KULTURA: Colonel, may we begin with a question which is on everyone's mind. Six months have now passed since the Polish communist authorities revealed your role during the preparations for Martial Law (in 1981). The explosive news of last June made all the newspapers. Why is it only now that you have decided to speak?
RYSZARD JERZY KUKLIŃSKI: Jerzy Urban's enunciations, followed by those of General Kiszczak were, as known, aimed against US policy. I am not the US government's advocate and it is not up to me to defend or endorse its decisions. That is the business of its spokespersons. And this is the main reason for my reticence hitherto. Not without significance was also the fact that I had no desire to serve as a resonating drum for when Urban thumps the table. I have and had no intention to enter into a polemic with falsehood and nonsensical propaganda.
I have decided to speak out on the fifth anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Poland as this is an opportune moment to reflect on the disruption caused by 13 December 1981 in what is of course an unfinished chapter in our recent history. I lay no claim of being able to uncover the whole truth about that very complex period from August 1980 through to the December of the following year. I do, however, feel duty-bound to disclose to the Polish public the events which I witnessed, or participated in directly. People may draw their own conclusions.
K: What you have just said is bound up with recent events. People would also very much wish to know why it is that after your departure from Poland you offered no warning of the imminence of Martial Law with its joint army and militia onslaught on “Solidarność” (Solidarity) and the mass imprisonments which ensued? You were after all one of the few individuals who knew ahead of time what the operational plan of the authorities would entail. According to the communist regime you had reached the United States on 7 or 8 November, more than a month before the regime struck. Why was no use made of your knowledge?
R.J.K: I was not in the United States on the dates you mention. The fact that I did not go to the Polish General Staff headquarters on the 8 November does not mean I was already in the United States. But that is of little relevance anyway, as I did indeed have the possibility of forewarning the public of what was to come. I could not have done so while still in Poland, but after finding myself in the West I did have the opportunity to do so. Essentially I had complete freedom of movement and could act according to my own decisions. I was a free man and I could have reached for the telephone without any hindrance or have gone personally to any media organisation. Indeed given the severity of the political situation I could have called a press conference and appealed for the dissemination of what I knew, offering the forewarning you refer to.
Had I just succumbed to emotion that is what I would probably have done. And were I to say I was completely free of emotion would amount to a considerable oversimplification. In fact the opposite. I think I was in a similar state of upheaval as almost everyone else a month later when General Jaruzelski broadcast his decision to initiate Martial Law. Fortunately, however, I was not just a hostage to emotion and retained the capability to envisage what might transpire in Poland were I to speak out. And it was no great feat of imagination to have foreseen what would have happened. I had spent over a year, precisely 380 days, often working at night, on matters relating to Martial Law. I had learned the planned contingencies off by heart and recalling them was sufficient to know the following:
Firstly, the decision to impose Martial Law on Poland, initially in early November 1981, had been taken under pressure from the Soviet Union. The decision was practicably irrevocable. If at the last moment General Jaruzelski had broken down and dithered the planned radio and television broadcast to the nation would have been undertaken by General Eugeniusz Molczyk, or by another more determined general willing to do so.
Secondly, the operational plan for Martial Law assumed the sole use of the Polish army and militia. If, however, for any reason, these were unable to break the back of Polish society, Soviet, Czech and East German forces, massed on Poland's borders were totally at the ready to intervene.
Thirdly, on 7 November 1981, the day of my final departure from the General Staff headquarters, the plans for Martial Law were so advanced, that its initiation required only the proverbial push of a button. The only issues requiring resolution were the fabrication of the immediate pretext for the confrontation (one which might seem plausible to at least a section of the population) and the best time for its initiation. Fourthly, surprise was to be the linchpin of the overall plan. Martial Law was to be introduced at night on a Friday followed by a so called free Saturday. If, however, circumstances in Poland militated against this intention (in the event, for instance, of Solidarity initiating attempts to pre-empt government action) Martial Law would be still be introduced but in less favourable operational circumstances. This included a scenario in which the whole country was engaged in mass workplace sit-ins.
Taking all this into account, I had no doubt at all, that revealing the plans for Martial Law would do nothing to forestall or defer it. Indeed it could only hasten its onset. I had to assume that if I went public and my message was not assumed to be a false alarm inspired by the authorities, or some other official provocation, in short that if Solidarity believed what I was saying, then it was almost certain a general strike would have been called immediately with organised resistance ensuing in hundreds of Polish factories and places of further education.
In the face of such developments I knew that the army and militia would not limit themselves to just laying siege to strike centres, depriving them of water, food and electricity; mass resistance would have to be broken quickly with the use of armoured troops, tanks first and foremost; and that the probable universal resistance of the Polish population could not be quashed by Polish forces alone and that the Soviet forces being kept in strategic reserve would certainly be brought into play, perhaps together with Czech and East German units.
There could be no doubt that if such a scenario ever came into being everything would end in an awful bloody massacre, especially of those who persevered in their resistance. I believe that the fate of Solidarity activists and other members of the opposition would be very different today if that had happened. Had Soviet forces come in to play, not only would have slaughter followed, but also – with certainty – deportations of the kind that occurred after the Hungarian Uprising was crushed.
The bar was set too high for giving way to emotion –imprudent action was not something I could entertain. I could not shoulder the responsibility for such a gamble. I will say more. Had anyone else, even the American authorities, sought to offer a warning to Poland, they would be doing so in the knowledge that I was against such action. Happily, no such development ever occurred.
I was aware of the fact that withholding a warning could at some point in the future become the subject of criticism. I hear it today, here in exile, its echoes from Poland have reached me also. I accept that criticism with humility. The criticism is inevitable and represents the cost and consequence of my own decisions. If, however, my forebodings were to have materialized, and I still harbour a strong inner belief that they would have, then an awful price would have been paid by Polish society. Today, even though the death penalty hangs over me, I sleep peacefully. Not because of any special security arrangements which may surround me, but because my conscience remains free of the burden of guilt for the loss of any human life.
K: From what you say the motives behind your decision came from the choice of the lesser of two evils. Jaruzelski takes a similar position in the context of his decision to introduce Martial Law. Could you not see any other possible way out other then the choice between two evils, the lesser being Martial Law, the greater, the presumed eventuality of a Soviet invasion?
R.J.K.: From the beginning of the crisis in 1980 and up to the end of October 1981, that is up to the moment when it was decided that the use force against Solidarity was irrevocable, I not only saw such a possibility, but believe I did everything possible, not without desperation, to avert both Martial Law and a Soviet invasion.
Do please recall both 1980 and 1981. Did you, or anyone else in Europe, or the world, but especially in Poland, ever hear one word from the upper echelons of the Polish communist hierarchy, one word about the danger of invasion by Poland's neighbours, even though, in reality, we were but a step away from such an intervention, from the very start of the crisis in 1980?
Did anyone hear news of Stanisław Kania or General Jaruzelski finding the courage and strength to oppose Soviet blackmail, as did Gomułka and Ochab in 1956? I'm afraid not! In fact they both shared the Soviet view that counter-revolution was afoot in Poland, thereby delivering a blessing for possible military action in the country by the Soviets and Warsaw Pact states.
The voices raised against a Soviet invasion and in defence of Poland's right to resolve its own problems could be heard in the USA and western Europe. The fact that up to the summer of 1981 the worst had been avoided, and it even proved possible to convene the IX Extraordinary Congress of the Polish United Worker's Party, was by and large, if not entirely, the result of the decisive stance adopted by foreign governments, the influence of international public opinion and even the position adopted by western communist parties.
It would be inappropriate for me to claim any singular achievement in alerting the US of the unfolding events. Suffice it to say I did seek to do so.
The charge that I neglected the chance of defending Solidarity prior to the attack on it by its home grown enemies leaves me with a healthy conscience. For those who had their ears well to the ground, there were clear audible signals of the impending onslaught. The communist authorities were also aware that someone within their ranks was signalling about what was to come. On 13 September 1981, just before the battle over Solidarity access to the mass media, General Kiszczak (at an extraordinary session of the National Defence Committee convened to discuss issues connected with Martial Law) disclosed that a not insignificant number of Solidarity activists had detailed knowledge of Martial Law planning including the official code name, the provisions for mass imprisonment together with a list of who would be arrested.
At that time alerting Solidarity still made sense. Once however, its demise had been decreed, any forewarning could only prove counterproductive for the trade union.
K: Up to recently your name meant little other than within your own milieu of family and friends. It has now has gained considerable currency, but still all too little is known about the person behind the name. Would you care to talk about yourself? Where do you hail from in terms of Polish society? What led you to become a professional soldier in the People's Army and how did your military career develop?
R.J.K.: I was born in Warsaw in 1930 when the family lived at 6 Dzielna Street and most of my life was spent in the capital – my childhood in a house at 13 Tłomacka Street, then later at 32/34 Długa Street. I recently lived in the Old Town on Rajców Street, number 11. My education began at School 22 situated at 7 Elektoralna Street and subsequently relocated to Miodowa Street.
I was then moved to another school which was associated with a religious order. I come from a family whose earnings came from manual work. In the early thirties my father was a simple worker in a Pruszków factory which manufactured files. The factory was later moved to Ursus. He was a member of the socialist party, the PPS. My family life was ruined early, as it was for many of my peers, by the advent of war and the German occupation of my country.
In 1943 my father was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured in our home on Tłomacka Street and then in the infamous Gestapo prison on Aleja Szucha. He was subsequently incarcerated in Pawiak Prison and died just before the liberation of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to which he had been ultimately moved.
After the war I relocated to Wrocław, where at the age of fifteen I began my first employment in the Town Hall, while undertaking my secondary education in the evenings at a school for mature students. I joined the People's Army in 1947. In spite of everything I believed it to be a Polish army. I completed my officer training in 1950 and for a decade after that I was an officer of the line and attended various advanced military courses.
In 1963 I completed my studies at the General Staff Academy and subsequently served in the General Staff, where to begin with, I was charged with organising operational training and planning military manoeuvres, reporting to the Minister of Defence or the Chief of Staff.
In 1976 after completing a course on operational strategy at the Moscow General Staff College of the Armed Forces of the USSR (which I attended with the current Interior Minister, General Kiszczak) I was charged with heading Section 1 of the Polish General Staff responsible for defence strategy. This post has in recent years included the responsibilities of deputy to the Head of the Operational Management Committee of the General Staff. I held the position to the very end, that is until 7 November 1981.
