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was awarded honorary citizenship for his contribution to Polish nation."22 Kuklinski's report reinforced the sense of the restoration of Polish independence." In many other foreboding that had prompted Carter's use of the Hot Line, stops around the country he was hailed as a "true patriot." and it convinced U.S. officials that very little time was left Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek met with Kuklinski for two before Soviet troops moved en masse into Poland. hours and declared afterwards that the colonel's "decisions There is no question that events in the latter half of spared our country great bloodshed." The visit sparked November 1980 and the first few days of December had complaints in some quarters, notably from Adam Michnik, provided grounds for concern in the West about the who in recent years has become a frequent supporter of prospect of Soviet military action. Tensions in Poland had Jaruzelski. Jaruzelski himself lamented that the “praise for steadily increased in mid- to late November, culminating Kuklinski's actions automatically places the moral blame on in a two-hour warning strike on 25 November by Polish myself and other generals."20 Public ambivalence about railway workers, who threatened to call a general strike Kuklinski, which had been relatively widespread in the unless their demands were met. These developments early 1990s, has steadily abated (though it has not wholly provoked alarm in Moscow about the security of the disappeared).21 Overall, then, the visit marked a decisive USSR's lines of communication through Poland with the vindication for a man who only recently had been under nearly 400,000 Soviet troops based in the German sentence of death in his homeland.
Democratic Republic (GDR).23 Unease about Poland was
even more acute in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, Almost all of the materials that Kuklinski supplied to where the media in late November had stepped up their the U.S. government, including thousands of
condemnations of the "counterrevolutionary forces photographed documents and a vast quantity of his own who are endangering Poland's socialist order."24 On reports, are still sealed in classified CIA files. Efforts to 29 November, the commander-in-chief of the Group of pry loose those materials through the Freedom of
Soviet Forces in Germany, Army-Gen. Evgenii Ivanovskii, Information Act (FOIA) have run into frustrating
suddenly informed members of the Western Military bureaucratic obstacles. However, some of the reports that Liaison Missions in East Germany that they would be Kuklinski sent in 1980 and 1981 were released in the early prohibited from traveling into territory along the GDR1990s so that he could use them in preparing for the Polish border.25 A few days later, on 3 December, rumors judicial review of his case in Poland. Three of those surfaced that an emergency meeting of Warsaw Pact dispatches are featured below in chronological order. leaders would be held in Moscow on the 5th. This news, Each is preceded by an introduction that provides a brief coming right after the conclusion of a meeting in context for understanding what the report covers and what Bucharest of the Warsaw Pact's Council of Defense its significance is. Although these three items are only a Ministers (on 1-2 December), raised further apprehension minuscule fraction of the materials that Kuklinski
among Western leaders about the possible use of Soviet provided to the CIA, they give some idea of the
troops. extraordinary contribution he made to Western intelligence Anxiety in the West continued to grow over the next analysis during the Polish Crisis.
