 pages of the most top secret documents of the Soviet Army, including the strategic ones, which allowed the USA to anticipate the aggressive intentions of the Kremlin. Especially, the mobilisation plans of the Soviet Army and the Warsaw Pact, information about the latest Soviet weapons and data concerning planning electronic attack system through the satellites were of great importance to us. Kuklinski also gave us a lot of more important information for over ten years.
In December 1980 Kuklinski warned us about the concentration of the Soviet forces at the Polish border and the orders concerning a military intervention in Poland. Thanks to that information President Carter warned Moscow seriously, which prevented the Russian intervention.’
Later Colonel Kuklinski related, ‘I cannot say that I passed the American complete Soviet military plans but surely an important part of them. I mean the strategic development of the military forces of the Warsaw Pact for a war, the Soviet mobilization plan of the second throw that stationed just behind the Polish border. I also knew the Soviet military plans of the first throw that stationed in Germany, how they would be used and which direction they would move.’
The information Kuklinski delivered were included in the American defensive analyses and used to neutralise the Soviet armaments and while the Pentagon was deciding which type of weapon it was worth giving money. One day in 1981, the CIA informed Kuklinski, ‘We must have information about the shield of the tank T-72. The data is needed to spend several million dollars on our military programmes.’
In the conditions of the Cold War and huge political-military tension an unexpected Russian attack was always possible. Moscow kept blackmailing the West with such a possibility. Huge manoeuvres, dislocation of masses of the army – all of that constituted constant tension and threat.
Kuklinski kept informing America what the Russian planned and what they did not plan and what they would not certainly do, whether they would not change the huge manoeuvres at the German, Austrian and Danish borders, under the command of Marshals: Ustinov, Ogarkov and Kulikov, into an open war. The forces of the Warsaw Pact could, by some surprising attack, gained huge advantage over the NATO forces. That’s why Kuklinski’s activities were precious for the US intelligence. A living man – Polish officer – verified the data of the American spy satellites.
For ten years Colonel Kuklinski acted in the conditions of maximal threat. He left Poland at the very last moment when the counter-espionage treaded on his heels. It was on 7 November 1981, exactly on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, just before the marshal law. The Americans told Kuklinski to get the invitation to the banquet on the occasion of the communist holiday held in the Soviet Embassy before leaving. From the banquet he did not return home in Nowy Swiat in Warsaw but went to a secret place from where he was taken to the airport. Having a Polish passport with another name he flew from Warsaw to London. His wife Hanka and two sons went in a car to the American Embassy via Swiecko. That operation, having the personal consent of President Reagan, involved several dozen intelligence officers. Kuklinski left when the KGB and the Polish WSW got to know that there was a US agent in the Polish General Staff, among the six selected colonels and generals. After years General Kiszczak admitted that the least suspected officer was…Ryszard Kuklinski.
The marshal law court sentenced Colonel Kuklinski to death, degradation, confiscation of property and public rights. But even this horrible kangaroo court did not see any material motives in the activities of the convicted officer, justifying its secret verdict. The sentence Ryszard Kuklinski received was the last death sentence passed in the Polish People’s Republic in a political process. But this fact has not only historical meaning. It is worth paying attention to the significant fact that Kuklinski’s trial was conducted in Warsaw, not in Moscow, the judges were Polish and not Russian, and despite that the Polish court consisting of Polish judges sentenced a Pole to death, capital punishment, for passing not Polish but Soviet secrets, not concerning the Polish state but a foreign power, hostile to Poland. Additionally, all those top secret Soviet documents were in Russian and not in Polish. The verdict against Kuklinski is an important contribution to the debate to which extent the PRL was a state devoid of independence and sovereignty in the years 1944-1990.
Zbigniew Herbert referred to that fundamental problem writing his famous open letter defending Colonel Kuklinski to President Walesa, who like Jaruzelski, Kiszczak, Urban, Michnik or Kuron publicly described the colonel as a traitor. It was not by accident that the great poet wrote on 5 December 1994, the anniversary of the birth of Marshal Pilsudski, ‘For many years Colonel Kuklinski waged a lonely struggle in the shadow of death that endangered him at any moment, struggle for the most important matters: the right to sovereignty, right to defend the threatened being of the state, and finally the right to national dignity. […] Heroes are always lonely. They have no support of paid claqueurs, editors of lies, advocates of batons and camps of detention […] Colonel Kuklinski was one of us – whatever people of bad will and comfortable indifference would like to invent about this subject.’
The author has a doctorate in history. He is also a specialist in political sciences and a columnist. He was a friend and plenipotentiary of Ryszard Kuklinski in Poland in the years 1993-2004. He wrote the monumental (750 pages) biography entitled ‘Samotna misja – pułkownik Kuklinski i zimna wojna’ [A Lonely Mission – Colonel Kuklinski and the Cold War], with the foreword by Viktor Suvorov [awarded by the Polish Community in America as the bestseller in the year 2000) and ‘Pulkownik Kuklinski – tajna misja’ [Colonel Kuklinski – Secret Mission](foreword by Radoslaw Sikorski), which was published in 2008 and has had three editions so far.