K: Could you please elaborate on your responsibilities heading strategic defence planning? Was this post combined in any way with other internal functions within the Polish army which might have been allocated to you?
R.J.K.: My military duties had nothing to do with any other internal activities within the army. On the contrary, these duties were strictly directed towards preparations for the defence of the country and its army in the context of an external attack.
The scope of these duties was so comprehensive, that it is probably easier to summarize what was not included in my remit, rather than what was. But then this is not your question. In general terms, let me say this – I was responsible for the complex planning of the development of the army and the defence of the country, in short one might say, the process of planning Poland's military capability.
The other important field of activity with which I was charged was essentially everything which was connected with Poland's membership of the Warsaw Pact. This facet of my work fell to me automatically given the nature of my position, and I therefore took part in all meetings of Warsaw Pact defence ministers, and also most high-level military meetings with our fellow Warsaw Pact members.
Towards the end of my association with the Polish military I was also drawn into operational planning, i.e. to devise strategy in the event of war between the Warsaw Pact and NATO.
K.: Some sources say that for a certain period you were also something of a liaison officer between Jaruzelski and his General Staff and Victor Kulikov Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Pact forces.
R.J.K.: No, this is a misunderstanding. Perhaps it arose because for a very short time I was indeed liaising between the Soviet High Command and the Polish army. But this was in a completely different time-frame and in very different circumstances. In August 1968 during the preparations for the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, I was dispatched to Legnica to work in the Warsaw Pact High Command headed by Marshal Ivan Yakubovsky. I was seconded to the Command by the Polish General Staff to coordinate the Polish contribution to the invasion. At the same time I was also the so-called HQ section officer for the Polish forces drawn from the Silesian Military Region under the command of General Florian Siwicki.
Years later, during the crisis of 1980-1981, I held no liaison post in the sense of your question.
The insight I had into the planned anti-Solidarity actions by Soviet and Polish military derived, at least in part, from my singular position in the Polish General Staff. With the advent of the crisis of 1980-81 I became a kind of one man working party attached to the Ministry of Defence and charged with the preparation of Martial Law.
K.: Your life took you to the peak of the Military, you were able to work at the very top of both the Polish army and Warsaw Pact structures. From your earliest years you had been subjected to military discipline with the required blind acceptance of orders. What, therefore, led you to break with military discipline and lend support to Solidarity? What induced you to accept this mortal risk for yourself and your family? Was it an incident, or some order issued to you?
R.J.K.: First and foremost I cannot agree with the idea that I was some sort of exception. Many people engaged themselves in opposing the prevailing ruling system in Poland. After each political crisis their number rose almost exponentially, and to this or that degree, they were all exposed to repressive measures. There was no lack of such people in the army either, and you may believe me or not, but I really did not feel isolated in my endeavours.
You ask about some incident or order … There can be no doubt that August 1968, twelve years before the Polish August of 1980, had an effect on me. Almost from the very beginning of the wave of strikes along the coast, I was aware that the orders I was carrying out went against the best interests of the country and of the nation it was my duty to serve. So my final decision was most probably grounded in my early experiences.
One particular circumstance I have already mentioned. The official information disseminated to society at the time spoke of an imperialistic plot in Czechoslovakia which sought to wrench the country away from the community of socialist countries. Only cursory mention was made of the pre-planned Warsaw Pact military exercises taking place at the time, and no great stress was laid upon this.
These exercises were well under way when I received an entirely innocuous order to present myself immediately at the headquarters of Marshal Ivan Yakubovsky in Legnica where I was to take part in the planning of concurrent exercises for the Polish forces. When I reached Yakubovsky's headquarters all the Warsaw Pact representatives were present apart from the Czechs and Romanians. The atmosphere was on the whole calm. No one used the words invasion, armed intervention or aggression. These words were reserved for use in the context of the doings of western imperialism. We were simply engaged in exercises. But these “exercises” had something very striking about them, something I had never come across before. Their code name was “Danube” and their next phase, which was to become the subject of our planning, was to take place on Czechoslovak territory but without the participation of the Czechoslovakian armed forces on our side. It also transpired that although our military activity would occur in defence of socialist Czechoslovakia, the aggressor this time was not NATO (against whom the Warsaw Pact had apparently been created) but, very oddly, the Czechoslovak People's army itself, which was after all itself a member of the Warsaw Pact forces. And henceforth their positions were marked on the staff maps in blue, a colour exclusively used to indicate the enemy. In short, there could be no doubt about what all of this meant, but we were not allowed to call a spade a spade.
When the plans for the lightning encirclement of the Czech garrisons, and their neutralisation by way of “persuasion”, were in place, and when the invasion forces were simply awaiting the order to cross our southern neighbour’s border, I tried to glean what the outside world was thinking about these developments. I believed that the military concentration of such a numerous force on the Czech border could not escape the attention of world opinion. It seemed to me that Soviet intentions could be gauged all the more easily given Yakubovsky's order to undertake an EFIR exercise, the simultaneous use of a substantial number of radio transmitters to make the Czechs aware of the magnitude of Warsaw Pact troop concentrations and suggest the futility of possible Czech resistance. Such an airwave demonstration of power could not go unnoticed in the West, I strongly believed, and accordingly began to monitor western news broadcasts, to confirm my assumption that the world was indeed aware of the forthcoming invasion, that it would be against it and that protestations would ensue, and thus that the worst could perhaps be avoided.
I was deeply disappointed and felt helpless. The outside world on which I had so counted was preoccupied with the Vietnam war and the wave of anti-war demonstrations sweeping across most of Europe and also the United States. There were some news items about Czechoslovakia but they were on the whole anodyne. No one seemed to be protesting about the potential invasion. Silence prevailed across the mass media of both the East and the West.
Not wishing to take part in the attack on Czechoslovakia, I telephoned Warsaw and under some pretext engineered my departure from Legnica. I was replaced by Colonel Stanisław Radaj and returned to the capital with little hope that I might alert the world of what was forthcoming. Regrettably, it would not have been straightforward or easy to do, given my position at the time.
About a week later, on the night of 20 August 1968, Soviet paratroopers descended on Prague airport while units of the Polish army under the command of general Florian Siwicki (who headed the Silesian Military Region) crossed into Czechoslovakia together with the troops of other Warsaw Pact countries.
I was unable to avoid participation in these events. At the start of the invasion I was called upon to join a specially formed Command Centre in the General Staff in Warsaw whose task was to oversee the Polish involvement in the Czech operation.
Later, I came not to regret this appointment. I was in direct liaison with units in the field, I listened in on their operational communications and compiled special reports on the campaign in progress, be it for the Minister of Defence General Wojciech Jaruzelski or for First Secretary Władysław Gomułka. From my new vantage point I had a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of this particular chapter in post-war Polish history. After the conclusion of the invasion an evaluation of the campaign was undertaken within the Polish army – with a view of drawing lessons for the future.
Within high officialdom, at Jaruzelski's behest and under his auspices, an internal conference on operation “Danube” was organised at the General Staff office. It was a gala event with much of the upper echelons of the Defence Ministry in attendance, together with numerous regional commanders and other high ranking officers, including the participants of the invasion and, of course, its main architects, members of the Soviet High Command. Those gathered at the conference fell over each other in their praise for the contribution made by the Polish forces. These had not encircled the Czech army with the speed shown by the best army in the in the world, the Soviet army, but by way of compensation had very convincingly persuaded Czech commanders to offer their support for the new leadership of their party and their country. Apparently, a particular feat was the fact that in spite of the hostility of the Czech population towards their invaders and in spite of the human shields formed in front of the tanks and other armoured vehicles, in fact no great loss of life had occurred, nor any substantial harm to the material fabric of the country. Only one Czech child had been killed under the tracks of a Polish tank, and that only by accident. In essence the conference delivered resounding praise for the military and political achievements of operation “Danube” for the socialist community of states, an achievement to which the Polish Peoples’ army had made a very significant contribution.
Outside high officialdom, in the long lasting discussions within military circles, off duty, among friends and at social gatherings, evaluations of operation “Danube” were less enthusiastic, the conclusions diametrically opposite. The involvement of the Polish army in the invasion of Czechoslovakia was seen as an unforgivable mistake delivered by the political and military leadership of People's Poland. A blunder for which a high price would be paid by Poland, when in turn Poles reached out for their own inalienable right to live in dignity and usher in democratic and social change, which the Soviet Union was so unwilling to accept.
My own views were firmly rooted in this thinking and I believe that is how it all began.
I did not have long to wait for my next political lesson in citizenship. It came in December 1970 together with its tragic harvest. When the alleged counter-revolution on the Baltic coast was in its death throes, and the 44 “destroyers of peace in the People's State” were being buried. Among them were 30 shipyard workers and seven minors, pupils at technical schools. 1,164 wounded demonstrators were admitted to hospitals, and again this figure included a large proportion of minors.
The toll was and is horrifying. What, however, particularly disturbed me was the ease with which the authorities of People's Poland (People's after all) used the army to subdue its own citizens. It was at total variance with what the army stood for. Someone gave the order to “block”, “don't let them through” and then “fire”. There was no one – beginning with the Minister of Defence and ending with the lowest ranking commander – who would say: I cannot carry out this order.
These thoughts have never given me peace. When after 10 years, in 1980, history began to repeat itself, this time on an order from Moscow, and the army was once again ranged against the workers, the intelligentsia and the young, at that point I simply said NO. This was a classic situation in which I believed a soldier not only cannot, but simply must not, obey orders which run contrary to his conscience and beliefs. More. Going beyond that, in the coming confrontation, the nation stood no chance. Something over and above had to be done in order to counter the danger.
K: You mentioned that in December 1970 “there was no one beginning with the Minister of Defence...” willing to disobey the order to shoot. In the past, and even today, rumours circulate to the effect that General Jaruzelski was then under house arrest and not only had nothing to do with the Baltic coast massacre, but sought to oppose the policies of the day. Could you shed some light on this matter?
R.J.K.: I'm sorry to say the rumour has no historical base. Jaruzelski did not direct operations on the Baltic coast, but not because he was under house arrest, but simply for the reason, that he was in charge of the whole Military, and would have been in his office on Klonowa Street at the time. The Commander-in-Chief does not lead regiments or even divisions in the field. That is the role of the military hierarchy below him.