few days as unconfirmed (and, it turned out, largely inaccurate) reports filtered in about a huge buildup of Soviet forces around Poland's borders. Dense clouds over
Poland and the western Soviet Union prevented U.S. REPORT No. 1: Early December 1980
reconnaissance satellites from focusing in on Soviet tank Warning of Soviet Intervention
and mechanized divisions based there.26 Not until the
latter half of December, when the cloud cover temporarily This first report, headed “Very Urgent!,” was sent in receded, were U.S. satellites able to provide good early December 1980 under the codename Jack Strong. It coverage of Soviet forces in the western USSR. Before had a profound impact on U.S. policy. Kuklinski's the photoreconnaissance became available, many highmessage seemed to corroborate a number of other
ranking U.S. intelligence officials simply assumed that indications in early December 1980 that the Soviet Union reports of a massive mobilization were accurate. That was about to undertake a large-scale military intervention assumption seemed to be vindicated when reports also in Poland. On 3 December, a day-and-a-half before
began streaming in about last-minute preparations by Kuklinski's report arrived at CIA headquarters, President
Soviet troops to set up emergency medical tents and Jimmy Carter had sent an urgent communication via the stockpiles of ammunition.27 Hot Line to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Against this backdrop, Kuklinski's dispatch was of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Leonid I. Brezhnev. Carter bound to spark great anxiety when it arrived at the CIA's promised that the United States would “not exploit the headquarters in the early morning hours of 5 December. events in Poland” and would not "threaten legitimate The CIA director, Stansfield Turner, promptly informed Soviet security interests in that region," but warned that Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser, that East-West relations "would be most adversely affected” if "eighteen Soviet divisions” would move into Poland the Soviet Army tried “to impose a solution upon the on 8 December. Brzezinski immediately relayed the
information to Carter. At a meeting of top U.S. officials the following day, Turner repeated his warning 28 Although his estimate on 6 December of the number of Soviet divisions that would enter Poland “from the east” was slightly lower than it had been the previous day (fifteen versus eighteen), he averred that “more (Soviet) divisions will follow" the initial fifteen. On 7 December, Turner conveyed an even gloomier assessment, claiming that all the preparations for a (Soviet) invasion of Poland were completed” two days earlier, and that a final “decision to invade" on the night of 7-8 December had been adopted by Soviet and Warsaw Pact leaders on the 5th.29 Turner made these predictions without any confirmation from U.S. reconnaissance satellites about a purported buildup of Soviet forces around Poland.
Under the circumstances, Turner's assumptions may have seemed reasonable, but a close analysis of the period from mid-November to early December 1980 suggests that he and most other U.S. officials misperceived Soviet intentions. A careful analysis also suggests that Kuklinski's message, written in great haste and with only partial information, unavoidably left out certain key points that bore directly on the question of Soviet intentions. U.S. intelligence officials who apprised political leaders of Kuklinski's message were remiss in failing to highlight the great uncertainty that remained about Soviet policy. (The uncertainty was especially pronounced in early December 1980 because so little was known at that point about the actual state of readiness of Soviet forces in the western USSR.)
Newly declassified materials confirm that in the latter half of November 1980, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies were preparing to hold Soyuz-80 military “exercises” in Poland in early to mid-December. The new archival evidence also suggests that these “exercises” were intended mainly as a cover for the Polish authorities to impose martial law. Documents from the East German military archive reveal that four Soviet divisions, two Czechoslovak divisions, and one East German division were supposed to join four Polish army divisions and the Polish security forces in introducing military rule.” If these operations proved insufficient, another fourteen Warsaw Pact divisions (eleven Soviet and three East German) were supposed to move in as reinforcements, according to the documents. It is not clear when and how the second stage of Soyuz-80 would have begun or where the Soviet forces would have come from—but the option of a second stage was clearly specified in the plans.
This general scenario was consistent with a document prepared by the Soviet Politburo's Commission on Poland (the so-called Suslov Commission) in late August 1980. That document, subsequently approved by the full CPSU Politburo, authorized the Soviet defense ministry to bring four Soviet tank and mechanized divisions in the three military districts adjoining Poland up to full combat readiness “in case military assistance is provided to Poland." It also authorized the defense ministry to plan
for—though not yet to carry out—the "call-up of as many as 75,000 additional military reservists and 9,000 additional vehicles” to fill out at least “another five to seven (Soviet] divisions” that would be mobilized “if the situation in Poland deteriorates further.” The number of additional reservists and vehicles was large enough to fill out as many as eleven extra Soviet divisions, if necessary, rather than just five to seven.
If final approval had been given for the Soyuz-80 “maneuvers” to begin as scheduled on 8 December, enough Soviet forces were in place to carry out the first stage of the operation, but not the second. In mid- to late December 1980, U.S. intelligence sources (photoreconnaissance satellites and electronic intercepts) revealed that only three Soviet motorized rifle divisions in the western USSR had been brought up to full combat readiness.33 These units constituted three of the four Soviet divisions slated to enter Poland on 8 December in the first stage of Soyuz-80. The fourth Soviet division, according to East German military documents, was to be an airborne division. 34 (Soviet airborne divisions were always maintained at full readiness. The unit in question was based in the Baltic Military District.) There is no evidence that any of the additional eleven Soviet tank and mechanized divisions were ever mobilized. Although planning for the mobilization of these divisions had been under way since late August—something that presumably would have enabled Soviet military officials to proceed with the mobilization quite expeditiously if so ordered—the number of Soviet divisions actually available for immediate deployment was extremely limited.
