Ryszard Kukliński : biography
Ryszard Jerzy Kukliński (June 13, 1930 – February 11, 2004) was a Polish colonel and Cold War spy for NATO. He passed top secret Warsaw Pact documents to the CIA between 1971 and 1981. The former United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński has described him as "the first Polish officer in NATO."
Kukliński was born in Warsaw into a working-class family with Catholic and socialist traditions. During World War II, his father became a member of the Polish resistance movement however, he was captured by the Gestapo, and subsequently died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After the war, Kukliński began a successful career in the Polish People's Army. In 1968, he took part in the preparations for the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia. Disturbed by the invasion, and by the brutal crushing of the parallel Polish 1970 protests – in 1972, Kukliński sent a letter to the US embassy in Bonn describing himself as a foreign "MAF" from a Communist country, and requested a secret meeting.Rupert Cornwell, The Independent 13 February 2004. Cached by info-poland.buffalo.edu.
In 1994, Kukliński said that his awareness of the "unambiguously offensive" nature of Soviet military plans was an important factor in his decision to communicate the details of those plans to the United States, adding that "Our front could only be a sacrifice of Polish blood at the altar of the Red Empire".Marat Miklszewski, "Colonel Kuklinski Speaks!", Tygodnik Solidarność, 9 December 1994, p. 12 Kukliński was also concerned that his homeland would be turned into a nuclear wasteland as the Warsaw Pact's superiority in conventional forces would mean NATO would respond to a military action with tactical nuclear weapons.
Between 1971 and 1981 he passed 35,000 pages of mostly Soviet secret documents to the CIA. The documents described Moscow's strategic plans regarding the use of nuclear weapons, technical data about the T-72 tank and Strela-1 missiles, the whereabouts of Soviet anti-aircraft bases in Poland and East Germany, the methods used by the Soviets to avoid spy satellite detection of their military hardware, plans for the imposition of martial law in Poland, and many other matters.
Escape to the USA
Facing imminent danger of discovery, Kukliński was spirited out of Poland by the CIA, along with his wife and two sons, shortly before the imposition of martial law in December 1981. Though Kuklinski and his family managed to successfully defect, his controversial past may have followed him to the United States. In the subsequent years, both of his sons died. The older, Waldemar, was run over by a truck without licence plate in August 1994 on the grounds of an American university. His younger son, Bogdan Kukliński drowned half a year earlier, on January 1st 1994, when his yacht capsized on a silent sea. Ryszard Kukliński did not insist that they were assassinated by the KGB, but he never rejected such possibility either.in absentia
Opinions in Poland
During his term as Poland's first freely elected president, Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa refused to pardon Kukliński and a poll taken in 1998 found that more Poles (34%) considered Kukliński a traitor than a hero (29%), with many undecided.Jane Perlez, "Spy Recounts Passing Data to CIA," The New York Times, 30 April 1998 The administration of US President Clinton nonetheless took the stance that it would oppose Polish membership in NATO unless Kukliński were exonerated.Benjamin Weiser, A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country (PublicAffairs, 2005).
When all charges were dropped against Kukliński in 1997, the left leaning Trybuna lamented that "Colonel Ryszard Kukliński — a spy, deserter, and traitor — has been turned into a model of virtue and a national hero of the rightists."Mieczyclaw Wodzicki, "Treason Rewarded; ‘Learn from This, Poles,’" Trybuna, 25 September 1997, p. 5 In a 1997 survey conducted by the CBOS, 27 percent of Poles considered Kukliński a hero and 24 percent a traitor (compared to 12 and 24 percent, respectively, in 1992).
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