The Baltic coast was the scene of the most intense social protests in Poland at the time, but only a few divisions were deployed there, some 25 thousand soldiers (13 thousand in the Tri-City and 12 thousand in Szczecin). The remaining divisions were grouped near Kraków, Poznań, Wrocław and Warsaw, or else placed in reserve on full military alert. The Polish Armed Forces were directly employed in over 100 operations, involving 61 thousand soldiers, 1,700 tanks, 1,750 armoured personnel carriers, air transport, a significant number of helicopters, and even a few warships.
The logistics of all of this was the remit of General Jaruzelski. It is widely known that the decision to use force on the Baltic coast was taken by the First Secretary Władysław Gomułka and his immediate collaborators. The decision was apparently taken on the morning of 15 December 1970 and the Polish Armed Forces did not receive their orders directly from Gomułka and his circle, but from the Minister of Defence, that is from General Wojciech Jaruzelski. The only limitation placed on commanders in the field by Jaruzelski was that fire power could only be used “after delivering warning shots into the air, repeated warnings followed by further warning shots into the ground, and subsequently, as a last resort, firing into the legs of the most aggressive of the demonstrators”.
The consequents of this order were terrible. Most of the victims were killed or injured by bullets which ricocheted off the cobble stones.
K.: Colonel, may we now move towards what should constitute the main part of our exchange. The USA was forewarned of Soviet preparations for the invasion of Poland in December 1980 and March 1981. The American government gave both these facts international currency. Where you the source of this information?
R.J.K.: It is my impression that the evaluation of such military planning, indeed in this case the preparation of Soviet invasions of my country at the two junctures you mention, is not something that may be learnt from one source alone. Nevertheless, I do have the feeling that some of my cries to retard Moscow's rapacity did reach Washington where they were positively evaluated and appreciated.
K.: Before we begin to talk about the detail of the groundwork being then laid down for the use of force against Solidarity, I would like to ask the opinion of you, an officer of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces once engaged in the matters we speak of – do you think that Solidarity carried a death sentence from the moment it was born or did the trade union have some sort of chance of survival?
R.J.K.: If after the departure of First Secretary Gierek a strong political leadership had come into being, capable of authentic independent governance, I'm under the impression, no, in fact I'm absolutely sure, that Solidarity would have survived.
It is comprehensively known that from the beginning of the Polish crisis the Soviet Union made it publicly known that the events in Poland constituted a “counter-revolution”. In the communist scheme of things you don't talk with counter-revolution, you crush it by force.
In October 1956 Khrushchev, Molotov, Mikoyan, and Marshal Konev, all told the Polish First Secretary Władysław Gomułka and the previous First Secretary Edward Ochab, that counter-revolution was rife in Poland. But the two of them found the courage and strength to stand their ground and responded by saying that the events in Poland, where the sole concern of the Polish communist party and that they would not be willing to talk to the Soviet leadership under the threat of force. This was well understood by the citizens of Poland and for the first time after the Second World War they stood squarely behind the party leadership and its rather nebulous promise of a “Polish road to socialism”.
In October 1956, in the face of Soviet threats and charges against the new Polish leadership, the wave of revolution was arrested and a sort of unwritten social and political compromise was achieved with society which Gomułka later betrayed. But that is a different story.
History never repeats itself, but its cogs usually work in the same way.
Had the Kania-Jaruzelski leadership said a firm “No” to the Russians from the start, then in the face of the threats and pressure from Moscow, Solidarity would have had to change tack, and re-align itself primarily for the defence of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Under these circumstances, I feel sure that the trade union would have been more inclined to compromise, and the Soviet Union would have backed down when the Party and military authorities formed a common front with the people. Even Stalin refrained from armed intervention in Yugoslavia. The same happened in Albania, and most recently in Romania when Ceausescu renounced his allegiance to Moscow and refused to subordinate his armed forces to the Russians.
Having had contact with the Russians and watched their military activity at close quarters, I never had any doubt that the Soviet Union was ready and able to use military force in the manner it did when Czechoslovakia was invaded (where essentially its aims were achieved without human or material loss). In the context of Poland, however, I am certain that Moscow was reluctant and could ill afford a war with a country in which it might have to face the army making common cause with the population. Even if the war would have been short lived its costs for the Soviet Union would have been too high. Leaving aside the political and moral price Moscow would have had to pay in the international context, I believe it had serious reasons to conclude that military intervention in Poland would not be an altogether easy affair. To crush the possible resistance of the Polish army it would have had to employ the majority of its armed forces in its European sector, with the participation of some of the Czech and East German forces.
The Russians well knew that the spitting on tanks which they had experienced during their surprise attack on the Czechs was not in the manner and character of the Poles. They knew that the Polish population was richer in experience than our southern neighbours, with the events of 1956 and 1970 behind them, and with the knowledge of what happened in Czechoslovakia. The Polish population was unafraid of tanks and had learnt how to successfully set them alight and immobilize them when the barrels were ranged against them. The Russians were aware of Polish reactions at the start of the crisis when fresh Soviet units and military installations, limited in number and size, appeared in various parts of the country.
Not just a game of cat and mouse they might have surmised. A Soviet military assistant with the permanent Warsaw Pact Liaison Office with whom I had a working relationship lamented that the Poles were openly saying that “Russian tanks burn better than Polish ones”.
So if the Polish communist authorities with the population behind them had publicly displayed resistance towards the Soviet Union and if albeit symbolic gestures of defence had been engineered (such as the deployment of troops in a defensive ring around the capital) no doubt a war of nerves would have ensued, but if Poland had stood firm, then in all probability Moscow would have had to stand down. However, a completely different situation arose in the context of what was after all an internal Polish quarrel.
The Polish party and military leadership, Kania and Jaruzelski, took the side of the Soviet Union agreeing the principle that counter revolution was afoot in Poland. They also promised to deal with Solidarity on their own, only asking for time. Given the position taken by the Polish leadership, Moscow was only facing a defenceless population not a country behaving like an organised sovereign state.
K.: Why then was the Soviet Union, firstly in 1980, secondly in the spring of 1981, ready and close to invading. Why the need to do so if from the beginning the Russians had received assurances and a commitment from the Polish authorities that they themselves would deal with Solidarity with the use of political and administrative measures?
R.J.K.: As we all remember well, the Russians wanted to send in the Red Army on two occasions as a result of the political reaction of the Polish authorities to the ongoing crisis in Poland. The authorities sought to sabotage the 1980 agreement or abrogate it, which only further fuelled social unrest and produced an escalation of demands on the authorities. Willy nilly, and if only to survive, the Polish communist authorities had to give way.
The policy was suicidal because at one and the same time it antagonized both Polish society and the Soviet leadership. The latter began to believe that Kania and Jaruzelski were playing for time and pursuing some sort of double game.
K.: May I suggest that we now seek to tidy up the chronology. What came first: the threat of invasion or the decision to impose martial law?
R.J.K.: Regrettably, the decision to introduce Martial Law.
K.: When did the idea first surface and who put it forward?
R.J.K. : In a written information statement for the Soviet leadership, which I myself prepared in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior, at the behest of General Jaruzelski and according to his guidelines. The idea of Martial Law came into being as early as 1980, at the height of the sit-ins of August 1980, almost 16 months before its ultimate imposition by Jaruzelski.
The collective authorship of Martial Law belongs to the so-called Party/Government Steering Committee which came into being on 24 August 1980, just after the conclusion of IV Plenary Session of the Party Central Committee which, as is known, advocated negotiations with the striking workers. This Committee was headed by the newly appointed Prime Minister, Józef Pinkowski. Its other members included Party Secretaries Kazimierz Barcikowski and Stefan Olszewski, together with Deputy PM Mieczysław Jagielski, probably also Tadeusz Grabski, and of course, definitely, the ministers at the head of the two key ministries of Defence and Internal Affairs, Wojciech Jaruzelski and Mirosław Milewski respectively.
In order to outmanoeuvre the rebellious population, the Steering Committee tactically agreed to accept the imprecise demands of August 1980 and, once the blaze of strikes which had swept the whole country had died down, to turn the screw with repressive administrative measures, with the imposition of Martial Law as a last resort.
Given that the initial official administrative counterattack in September 1980 brought the opposite effect to what had been intended, the Steering Committee took the wide-reaching decision to begin general preparations towards the implementation of Martial Law.
Within the Polish Armed Forces preparations began on 22 October 1980, two days before the official Warsaw court registration of Solidarity. The preparations were in earnest and the order to formulate plans for Martial Law given to the General Staff came from the Minister of Defence, General Wojciech Jaruzelski.
From beginning to end, overall responsibility for the planning, fell to the Chief-of-Staff, General Florian Siwicki. During the early phase of planning only Siwicki's deputies took part. They were:
- Lieutenant General Tadeusz Hupałowski,
- Lieutenant General Jerzy Skalski,
- Lieutenant General Antoni Jasiński,
- Major General Mieczysław Dachowski, and
- me, Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.
Later on we were joined by the following from the Operational Command of the General Staff:
- Major General Wacław Szklarski,
- Colonel Czesław Witt,
- Colonel Franciszek Puchała, and
- Colonel Stefan Marciniak from Section X of the General Staff.
We were assisted by: - the secretariat of KOK (The National Defence Committee) which prepared all the legal documentation of Martial Law,
- the Ministry of the Interior with its known responsibilities, and
- the Department of Propaganda of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party (the communist party), working with the Political Section of the Polish Armed Forces.
The initial plan (a working study), together with drafts of some of the Martial Law legislation were already completed in November 1980 and in the same month were the subject of a presentation at KOK which was chaired by Prime Minister Pinkowski.
The presentation was made in general terms as the Army High Command had reservations about the reliability of some of the KOK members who apparently harboured ideas about reshaping the political system in People's Poland and whose presence in KOK was of a temporary nature. In spite of this, the general assumptions and aims of the imposition of Martial Law as outlined by representatives of the Ministries of Defence and Interior differed little from what was implemented in the December of 1981.
The Ministry of Defence postulated the suspension of citizens' rights, the introduction of extraordinary powers for the authorities, together with special decrees governing labour relations.
The Military also wanted to see provisions which established a comprehensive obligation to national defence which would entail:
- the part mobilization of the country with some 250 thousand conscriptions of reservists,
- for students and graduates the legal endorsement of temporary military service into full military service,
- the widespread militarization of parts of the economy, and
- the conscription of up to one million citizens into the Civil Defence Corps.