Thus, the scale of what would have occurred on 8 December was very different from the impression one might have gained from Kuklinski's dispatch (not to mention from Turner's briefings). Kuklinski was not present when Soviet and Polish military commanders discussed the “exercise” scenario at a secret meeting in Moscow on 1 December . Instead, he had to rely on what he could hurriedly learn afterwards from a few documents (maps and charts) and from comments by the “very restricted group of people" who had seen the full plans,
” especially the officers who had traveled to Moscow. Kuklinski's dispatch accurately reported the projected size of the full operation (both the first and the second stages), but it did not mention that only four of the projected fifteen Soviet divisions would be used in the first stage. This omission obviously was crucial. Although Kuklinski can hardly be faulted, in the face of such extreme uncertainty and time pressure, for having inadvertently left out a key part of the scenario, the difference between his version and the real plan can hardly be overstated. Rather than being a single, massive operation, the projected "exercises” were in fact divided into two stages: a limited first stage, and, if necessary, a much larger second stage. There is no doubt, based on the East German documents, the Suslov Commission's memorandum, and the evidence from U.S. intelligence sources, that the number of Soviet
divisions slated to take part in the first stage of Soyuz-80 was no more than four. The much larger number of Soviet divisions cited by Kuklinski and Turner (i.e., at least fifteen) represented the combined total of forces in both the first and the second stages.
As it turned out, of course, even a limited intervention from outside—by four Soviet, one East German, and two Czechoslovak divisions—did not take place. This nonevent points to something else that is missing in Kuklinski's dispatch—an omission that, once again, is perfectly understandable. Kuklinski could not possibly have known that the Soviet Politburo was unwilling to proceed with the “maneuvers” unless the Polish authorities were ready to use the outside military support to impose martial law. Soviet leaders never regarded the entry of Warsaw Pact forces into Poland as being the same type of operation conducted against Czechoslovakia in August 1968. When Soviet and East European troops intervened on a massive scale in Czechoslovakia, they did so to halt the Prague Spring and remove the regime headed by Alexander Dubcek. At no point before the invasion were the military plans ever disclosed to Dubcek or the other Czechoslovak reformers. Nor did Soviet commanders in 1968 enlist Czechoslovak troops to help pinpoint entry routes and deployment sites for incoming Soviet forces. In 1980, by contrast, plans for the Soyuz “maneuvers" were coordinated very carefully with the Polish authorities, and Polish officers were assigned to help Soviet and Warsaw Pact reconnaissance units. Moscow's aim in November-December 1980 was not to move against Stanislaw Kania, First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP), and Jaruzelski, but to offer them support. Soviet leaders did their best, using a mix of coercion and inducements, to ensure that the two Polish officials would seize this opportunity to impose martial law; but the fate of Soyuz-80 ultimately depended on whether Kania and Jaruzelski themselves believed they could crush Solidarity without sparking a civil war.
The Soviet Union's desire to stick with Kania and Jaruzelski came as a disappointment to East German, Czechoslovak, and Bulgarian leaders, who tended to espouse a more belligerent position. On 26 November 1980, the East German leader, Erich Honecker, wrote a letter to Brezhnev urging the immediate adoption of "collective (military) measures to help the Polish friends overcome the crisis." Honecker emphasized his "extraordinary fears” about what would happen in Poland if the Soviet Union and its allies failed to send in troops. "Any delay in acting against the counterrevolutionaries," he warned, "would mean death the death of socialist Poland.” To bolster his case, the East German leader authorized a hasty search for possible hardline alternatives to Kania and Jaruzelski. On 30 November, the East German defense minister, Army-Gen. Heinz Hoffmann, assured Honecker that certain "leading comrades from the [Polish United Workers' Party) have expressed the view that a (violent] confrontation with the counterrevolution
can no longer be avoided and (that) they expect to receive help from outside." Evidently, Honecker helped encourage the leading Polish hardliner, Stefan Olszowski, to travel secretly to Moscow on 4 December for an emergency consultation. The East German General Secretary clearly was hoping that if he could come up with a suitable alternative in Warsaw, Soviet leaders would agree to install a new Polish regime once Soyuz-80 began. Honecker's perspective was fully shared in Sofia and Prague.