After the experience of 1970, the General Staff sought to limit the responsibilities of the army to the role of menacing the inhabitants of large urban agglomerations and industrial areas. Diplomatically this was referred to as “maintaining peace and order in cities and towns”. It was not envisaged that the armed forces would come into direct confrontation with striking workers. The General Staff took the position that this should fall to the forces under the command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (the militia and other formations) and in order to alleviate the responsibilities of the latter, the army was willing to start guarding and protecting a number of important official installations and locations.
To further assist, military equipment was to be transferred for the use of the Interior Ministry
– weapons, ammunition, armoured personnel carriers, helicopters, etc. Interior Minister Mirosław Milewski did not mince words when it came to the aims of his Ministry. No niceties like the “curtailment of citizen's rights” but a forthright statement of what has to be done, concretely:
- the de-legalisation of Solidarity,
- widespread arrests and internment of opposition and Solidarity activists,
- the abolition of unrestricted travel and the introduction of curfews,
- the suspension of civil rights such as personal physical integrity, the inviolability of property, the inviolability of correspondence, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom to print and publish, freedom to hold meetings, marches, and demonstrations, and
- the creation of special courts to try those who transgress Martial Law.
Milewski wished to have a greater degree of direct support from the army, more than the General Staff anticipated. He wanted the army to be directly involved in possible confrontations with the people.
All in all, in terms of what was expected, this preliminary vision of Martial Law with its provisions about what had to be suspended, forbidden, decreed, militarised, delegalised, where to send the army and where to send the Security Forces, whom to protect and whom to imprison, was in fact, little removed from the actual reality of Martial Law as imposed thirteen months later.
The possibility of implementing the contents of this feasibility study looked dire. As far as I know the November KOK presentation failed to deliver anyone (including Mirosław Milewski) who thought that the whole concept could be applied in practice. The entirely valid conclusion that the introduction of Martial Law at that time could lead to the real beginning of the end for communist rule in Poland, and that the whole matter would end with Russian intervention, resulted in the recommendations of the study being “noted” by KOK, and all concerned were advised to continue their planning.
At the suggestion of the Ministry of Defence, KOK agreed that future planning for Martial Law should also encompass preparations in the so called civilian ministries: those of Energy, Communications, Internal Commerce and Services. Any discussion concerning the November 1980 KOK meeting cannot omit the positive role played by Stanisław Kania, the then, and for some time after, First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party. Officially, Kania was not a member of KOK, but I need not explain why his opinions were treated as sacrosanct, especially by the Prime Minister who was the chairman of KOK. Kania, in spite of the undertaking given to the Soviets about his readiness to use force in the defence of their idea of socialism, in practice, and up to the end, favoured an exclusively political solution to Solidarity. There can be no doubt, that Kania's stance, still supported at that point by Jaruzelski, dampened the appetite for the use of force and shaped the political decisions of the day.
K.: So, plans for Martial Law were shelved. Is it this which led to the threat of Soviet invasion at the beginning of December 1980?
R.J.K.: In short - yes. The Soviet view was that delaying Martial Law not only enabled the consolidation of Solidarity, which the Soviets had wanted to avoid from the very beginning, but also opened the door to the formation and development of independent social structures. As known, Judge Kościelniak refused to register the Independent Association of Students on 13 November, and yet two weeks later, after Warsaw University went on strike, the Minister of Education undertook to facilitate registration no later than 20 December of the same year. Soviet objections were even stronger in the case of the registration of Rural Solidarity. As we all remember, at the end of November, Rural Solidarity remained without formal registration, but it was allowed lodge an appeal with the High Court which was to be heard towards the end of December.
All of this coincided with the somewhat weak stance adopted by the Pinkowski government in its confrontation with Solidarity. Clearly the government's perception of how to apply justice was less than single-minded. The “Czubiński” affair, or the apprehension and subsequent release of Jan Narożniak and Piotr Sapełło are cases in point. The Russians were thus reinforced in their belief that the leadership of the Polish communist party (and especially Kania) were procrastinating, if not double-dealing. Hence the behind the scenes Soviet initiative from this time to change the Polish leadership. The planning involved the active participation of the Soviet Embassy in Warsaw, the High Command of the Warsaw Pact in the person of its Commander-in-Chief Marshal Kulikov, and Afansij Shcheglov the principal Warsaw Pact liaison officer attached to the Polish armed forces. Regime change in favour of hardliners, who were even then willing and ready to deal with the problem of Solidarity, was to be preceded by the introduction of a considerable Soviet force into Poland together with the forces of other Warsaw Pact countries. Talks concerning this scenario included plans on how to neutralize the Polish army – which was regarded as demoralised – and these talks were conducted with Wojciech Jaruzelski. I have no knowledge of the exact content of Soviet conversations with him, only he does, and he should make them public.
For myself, I can say that I only know of the results of these exchanges. After their conclusion on 1 December 1980, a very drained Jaruzelski, personally ordered a Polish General and Colonel (Tadeusz Hupałowski, First Deputy to the Chief of Staff, and Colonel Franciszek Puchała), to fly to Moscow to familiarize themselves with the Soviet plans for military intervention in Poland.
They were made aware of the details at the Soviet General Staff on the day of their arrival and received registered copies of Soviet military maps which made clear that under the guise of military exercises (entitled “Soyuz 81”) three Russian armies numbering fifteen divisions were to enter Poland, a Czech army of two divisions, and one East German division together with army command. In total eighteen Russian, Czech and East German divisions were to be brought into play on Polish territory. Full readiness for the invasion was planned for 8 December 1980. The invasion plan envisaged Soviet forces operating in east and central Poland, while the Czechs and Germans were to operate in the west of the country. A full maritime blockade was to be introduced by the Soviet Baltic Fleet and the East German Navy. At the start of the invasion the Polish armed forces were to remain confined to barracks as had been the case with the Czech army in 1968. After dramatic negotiations, Jaruzelski was able to wrest some changes – the Russians agreed that some Polish army units could take part in the operation, albeit in a secondary role. Thus the Polish 5th and 11th Armoured Divisions were to be attached to the Czech army, and the 4th and 12th Mechanised Divisions into the East German force.
K.: What you are saying makes for bleak reflection, even after 5 years. How did members of Jaruzelski's General Staff react to the Russian plans at the time?
R.J.K.: The top Polish military leadership at the Ministry of Defence was utterly debilitated by the ruthlessness and intransigence of the Russians in their talks with Jaruzelski. The Russians were totally unwilling to discuss the matter of East German participation in the intervention force, and even opposed the possibility of Polish military involvement. Jaruzelski was in a state of shock and he locked himself in his office. He was incommunicado even to his closest collaborators. General Siwicki, and General Hupałowski who had learnt of the invasion plans in Moscow, were in no better state. This state of paralysis lasted for the whole of 30 November and 1 December. Everyone was waiting for a miracle, which never came. The invasion plans brought to Warsaw from Moscow by General Hupałowski and Colonel Puchała in principle confirmed everything which the Russians had outlined to General Jaruzelski. Painstaking analysis of the Russian plans undertaken at the Polish General Staff led its leadership to conclude that the Russians had absolutely no understanding of what was happening in Poland, had no grasp of the national mood, and much underestimated the strength of Solidarity. They believed that an invasion would not calm the situation, but could instead heighten social tensions, leading even to the possibility of a national uprising.
Under these circumstances the Chief of the General Staff General Florian Siwicki undertook a new attempt to convince Jaruzelski to approach the Russians again for further talks to halt this worst possible scenario. Acting on the suggestions of his deputies, Siwicki proposed that Jaruzelski should present the Russians with other options for action, prime among them the immediate introduction of Martial Law without waiting for a more opportune time to do so. But General Jaruzelski was still in a state of complete apathy, and would not even enter into any discussion on the matter. Only a day later, on 12 December, did a new element enter the equation when General Eugeniusz Molczyk arrived. Molczyk had been in Bucharest between 1 and 3 December attending a Warsaw Pact meeting. After familiarizing himself with the invasion plan brought from Moscow, he approached Jaruzelski to convince him to talk to Moscow again and advised that Moscow should be presented with a comprehensive plan for the immediate crushing of Solidarity by Polish hands only. In his conversation with Jaruzelski he apparently said: “History will never forgive us if they do it on our behalf”. To understand the full significance of these words it should be mentioned that Molczyk was a Deputy Minister of Defence and in charge of military training. In the event of war (with the West) he was designated to command the “Polish front”. He was considered the most prominent hardliner within the Polish Military and to have direct contacts with Moscow. His advice sounded disingenuous in the sense that he was proposing a calculated start to hostilities which would in the end almost certainly have to be finished off by the Russians. Nevertheless his voice was interpreted as signalling the hint of indecision, of a softer line from Moscow holding out the possibility of a fresh Polish approach with the offer of crushing Poland's “counter-revolution” with Polish resources and within a short time frame.
In all probability the Molczyk factor made for the change in Jaruzelski and he gave his veiled assent to the expeditious preparation of a new plan to achieve “internal peace” with the sole use of the Polish army, which was to be presented to the Russians during a further Warsaw Pact meeting in Moscow called for 5 December.
One could see from the material prepared for the Polish delegation to Moscow that while the First Secretary Stanisław Kania and Prime Minister Pinkowski were still making excuses for their continued tolerance of “counter-revolution”, the Minister of Defence, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, could concentrate on solving the problems inherent in the preparation of the Polish army for “the defence of Socialism in Poland” and the presentation to the Soviets of the Polish concept for the liquidation of Solidarity and other opposition groupings, once the first signs of weariness and fatigue became apparent in society.
I may add that all those that knew about the Soviet invasion plan were both exhausted and despondent, and that no one put forward the idea that even the slightest gesture of self-defence might be in order (as had happened in 1956), not to mention the very idea of some form of armed defiance against the potential invasion by members of the Warsaw Pact, whereas there even were voices suggesting that the very existence of such large numbers of foreign troops in Poland could lead to the calming of tensions within Polish society.
K.: To your mind Colonel, what dissuaded the Russians from invasion even though their preparations were so advanced? Pressure from the West? Jaruzelski's new offer?
R.J.K.: Both. The Soviet preparations for invasion did not go unnoticed in the West, as had happened in 1968 in the case of Czechoslovakia. The Russians could not benefit from the element of surprise, always useful in such circumstances. Due to interventions from Western governments, and even from Third World countries, the Soviets must have progressively become more and more aware that an invasion of Poland would have destroyed detente, upset economic cooperation between East and West, provoked NATO budget increases, and in all probability made for a renewed push for military cooperation between the USA and China.