In the end, however, the only thing that mattered was what Brezhnev and the rest of the Soviet Politburo wanted. The final decision ultimately was theirs. Even though they heeded the concerns expressed by the other Warsaw Pact states, they were convinced that military action would be worthwhile only if the Polish authorities were ready and able to take full advantage of it. Up to the last moment, Honecker was hoping that Soviet leaders would change their minds. On 6 and 7 December, East German military commanders ordered units of the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee, or NVA) to be ready to move into Poland at a moment's notice, just in case Soviet leaders decided that the intervention should proceed as originally planned. To Honecker's dismay, these preparations were all for naught. The Soviet Politburo had firmly decided by then that no Warsaw Pact troops should enter Poland unless a more propitious opportunity arose.
None of this is to suggest that Soviet leaders were merely leaving things to chance. By actively preparing for the “exercise" scenario, they were seeking to force Kania's and Jaruzelski's hand, giving the Polish leaders little option but to move ahead with a crackdown. The impending start of Soyuz-80, it was thought, would compel Kania and Jaruzelski to accelerate their preparations for martial law. (It is even conceivable, albeit unlikely, that Soviet leaders were never actually intending to send troops to Poland and, instead, were simply using the preparations for Soyuz-80 as a means of pressuring Kania to implement martial law.")
Whatever the Soviet Union's precise intentions may have been, it soon became clear that the fierce pressure from outside in November-December 1980 would not in
generate a workable plan for the imposition of martial law. Kania and Jaruzelski constantly stressed the need for more time when they spoke with Soviet leaders in the latter half of November, both directly and through Marshal Kulikov, who served as an envoy for the CPSU Politburo. Kania continued to emphasize the desirability of seeking an “honorable compromise," rather than resorting immediately to violent repression. Although he did not rule out the eventual “use of force” and formed a new high-level staff to speed up the preparations for martial law, he was convinced that a “political solution" was still feasible.
Kania’s position on this matter was firm even though he initially had been willing to host the Soyuz-80 “maneuvers" and had even condoned the use of Polish troops to help Soviet and Warsaw Pact reconnaissance
that the decision to leave troops out of the Soyuz-80 exercises must have been approved well before the Moscow meeting, perhaps as early as 2 December. (A speech that Kania delivered at a PUWP Central Committee plenum on 2 December suggests that he already had been assured that Warsaw Pact forces would not be moving into Poland on the 8th.) Although Kania faced serious criticism in Moscow on 5 December, the transcript of the meeting leaves little doubt that he and the other participants already knew that the Soviet Union would give the Polish leaders more time to take care of the crisis "with their own forces."46 Kania himself emphasized this point the following day (on 6 December) when he gave the PUWP Politburo an overview of the Moscow meeting. Among other things, he reported that all the participating states had expressed confidence that the Polish authorities could "manage the situation on their own" (ze sytuacje opanujemy wlasnymi silami).