Let me remind you that in those first days of December when the highest military authorities in Poland responsible for the defence of the land were immobilised by apathy and doubt, there was an unusually sharp reaction from the United States. On 3 December President Carter sent an urgent personal telegram to Brezhnev with the demand that Polish government and nation be allowed to find their own solutions to their own problems, and also warned Brezhnev of the negative impact that the use of force in Poland would bring. On 4 December he made a public statement to the same effect.
On balance, given the decisive pressure and clear statements from the West, it became obvious that military intervention in Poland could become very costly for the Soviet Union. Moscow, therefore, began to lean towards the idea that the Poles themselves should deal with the crisis, even at the cost of delay.
K.: Did the threat of Soviet intervention recede immediately after the Moscow summit on 5 December 1980 or was this to be gradual process? What did the Polish communist authorities do to fulfil their undertaking given to Moscow? Did you become aware of more intensive activity towards the introduction of Martial Law? If so what form did this take?
R.J.K.: The Moscow summit did not diminish the threat of invasion. It made the Polish leadership aware that there was no withdrawal from Martial Law. If they failed to implement their undertaking the Soviets would strike with their Warsaw Pact allies. To make this entirely clear, the Red Army was held in position on Poland's border for a further month, during which the Russians were trying to seek out a potential new Polish leadership, a new “Targowica Confederation”, willing to show more appetite for a decisive confrontation with Solidarity. Thus the Polish authorities had no choice but to implement a new stage of the planning process.
On 10 December all relevant sections of government engaged in organizing the crackdown were instructed to refresh their plans with a higher level of detail with a view to implementation in spring 1981. It was calculated that by then Polish society would have become weary of the internal situation in Poland and Solidarity would have diminished in popularity.
Preparations in the Ministry of the Interior for such a spring offensive were headed by Mirosław Milewski General Bogusław Stachura was charged with coordinating planning. He had at his disposal a coordinating board which was essentially Section 1 of the Ministry headed by Colonel Bronisław Pawlikowski and his two deputies Colonel Jan Wasiluk and Colonel Jan Czyżewski. The following were also engaged in the overall planning: :
- Major General Józef Beim, Deputy Commander of the People's Militia (MO),
- Major General Jan Słowikowski, Director of I Department of the Ministry of the Interior,
- Major General Władysław Ciastoń, Director of III “A” Department of the Ministry of the Interior,
- Major General Jerzy Ćwiek, Commander of the People's Militia (MO), Warsaw,
- Major General Konrad Straszewski, Director of IV Department of the Ministry of the Interior,
- Colonel Zdzisław Sarewicz, Director of II Department of the Ministry of the Interior,
- Colonel Henryk Walczyński, Director of III Department of the Ministry of the Interior, - Colonel Ryszard Wójcicki, Director of Bureau “W” in the Ministry of the Interior,
- Colonel Tadeusz Kwiatkowski, Director of Investigative Bureau in the Ministry of the Interior,
- Colonel Jan Wieloch, Director of the Operational Bureau of the High Command of the People's Militia (KGMO),
- Major General Jan Górecki, Director of the Government Protection Bureau,
- Major General Bonifacy Jedynak, Director of the Personnel Department in the Ministry of the Interior.
In the period between December 1980 and February 1981 the Interior Ministry concentrated on introducing “moles” into Solidarity and other independent organizations coming into being at the time. It was also engaged in planning mass arrests and had painstakingly compiled a list of future detainees – the Security Forces put together a register of some 4,000 people destined for arrest, of whom 240 were placed under full surveillance to enable immediate arrest.
Work in the Ministry of Defence concentrated on the formulation of a raft of legal provisions to be used under Martial Law (or illegal provisions, if you prefer), the identification of buildings and installations to be placed in the care of the Military, fleshing out the details for the operational use of military units and their coordination with the Security forces, plans for mobilisation and militarisation, and the preparation of civilian agencies for their duties under martial law.
The drafting of Martial Law legislation by the Ministry of Defence fell to one of its Deputy Ministers, the Secretary of KOK, General Tadeusz Tuczapski. All decrees by the Council of State, even including the notice announcing Martial Law, were drafted within the KOK Secretariat on Krzywicki Street in Warsaw. The work was supervised by the head of the Secretariat, the future Mayor of Warsaw, Lieutenant General Mieczysław Dębski. The legal provisions for Martial Law were agreed with the relevant Ministries, including, perish the thought, the Ministry of Justice. Colonel Tadeusz Malicki and his trained army lawyers were responsible for the chapter and verse of the legislation.
The precise plans for the use of the Polish Armed Forces during Martial Law were developed by Colonel (now General) Franciszek Puchała who was the deputy to the Chief of Section I of the General Staff.
Matters relating to the planned mobilisation of conscripts and the militarisation of the country were the remit of Lieutenant General Antoni Jasiński a deputy to the Chief of Staff. Colonel Stefan Marciniak and other officers of Section X of the General Staff nominated by General Jasiński assisted him in this assignment.
Getting the so called “civilian ministries” ready to function under Martial Law was essentially the responsibility of the Ministers and their immediate deputies already in place. Military personnel were, however, seconded to these ministries:
- Major General Leon Kołatkowski to the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telecommunications
- Colonel Piotr Panasiuk to the Ministry of Energy and Nuclear Power
- Colonel Jerzy Budrewicz to the Ministry of Communications
- Colonel Tadeusz Antoniuk to the Ministry of International Commerce and Services. The development of propaganda was handled by Walery Namiotkiewicz, from the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers (communist) Party.
The main political office of the armed forces, under the personal supervision of Major General Tadeusz Szaciło, prepared the first draft of the TV and radio broadcast to be delivered by the Prime Minister on the introduction of Martial Law in the spring of 1981.
To me, Colonel Ryszard Kukliński, fell the business of coordinating the process of planning across the board together with developing the core concepts for running the country after the imposition of Martial Law.
Until the VIII Plenary session of PUWP (communist party), which among other matters decided to appoint a new Prime Minister, Martial Law planning was essentially conducted separately in the Ministries of the Interior and of Defence. The sporadic discussions between General Siwicki (Chief of the General Staff) and Minister Milewski (Ministry of Internal Affairs), as well the rare working meetings between officials of the two Ministries, made for the persistence of quite serious differences, such as what role the army should play in any confrontation with the people, and varying opinions on legal aspects of Martial Law which had a direct impact on the timing of mass arrests.
This state of affairs changed almost immediately after General Jaruzelski was nominated by Parliament as the new Prime Minister. He ordered a unified decision-making process to be established, with conflicting ideas to be “gamed”, together with the full integration of planning under one joint management. On 16 February 1981, while everyone in Poland was still impressed by the new General / Prime Minister's famous exposé in which he presented an idealistic but positive policy statement, in which he appealed for “three industrious months and 90 days of peace”, 45 high ranking officers from the Ministries of Defence and the Interior together with two functionaries from the Propaganda Department of the Party Central Committee met in an army building on Aleja Niepodległości, to fine tune preparations for Martial Law and to co-ordinate plans for its introduction. This decision-making meeting was chaired jointly by Mirosław Milewski and General Florian Siwicki. In addition to the 20 officers from the Interior Ministry, all of whom I have already mentioned, two additional representatives from this Ministry were present
– Major General Stefan Stochaj, Director responsible for Armaments and also the Director responsible for Supply and Technical Services.
The Ministry of Defence sent 19 officers, again already mentioned by me by name. They had all taken part in Martial Law preparations previously.
In addition to the 19 the following also took part in the “gaming” process:
- Major General Marian Pasternak, head of the Signal Corps,
- Colonel Henryk Święcicki, Staff Officer responsible for management,
- Colonel Mieczysław Kędzia, Internal Security Services management officer,
- Colonel Zdzisław Malina, Chief of the National Defence Committee (KOK) secretariat.
In addition to Walerian Namiotkiewicz, the Party Central Committee was also represented by Comrade Czyż.
In spite of the very select composition of the gathering each participant was asked to sign a special confidentiality clause. Presentations had to be made from memory and delivered without supporting paperwork. Notes could only be taken by members of the game secretariat – Colonel Wasiluk and Colonel Jan Czyż on behalf of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Colonel Witt and I on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.
During the deliberations, the views of the participants coalesced into a shared position that the introduction of Martial Law in the prevailing circumstances could be the starting point for the greatest national drama in Polish history, yet the final conclusions distilled from this meeting could only hasten its implementation.
Colonel Tuczapski's proposal to have the government introduce a Martial Law Bill into the Sejm (Parliament) was ultimately rejected. Participants came to the conclusion that the liquidation of Solidarity, with its membership of many millions, could only be achieved with the element of total surprise. It was agreed that the most advantageous moment to strike would on a day free from work with schools and universities closed, preferably on a night from Saturday to Sunday.
The so called “Operacja Wiosna” (Operation Spring) was regarded as the most important element of the crackdown. Its objective was the arrest and internment of some six thousand key Solidarity and independent opposition activists. It was believed that this operation would be most effective if the swoop on potential detainees could occur 6 to 12 hours before the official declaration of Martial Law.
During the decision-making gaming, agreement was finally reached as to the role to be played by the Army and Security forces respectively, and also their combined role in the event of a confrontation with the population.
It was agreed that the vicinity of industrial areas, factories and higher educational establishments would be the sole remit of the Security Forces. The army was to behave more cautiously, as a support force in urban areas and to cordon off industrial areas. This war gaming exercise closed the second phase, the so-called Spring Phase, of Martial Law planning. Its conclusions were presented to General Jaruzelski on 20 February 1981. The next day, on Saturday the 21st, the Chief of the General Staff, General Florian Siwicki, informed me that Jaruzelski had accepted its findings. He had introduced only a few minor amendments and wanted the report to be refashioned as a statement of “the current preparedness of the State for the implementation of Martial Law” which he wished to take to Moscow to show the Soviet leadership during the XXVI Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
On the 3 March PAP (the Polish Press Agency) noted that “General Wojciech Jaruzelski, member of the Politburo of the Polish United Workers' Party, the Prime Minister of the Polish People's Republic, the Polish Minister of Defence and member of the delegation of the Polish United Workers' Party to the XXVI Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR met with Nikolai Tikhonov, member of the Soviet Politburo and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR in the Kremlin on the third of this month”. From this communiqué the Poles could also learn that the subject of the meeting were problems of cooperation based on the principles of equality and mutual fraternal assistance.