Thus, Kuklinski's dispatch outlined a scenario that, by the time it was reviewed by U.S. officials, had already been put on hold. Soyuz-80 secretly began on 8 December, but only as a command-staff exercise (CPX), rather than as full-fledged troop maneuvers. The CPX continued rather aimlessly for several weeks, long after its value had been exhausted. Although the four Soviet divisions, one East German division, and two Czechoslovak divisions remained at full alert until late December 1980, the prospect of bringing them into Poland had been postponed indefinitely
units locate the best entry routes and deployment sites in Poland. Despite these gestures, Kania and Jaruzelski had never been enthusiastic about the maneuvers, and they decided that they had to make their views clear after two senior Polish officers, Gen. Tadeusz Hupalowski, the first deputy chief of the Polish General Staff, and Col. Franciszek Puchala, a deputy head of the General Staff's Operations Directorate, traveled to Moscow on 1 December to receive “instructions” from the Soviet High Command. The information that Hupalowski and Puchala brought back to Poland, which indicated that an immediate, fullscale crackdown was an integral part of the scenario, was enough to spur Kania and Jaruzelski to warn Soviet leaders that any attempt to bring Warsaw Pact forces into Poland would greatly exacerbate the situation and risk widespread violence. They promised that if they were given a bit more time, they would be able to resolve the crisis on their own.
Kania's and Jaruzelski's wariness about Soyuz-80 was determined mainly by three factors: first, their awareness that preparations for an internal crackdown were still too rudimentary to give any assurance of success without the risk of large-scale bloodshed; second, their belief that the use of any Warsaw Pact troops for policing functions in Poland would stir widespread public outrage and resistance; and third, their specific concern (for obvious historical reasons) about the proposed use of East German troops. This last point was something on which almost all Polish officials, including most of the "healthy forces” (i.e., pro-Soviet hardliners), could agree. Even some of the hardline Polish military officers who were secretly encouraging the Soviet Union to send troops to crush Solidarity were averse to any notion that East German divisions should take part as well. In a typical case, a Polish army officer told Soviet officials in early December 1980 that “Poland can now be saved only by the introduction of Soviet troops,” but he then warned that he himself “would be the first to take up arms against (East) German or Czech troops if they are sent in. They merely wish us harm and secretly revel in all our misfortunes. Only your [Soviet] troops should be involved in this."
Once Kania and Jaruzelski had made clear that the entry of Warsaw Pact troops into Poland would risk a "bloody confrontation that would roil the whole socialist world," and once they had pledged to take "decisive action” against "hostile” and “anti-socialist” elements in the near future, Soviet leaders were willing to defer the provision of outside military assistance, at least for the time being. Although Kania and Jaruzelski both claim in their memoirs that Brezhnev agreed to call off the entry of Warsaw Pact troops only after the hastily arranged meeting of East-bloc leaders in Moscow on 5 December, newly declassified documents undercut that assertion. Numerous documents, including the top-secret transcript of the 5 December meeting (which was unavailable when Kania and Jaruzelski compiled their memoirs), indicate
Document No. 1
At a meeting with the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces, in accordance with orders from Gen. Jaruzelski's Defense Ministry, Gen. Hupalowski and Col. Puchala endorsed a plan to admit into Poland (under the pretext of maneuvers) the Soviet Army (SA), the National People's Army of the GDR (NVA), and the Czechoslovak People's Army (CLA). Documents and reproduced portions of the plans (for joint intervention) were presented to show that the following forces are to be sent into Poland: three armies comprising 15 SA divisions, one army comprising two CLA divisions, and the staff of one army and one division from the NVA. In total, the intervening group initially will consist of 18 divisions. (A state of readiness to cross the Polish borders was set for 8 December.) At present, representatives from the "fraternal armies," dressed in civilian clothing, are undertaking reconnaissance of invasion routes as well as the distances and terrain for future operations. The scenario of operations for the intervening armies envisages a regrouping of armies to all major Polish Army bases to conduct maneuvers with live ammunition. Then, depending on how things develop, all major Polish cities, especially industrial cities, are to be sealed off.
According to the plan of the USSR Armed Forces General Staff, the Polish Army will remain within its permanent units while its “allies” are regrouping on Polish territory. The only exceptions will be supervisory officers and military traffic control units, which will ensure a collision-free regrouping of the SA, CLA, and NVA armies from the border to the territories of future operations. Four Polish divisions (the 5th and 2nd Tank Divisions and the 4th and 12th Mechanized Divisions) will be called into operation at a later point.