Only a few people could know that during that Kremlin meeting during which Jaruzelski gave an outline of his government's policy, the “information on the current preparedness of the State for the implementation of Martial Law” was also detailed. During the meeting he also assured the Soviets that the Polish leadership “being aware of the presence of its ally in the background, has resolved to reach for this manner of defending our country against the forces of counter-revolution.”
K.: From what you have said the Polish leadership was ready for confrontation in the spring of 1981 and the Soviet leadership had been fully briefed in the matter. Why, therefore, the new threat of Soviet military confrontation in both March and April of that year. Could you offer the background to these threats and the key facts?
R.J.K.: Your point about the Polish leadership being ready for confrontation in the spring of 1981 is imprecise. Indeed the Government did have its plans for Martial Law and the destruction of Solidarity, but at this precise juncture felt the time was not ripe for implementation. Leaving aside other motives Jaruzelski might have had, he took the pragmatic view that it was the wrong time to do so. It is worth remembering that Jaruzelski was not just interested in initiating the confrontation but also in the victory of the “communist order”. And that in the spring of 1981 this was not a realistic goal. Or even a possible one. The regime had a Ministry of Interior at least in partly in a state of flux, an unreliable army, and a handful of hardliners in a communist party which was in a state of disintegration. Against it was ranged not just a trade union with a membership of many millions, but essentially the whole of Polish society in opposition to the “communist order”, a balance of forces which could not deliver a victory for Jaruzelski under any circumstances.
Given the situation, Jaruzelski always, both before 3 March and after, assured Moscow that he was determined to implement Martial Law, but in those endless conversations with the Russians (for which I myself prepared documentation under Jaruzelski's guidance) he repeatedly reiterated the view, that one had to wait for a while, so that the balance of forces would at least partially swing back in favour of the authorities. He believed that the popularity of Solidarity would erode and that the authorities would find a least find the partial support of the population. He also pointed out that time was needed for consolidation on the government side (referring to the known weaknesses within the Ministry of Interior and the communist party).
In those conversations, as always, the Russians heard only what they were prepared to hear, what they wanted to hear. At the beginning of 1981 they had been told, and only heard, that Jaruzelski was ready to “defend socialism” with the introduction of Martial Law.
The fact that he had also concurrently said that its implementation had to wait for more favourable circumstances on the ground, and perhaps principally for a change in the balance of forces in Poland, did not register with the Russians. They were uninterested in this, it was irrelevant to them.
They were willing to alter the balance at any point with the introduction of Soviet divisions into Poland, and also Czech and East German ones. That was the background, just before General Jaruzelski assumed the post of Prime Minister. Moscow then communicated to the Poles that it wished to conduct military exercises after 16 March on Polish territory and around Poland's borders. The exercises had not been planned previously and 150 thousand military personnel were to take part with 30 thousand of these directly on Polish soil.
The Polish General Staff had the worst possible forebodings about this, especially as the Russians had made no secret of the fact that the exercises were directly connected with the political situation in Poland. The Russians made it clear that the exercises were conceived as a form of internationalist assistance for Polish communists, and the Polish Party and Government, which since the beginning of the crisis had been pursuing a tactic of not annoying Moscow, accepted this internationalist assistance. We were presently to learn how the Russians envisaged this assistance.
Shortly before the VIII Congress of the Polish United Workers Party (the communist party) during which it was decided to replace the Prime Minister, a group of 18 Soviet Generals from the United Command came to Poland (including all Marshal Kulikov’s deputies) to ascertain the level of Polish military readiness for participation in “Soyuz 81”. With permission from the Polish Ministry of Defence they made a tour of all the military regions in Poland often making contact with the Polish Military at divisional and even regimental level. But the Generals were not the least bit interested in the quality of Polish military training or the potential battlefield capability of Polish troops. They were solely interested in the thinking of the Polish Commanders in the context of counterrevolution. In their conversations with high ranking Polish officers (often conducted on a one to one basis) they went to extraordinary lengths. There was little political agitation per se, more a direct call to take up arms against their fellow-countrymen.
At the headquarters of the 1st Mechanized Regiment in Wesoła near Warsaw the Russian General Shchegolov (one of the most despicable exponents of Russian chauvinism) demanded of the Polish Colonel: “What action will you take if the need arises to expel striking workers from an industrial plant?”
The nature of the “Soyuz 81” exercises came into greater focus when after 14 February, Russian reconnaissance groups began to materialise in Poland. It became clear that the usual areas of interest for General Staffs in the context of forthcoming manoeuvres (such as training grounds or forests) were not on the Soviet “to visit” list, but the following were: Warsaw International Airport; the Mokotów Television and Radio Centre; the Warsaw Steelworks; The Żerań FSO Car Manufacturing Plant; The Gdańsk Shipyard and key industrial locations in Elbląg, Szczecin, Poznań, Wrocław, Świdnik and others.
The Russian Generals who came from deep inside the Soviet Union were also interested in forests as possible military concentration points –not in those which were far removed from urban and industrial agglomerations (as might be the case with routine military exercises), but in those lying in close proximity.
By way of example, one of the chosen concentration points near Warsaw was the Kampinos Forest, and another Pyry. During the Russian reconnaissance, while being escorted out of a military facility by a Polish officer dressed in civilian clothes, a Soviet General (also in civilian clothes), shared an anxiety with the Pole: “We can deploy in front of an industrial plant, we can block it and what then? How does one force people to work?”
All of this was well known to Florian Siwicki, the Chief of the General Staff and Defence Minister of the day. As also to the new Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski. In spite of this they gave permission for the plans of various public buildings to be handed over to the Soviets, buildings which were earmarked to become Russian command centres in the capital. Similarly with public buildings in other cities.
In recounting these facts, I do not wish, for one moment, to suggest that Jaruzelski, and particularly Siwicki, were keen to bring Russian reinforcements into Poland. To say so would be untrue.
What I will say, however, and there can be no doubt about this, is that to agree to the unplanned “Soyuz 81” military exercises together with turning a blind eye to the Russian script for these “exercises” was, in the complicated Polish context of the day, playing with fire – to put it mildly. I think that both Jaruzelski and Siwicki felt the same, particularly on the 16 March when the exercises begun.
For on Thursday 19 March, on the third day of the exercises, which were perceived by its authors as a backup for the much awaited and promised counteroffensive by the Polish authorities, came the first serious confrontation between the regime and Solidarity. In the city of Bydgoszcz.
For the Polish authorities the use of force proved a disaster in this test of strength. You might remember that after the disruption of the activities of the local National Council and the beatings administered by Milewski's hit-squads on Jan Rulewski, Mariusz Łabentowicz and Michał Bartoszce, all popular opposition activists, the whole of Poland reacted in protest against this official provocation. In the face of such a single-minded social reaction, the Jaruzelski government sought to take a step back, but it soon became evident that it had no room for manoeuvre, with Marshall Kulikov and the Red Army standing just behind it. So when Jaruzelski the government began looking for some sort of compromise with Solidarity, which had announced a four hour warning strike for 27 March, and a national strike from 31 March, the Head of Operations in the Soviet General Staff took a special flight to Leginca (the site of a large Soviet base in western Poland) where he conferred with Marshall Kulikov for four hours on a one to one basis.
After that meeting Kulikov made it known that the “Soyuz 81” military exercises, which under an agreement with the Poles were scheduled to end on 25 March, were to be prolonged indefinitely. The prolongation of the Warsaw Pact exercises, which had never happened before, might have gone unnoticed under more normal circumstances. However, in the context of the day, at the end of March 1981, the prolongation was very worrying, and that for two reasons:
- firstly, it occasioned a pretext for the introduction into Poland of a larger number of “fraternal” forces, and
- secondly, and this perhaps still more worrying, the prolongation effectively meant the approval of a command centre for the Polish Armed Forces independent of the Polish General Staff, as it kept General Eugeniusz Molczyk, known for his subservience towards Moscow, in charge of the so-called “Polish Front”, which in practice placed most of the Polish army and air force under his command. An unusual situation for peace time.
Not without significance was that the ongoing military exercises could serve as a pretext for the Soviet request for a facility in Pyry (near Warsaw) to serve as their headquarters for air-defence. A substantial number of Soviet officers took root there and in practice they assumed control of the whole of Polish air-space.
It may be the case that both Jaruzelski and Siwicki were at peace with all of this, they did after all know much more than their subordinates who were full of the worst forebodings. I myself in the General Staff received at least three telephone calls from Białobrzeg where the “Polish Front” General Staff was located. High ranking officers would ask “what are you up to in the General Staff?”, or “we know why we are being kept posted here, does your top brass really not understand what all of this is about?” or “just finish the matter, we want to go back to our previous work”.
But Moscow still had its own plans.On 27 March 1981 a Soviet plane landed at the military sector of Warsaw airport. On board were 30 functionaries from the KGB, the Soviet Ministry of Defence, and Gosplan (the Soviet state planning committee). Their mission was to familiarize themselves with the Polish plans for Martial Law. The military personnel were headed by Marshall Victor Kulikov, the KGB group by Andropov's first deputy.
After examining our plans, the Russians came to the conclusion that they were wanting and put forward amendments. According to the visitors the introduction of Martial Law was necessary for the defence of socialism. They expressed the view that the Polish constitution should be suspended as soon as Martial Law was imposed with all power passing to the Military High Command. Outside the capital, power was to lie with garrison commanders, and where there were none, authority was to pass to nominated Polish army commanders. The provisions of Martial Law were to be executed by the army, the security forces and active units of the communist party. Both before and after the imposition of the exceptional measures, a concentrated effort was to be made to expose the counter revolution taking hold of Solidarity, identifying its leaders and any other radical elements together with their places of abode. Hostile organisations should be infiltrated and the location of underground radio stations and printing shops established. The Russians also wanted the process of internment of opposition activists to occur 14 hours before the imposition of Martial Law, investigations to ensue and summary courts to be put into operation. They also argued for the concurrent use of both the army and the security forces to crush the counter revolution and break the strikes. The Polish General Staff, the regional military authorities and the services in general, were – it was advised – to accept Soviet military advisors.
After the “consultation” (the word used by the Soviets for reviewing the Polish Martial Law plan) the Russian specialists in Polish Martial Law advocated a speedy revision of arrangements and a new review meeting as soon as possible.