Finally, I very much regret to say that although everyone who has seen the plans (a very restricted group of people) is very depressed and crestfallen, no one is even contemplating putting up active resistance against the Warsaw Pact action. There are even those (Jasinski, Puchala) who say that the very presence of such enormous military forces on the territory of Poland may calm the nation.
REPORT No. 2: 26 April 1981
A “Hopeless" Situation
Jaruzelski to get them to sign the implementation directives for martial law (which would effectively set a date for the operation to begin), but the Polish leaders first postponed the meeting and then told Kulikov on 13 April that they would have to wait before signing the documents. For the time being, the Polish authorities had gained a further respite.
Soviet leaders, for their part, realized by mid-April that they would have to ease up a bit in their relentless pressure on Kania and Jaruzelski. Brezhnev summed up this view at a CPSU Politburo meeting on 16 April when he affirmed that "we shouldn't badger (the Polish leaders), and we should avoid making them so nervous that they simply throw up their hands in despair.”” When Suslov
. and another key member of the Suslov Commission, Konstantin Rusakov, visited Warsaw on 23-24 April, they "attacked the (Polish leaders'] indecisiveness" and "sharply criticized their actions," but also sought to “support and encourage them” and to ensure that “they will have a distinct degree of trust in us. Although Brezhnev and his colleagues realized that “the current lull is only a temporary henomenon” and although they were determined to “exert constant pressure” on Kania and Jaruzelski, the Soviet leaders were also convinced that “we must now maintain a more equable tone in our relations with our (Polish) friends."
Thus, the pessimistic outlook of Kuklinski's message on 26 April was not so much a reflection of the immediate political climate as it was a venting of frustration about two things:
First, the Warsaw Pact states were continuing to exert enormous pressure on the Polish army. In his report, Kuklinski indicated that he and other General Staff officers had recently returned from Bulgaria, where they had been attending a meeting of the Warsaw Pact's Military Council on 21-23 April.“ Marshal Kulikov, his chief deputy, Army-Gen. Anatolii Gribkov, and other Warsaw Pact military leaders reemphasized at this session that they were as determined as ever to keep Poland and the Polish army fully within the socialist commonwealth.
Second, the progress toward martial law seemed inexorable. By mid-April 1981, the conceptual phase of the martial law planning was over, and work was proceeding apace on the practical steps needed to implement the plans. Kuklinski could see that in the seeming absence of an opportunity for the Polish army to defy the Soviet Union, the imposition of martial law was drawing ever nearer.
This next report, addressed to Kuklinski's closest contact at the CIA, who used the codename Daniel, was signed with two initials (PV) that Kuklinski included on his
very first written message to the U.S. government in 1971, when he was initially offering to supply information. He chose these initials because the letter V is very rarely used in Polish, and he wanted to disguise his nationality in case the message was somehow intercepted.
The report was sent during a relative lull in the Polish crisis. The Warsaw Pact's Soyuz-81 exercises, which had begun on 23 March 1981 and were due to end on 31 March, had been extended to 7 April at the request of the Polish authorities. Jaruzelski and Kania also had secretly urged that the exercises be continued after 7 April so that the PUWP leaders could "strengthen their position, give inspiration to the progressive forces [i.e., orthodox Communists) in Poland, make Solidarity and KOR [Committee for the Defense of Workers realize that the Warsaw Pact countries are ready to provide help of all kinds to Poland, and thereby exert pressure on the leaders of Solidarity." Soviet military commanders
. turned down the request, arguing that it was merely “further proof that the Polish leaders believe others should do their work for them.”51
While the Soyuz-81 exercises were still under way, Kania and Jaruzelski had met secretly in Brest on the Polish-Soviet border with Andropov and Ustinov on 3-4 April. The two Polish leaders were extremely apprehensive before the meeting, but they left with much greater confidence that they would be given more time to resolve the crisis on their own. A week after the Brest talks, Marshal Kulikov sought to meet with Kania and
Document No. 2
WARSAW, 26 April 1981
After returning from Sofia with several officers from the General Staff, we discussed the current situation in