To show the Soviets taking part in a Polish conflict that most members of the Polish communist party were keen to seek a compromise solution in the crisis, Stanisław Kania convened the IX Congress of the PUWP for 28 March 1981 which, as is remembered, passed a motion expressing the will for dialogue and mutual agreement.
With this legitimization, a government report was published concerning the Bydgoszcz incident which included a Solidarity commentary on the events that had occurred there. The nation breathed a sigh of relief which cannot be said of the authorities. After having engineered a confrontation with the people, they now had to fight their Moscow protectors for the very right to govern in Poland.
The Russians reacted with anger. They refused to speak about the ending of the “Soyuz 81” exercises. When pressed on the point of the ongoing nature of these exercises, their answers were often less that diplomatic. By way of example – when General Anatoly Gribkov, Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Pact Forces, was asked this question his response was: “the objective of the exercises as not yet been achieved”. Marshall Kulikov, however, was more forthright: “the exercises continue because of counter revolution in Poland”.
I am not in a position to say what was the subject of conversation when the Soviets spoke to Stanisław Kania and Wojciech Jaruzelski. These exchanges were on a one to one basis and never conducted with the two of them together.
On the evening of 3 April, under cover of darkness, a Soviet plane delivered Kania and Jaruzelski to Moscow to see Brezhnev. The conversation was short as the same military plane which had taken them to the Russian capital brought them back to Warsaw in the early morning of 4 April. What was spoken of, I do not know, but I could glean the atmosphere and even something of the substance of the meeting on the basis of the activity at the Polish General Staff over the next few days. When on 3 April Kania and Jaruzelski were preparing for their departure to visit Brezhnev, the Russians initiated a war of nerves with Poland. That day, without any warning to the Polish aviation authorities, they flew in 32 Mi-6 battle helicopters from Czechoslovakia and 10 military transport planes, with unknown cargos, to Brzeg in Silesia. In the following days the helicopters flew combat missions in the vicinity of the city of Toruń and in other parts of Poland. Apart from the possible terrorist implications of this activity, it made for grave danger in Polish airspace. There was no liaison at all between the Soviet helicopter pilots and Polish air traffic control.
When General Siwicki asked the Russians about their activity in Polish airspace varying answers were received. The Commander of the southern group of the Russian army informed Siwicki that these were routine air exercises. General Gribkov (Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Pact combined forces) on the other hand, offered the explanation that this was a normal rotation of Soviet air units combined with the delivery of supplies which could no longer be drawn from Polish sources.
On 7 April while attending a congress of the Czechoslovak communist party Brezhnev took the decision to end the “Soyuz 81” exercises. Although these did indeed formerly stop, the military terrorisation of Poland did not.
On 8 April, without any communication with the Polish Ministry of Defence or air traffic control a further 19 Soviet Antonov-12 transport planes landed in Brzeg near Opole, and the following a day a further 14 Antonov-12s and 4 Ilyushin 76s.
At the same time, Soviet military helicopters flew regularly on the Legnica-Toruń route, as well as individual military transport flights to Mińsk-Mazowiecki.
During these displays of “brotherhood in arms”, on 8 April a group of Soviet officers from the Warsaw Pact united command, headed by Marshall Kulikov, arrived in Warsaw to review the amendments the Poles had been advised to introduce into their Martial Law planning. Kulikov engaged with the party leadership and military top brass while the rest of the group meticulously poured over the Martial Law plans at our General Staff.
During the review of the plans General Gribkov selected 20 principal documents and requested they be translated into Russian and copies handed over, which was of course duly done. On the whole the plans were assessed positively even though they did not incorporate all the amendments put forward by the Soviet “consultants”. The Russians demanded, however, that all the documentation be signed by the Polish side, including the proposed decrees and resolutions prepared by the Council of State, so that implementation could occur at any time and at short notice.
On 8 April Kulikov and Gribkov left Poland. At the Russian Signals unit in Rembertów near Warsaw, a group of operational officers from the General Staff of the Red Army took up residence, their status and duties remaining ambiguous. Meanwhile, the Operations Group of the Warsaw Pact United General Staff, 47 senior Soviet army functionaries, furnished with the Russian copies of the Martial Law planning documentation, took up residence in the Soviet base in Legnica.
During the night of 9 and 10 April, while working at the General Staff on Martial Law planning, I was notified just after midnight, that the Russians had made it known to our military air traffic control at Air Defence, that 35 Antonov 12 and 12 Ilyushin 76 transport planes would be flying into Poland from Riga, Vilnius and Lviv between 3 and 5 am. In addition to this we were also told that 11 Mi-6 helicopters would be operational between Brzeg and Toruń. The use of such a number of heavy transport planes signified the implementation of three air bridges into Poland. Fortunately, on the morning of 10 April Moscow suspended the flights, though it never cancelled them altogether.
After this overture, again on 10 April, Kulikov and his deputy Admiral Michaylin (responsible for the allied fleets) arrived in the Świnoujście region of Poland where he sought to arrange a meeting with Jaruzelski. He was informed, however, that the General was in conference with Kania, and a meeting would not be possible before 13 April. Jaruzelski wished to avoid a meeting with Kulikov as the Russian side was still pressing for a firm date for the introduction of Martial Law. However, the meeting was scheduled for 13 April, and while preparing for it Jaruzelski visited the General Staff where exclusively in the company of its top leadership, he familiarized himself with the most up to date Martial Law planning. He was obviously depressed, one might even say shattered. He said openly: “In the darkest recesses of my mind I cannot imagine our doing this. I would not wish to be the Prime Minister when the time comes to sign off on these documents. The situation is this, three broken noses in Bydgoszcz have led us to the edge of a precipice.”
n the course of his further fragmented comments Jaruzelski took a negative view of the activities of two Solidarity activists, Rulewski in Bydgoszcz and Bujak in Warsaw. He said their behaviour “was typical for the exponents of social-fascism”. He also advocated a possible half-way house between the mass internment of the opposition and the policy of short detentions for the more radical activists. He then decided to watch the evening news programme, its announcement had broken his train of thought. That evening the commentary was relatively complimentary towards him. Both Polish and foreign commentators (only the western ones, of course) had essentially reacted well to his speech in the Sejm the previous day. He was evidently bolstered by this and having watched the whole of the news he left the General Staff. On 13 April he had his meeting with Kulikov during which he resolutely refused to pin himself down as to a date for the implementation of Martial Law or for signing the relevant documentation.
In mid-April the threat of Soviet armed intervention receded, though it never really entirely went away. The extensive Soviet command structures installed in Poland for the purpose of the “Soyuz 81”military exercises remained in place.
After the well known Solidarity communiqués about the appearance here and there of Soviet units and equipment, a group of senior officers from the General Staff decided to make their own enquiries. Their findings were quite shocking, if not just grotesque. The Commander of the Polish 3rd Mechanised Division reported the presence of a Soviet signals unit in the region of Radziwiec airport near Lublin. A Russian Major had contacted the Poles asking for food. His unit, on his own admission, had been infiltrated into Poland to supervise a Soviet air-drop of unknown content, which was to happen within 3 days of the unit's arrival. As this did not occur the Russian provisions had ran out, and the Major was forced to seek assistance from the Commander of the Lublin garrison.
These discreet, unofficial Polish investigations into the Soviet presence corroborated all the Solidarity reports as to the localities where the deployment of personnel and equipment had occurred.
The Head of the General Staff could not believe this was happening and even ordered me to assist General Michał Stryg, the Government official charged with looking after Soviet Military Affairs in Poland, in the preparation of a television broadcast in which the General was to offer a rebuttal of the rumours circulating about the unofficial Soviet military presence. However the broadcast had to cancelled, the Polish military authorities had confirmed the Soviet activity, and no one wanted another fiasco. General Siwicki was, nevertheless, still reluctant to accept the reality, so to verify the matter unequivocally, he turned to the Soviet Chief of Staff of the Soviet Army Northern Sector for an explanation. The response came in an encrypted cable which stated that, indeed, during the “Soyuz 81” exercises signal units had been deployed in Poland, and remained in place to train inexperienced Russian soldiers. 18 facilities were identified in the encrypted cable. Of course this was not a full list, but the issue was dropped by the Polish side.
K.: It would be interesting to know your view of why in April, having deployed a command system and so much military force on Polish territory, did the Soviets not undertake a serious military move? But before we get to this matter, I would like to ask you two questions. Firstly, was the Polish army, and in particular was Jaruzelski himself, personally involved in the Bydgoszcz provocation?
R.J.K.: It is difficult for me to say to what degree Jaruzelski – at the same time Prime Minister and Minister of Defence – was personally involved. Beyond any doubt, however, I can say that he and Chief of Staff General Siwicki were kept informed of the events unfolding at the Voivodship National Council premises in Bydgoszcz. I also know that on the evening of 19 March, Lech Wałęsa called Jaruzelski. In keeping with their instructions, the General's adjutants informed the Solidarity leader that Jaruzelski was not in his office, which was not true. I also know that the Special Propaganda Section of the Political Department of the Army – under the personal supervision of Major General Tadeusz Saciło and of the Political Department’s head, Lieutenant General Józef Baryło –drafted and printed leaflets about Jan Rulewski self-harming himself, which on Siwicki's orders were subsequently scattered over Bydgoszcz from a military aeroplane.
K.: …. and secondly, when exactly did the Russians involve themselves in the Martial Law planning and what was the role played by Kulikov and his General Staff in Legnica?
R.J.K: In the Ministry of Defence, planning for Martial Law was undertaken solely by Poles. The Russians only joined the process at the end of March 1981, and then only in the capacity of supervisory “consultants”. At an executive level, their participation was limited to issuing their general recommendations on 27 March 1981, and their subsequent verification on 8 April 1981 that their main recommendations had been incorporated. After 8 April, that is after scrutinising the plans and verifying that their main recommendations had indeed been incorporated, they took a copy of the plans to Legnica. From that point on, their role was solely to exert pressure on Jaruzelski and Siwicki to sign off on the plans, so that they could be implemented at short notice.
In the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as far as I can judge from my professional dealings with it, Russian involvement came very much earlier and their contribution to Martial Law planning in this Ministry was much more extensive. I very much hope, that the details of all of this, especially the Russian input into compiling the list of those to be interned, will in time see the light of day.
The role of Marshal Kulikov and his General Staff at the base in Legnica. Well, this was the second incidence (the first was of course Czechoslovakia in 1968) when the Supreme Commander of the Combined Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact proved to be a key figure in the resolution of the internal problems of a country which was a member of this military alliance.
Almost from the beginning of the outbreak of strikes on the Baltic coast in 1980, Kulikov led the preparation for military action (by both the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries) against Poland. In the first phase of the crisis, that is until spring 1981, he worked out of the Soviet General Staff in Moscow. From the spring of 1981 he moved his headquarters to Legnica. The kernel of his General Staff at the Soviet base was Russian, they were Soviet officers charged with the orchestration of the “Soyuz 81” military exercises. After the conclusion of these exercises his General Staff was divided into two parts, 47 high ranking officers were retained in Leginca, the rest returned to Moscow.
On 18 April 1981 Kulikov called a briefing in the Warsaw Pact General Staff HQ in Moscow with 60-80 officers in attendance. He informed them that in response to a request from the Polish Government they would be going to Poland to assist Polish communists. This group of Soviet and other Warsaw Pact officers were sent to Legnica on 24 and 25 April.
From 25 April the number of Soviet officers in Kulikov’s HQ in Legnica rose from 107 to 130. This was at least twice the size of the group deployed by Marshall Yakubovsky before and during the Czech invasion of 1968. Kulikov's officers were isolated from the outside world and totally devoid of access to the Polish media, including Polish communist party and military publications.
Kulikov's General Staff was in possession of one complete set of Martial Law planning documentation and was engaged in drafting additional contingency plans for the use of Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces should the need arise.
The Russian members of the Legnica General Staff, in co-operation with the Warsaw Pact high command liaison section attached to the Polish army (which was based on Krzywicka Street in Warsaw), conducted a daily analysis of the socio-political situation in Poland, and reported their findings to the Kremlin.
The only perceptible difference between the role of the Supreme Commander of the Warsaw Pact Armed Forces in 1968 and 1981 was that Marshall Yakubovsky concerned himself exclusively with the military preparations for, and implementation of, the 1968 invasion. Political exchange with the Czech leadership was reserved to Brezhnev and his immediate circle.
During the Polish crisis of 1980-81 Marshall Kulikov, apart from being engaged in military affairs, was additionally responsible for political exchange with the Polish communist authorities. Brezhnev's contacts with Kania and Jaruzelski were few and far between. Their day to day torture was the exclusive privilege of Kulikov. As the crisis abated Kulikov was less enthusiastic about contact with the Polish side. He developed a reluctance of frequent conversations with them and became far more selective about whom he would talk with. He was proud of the fact, for instance, that he had thrown Kania out of the palace on Sulkiewicz Street (Warsaw) where Kulikov occasionally stayed. Kania had apparently visited the Soviet Marshall at too late an hour and under the influence of alcohol. Now be that as it may, Kania’s supposed drunkenness may well have been a figment of an angry Soviet Marshall's imagination. What is true, however, is that Kania was indeed asked to leave the Kulikov residence. The Polish First-Secretary was holding to the Polish party line as defined by the IX Extraordinary Congress of the Polish United Worker's Party. He was against the use of force and this constitutes historical fact.
K.: To close our deliberations on what happened in the spring of 1981, I'd like to know what circumstances – to your mind – stopped the Soviets from invading Poland for a second time? Was it again Western reaction based on your secret information or did other considerations come into play?
R.J.K.: I think that much the same reasons applied in the spring 1981 as in December 1980. On the one hand the very strong diplomatic offensive brought about by the new American administration under Reagan together with the majority of West European countries had an impact. On the other hand the Russians themselves were apprehensive about how the Polish nation, and indeed the army itself, would react to the use of force. The Russians had control over the upper echelons of the Polish army but their apprehension was well founded in the context of the middle and lower ranks. At the time Polish society was ill-informed about the mood in the army, but the Russians were fully aware of the reality. After the intake of the 1980 autumn conscription, almost one third of the Polish army was comprised of young people who had either been members of Solidarity or else had participated in the various protest actions organised by the trade union. After the spring conscription the following year that proportion rose to approximately a half, and that wasn't the end of Russian worries. What perhaps really disturbed them was the fact that Solidarity ideas had taken hold within a very considerable part of the Polish officer corps. Even a number of communist party organisations within the army had, directly or indirectly, lent their support to Solidarity. To give an example, the communist party organisation in the Operational Section of the General Staff had condemned the “Bydgoszcz provocation”, and specifically the Chief Political and Educational Directorate of the Polish Army which had been implicated. Such incidences of solidarity with Solidarity were commonplace.
The Russians could identify them more or less everywhere within the Polish armed forces. The very firm position adopted by West, the ground swell of condemnation in Poland following the use of force in Bydgoszcz, which was shared by a large part of the army, together with the regime’s and especially Jaruzelski's assurances that they would introduce Martial Law of their own accord, proved persuasive for the Russians. It seemed a better alternative to setting Poland ablaze with the consequent difficulty of then quelling the fire. The costs of this course of action would have been too high for the USSR.
K.: From what you have said hitherto, one can see that Jaruzelski and Kania promised the Russians that Martial Law would be introduced, though without question they did much to defer its implementation. Perhaps they even thought that they could get out of it altogether. When, therefore, do you think they crossed a threshold in their thinking, at what juncture did they start thinking in earnest about doing what was done on 13 December 1981?
R.J.K.: From the moment Stanisław Kania was confirmed as First Secretary of the communist party up to his forced resignation at its IV plenary session, there was no change of tack. Though Kania had acceded to Russian demands for the use of force, in reality he only recognised the use of political means as a way of doing battle with Solidarity. Conceivably, if indeed the delusional Soviet view about the presence of counterrevolution in Poland were true, in the sense that someone was seeking to overthrow the government by force, then Kania would have rubber stamped the idea of Martial Law. He saw no such danger, and for as long as he could, he opposed the idea. After the IX Congress of the Communist Party during which Kania was mandated with a democratic vote, his reluctance to use force hardened into decisive opposition.
As for General Jaruzelski's position, with the immense pressure he came under from the Soviet side in concert with its Polish home grown allies, combined with the pressure of social tensions in Poland, one could see that he was leaning towards a solution based on the use of force, even before the “more favourable circumstances” which he was waiting for came about. By June 1981 his mind was set in the matter, though perhaps not entirely. This could best be gauged by what he said on at a KOK (National Defence Committee) meeting on 19 June 1981: “We must introduce corrections into the script for Martial Law. We lack the strength to execute ‘Operation Spring’ at this time. It is quite probable that Martial Law would be introduced in the sixth or seventh day of escalating disturbances, or when the strikes and social disorder assume a more sustained form. One should consider the possibility of action in discrete regions of the country, and also the selective introduction of planned measures.”
From about that time, with a short pause during the lead-up to IX Extraordinary Congress of the PUWP and for a short time after, Jaruzelski could be seen to be progressively distancing himself from Kania's political line. The critical moment came at the beginning of September when a complex political situation ensued as a result of the Solidarity demand for access to the mass media. The Prime Minister / General forcefully demanded that Martial Law be introduced, while Kania maintained his opposition to the use of force. I know from an impeccable source that Kania said this directly to Jaruzelski: “I gave my word that we would not use force at VI and IX plenary sessions of the Central Committee (of the communist party) and again at the Party’s Extraordinary Congress, and my word I must keep”.
In response to this Jaruzelski convened a KOK meeting for 13 September, to which Stanisław Kania was invited in order to pressurize him to agreeing to the long planned assault on Solidarity.
The meeting had been carefully scripted by Jaruzelski himself. A special preparatory meeting between the leadership of the Interior Ministry and the leadership of the General Staff was held in order provide a common tactical approach at the KOK meeting. It occurred in the evening of 10 September with the following participants: from the Ministry of the Interior – Lieutenant General Czesław Kiszczak and Lieutenant General Bogusław Stachura; from the Ministry of Defence – the Army Chief of Staff General Florian Siwicki and all four of his deputies: Lieutenant Generals Tadeusz Hupałowski, Jerzy Skalski, and Antoni Jasiński and Major General Mieczysław Dachowski.
After this fruitful session, the extraordinary KOK meeting on the 13th delivered a unified stance vis-a-vis Kania. The Army and Interior Ministry jointly urged the immediate introduction of Martial Law. General Kiszczak offered “devastating evidence” of the Solidarity push towards counter revolution. He said the trade union was seeking to change the political order in Poland. He informed the meeting of a supposed Solidarity plan to take over the mass media, and of the presence of a mole at the very centre of Martial Law planning. By way of proof he noted that a considerable number of Solidarity activists knew precise details of the Martial Law plan, including the intention to initiate internment, the names of those marked down for arrest, even the code name for the operation.
Kiszczak went on to outline his Ministry’s complete state of readiness for the introduction of Martial Law, and in conclusion requested that the political decision for its introduction be made.
General Siwicki began his statement by saying – and I quote him word for word: “The General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, shares the evaluation made by the Minister of the Interior, Comrade Lieutenant General Czesław Kiszczak, as to the enemy’s aims. They showed their hand during the first ‘Solidarity’ Congress. We are in agreement that this current test of strength being forced through by the radicals cannot be met solely with political means – these alone will not be able to withstand an adverse run of events towards counter revolutionary change to our socio-political system, and to the assumption of power by forces inimical to socialism.
From the outset of the conflict we have unswervingly believed that the introduction of Martial Law should be seen as a last resort. One must, therefore, view with increasing alarm the current large scale preparations by ‘Solidarity’ extremists to engineer confrontation over access to the mass media, and also their embrace of anarcho-syndicalist concepts for workers' self-management, which bring the use of this ‘last resort’ dangerously near.”
Arising out of the above evaluation – and in following General Jaruzelski's brief – General Siwicki presented the meeting with two fundamental alternative courses of action.
The first option. In the words of General Siwicki: “In the event of Solidarity announcing its readiness for general strike action or strike action limited to the press, radio and television, the latter probably in concert with existing forms of local or regional protest, the level of military alert should be begin to be raised for the army and the Interior Ministry security forces. This together with a higher level of preparedness for certain central and local administrative centres. Such measures will serve as a display of the official resolve to counter disruption”.
In discussing this option Siwicki added that: “The determined and demonstrably visible preparations to defend the security of the state might cause the extremists to pull back, or else offer temporary respite from the pressure they are applying, thus enabling a start to the exploration of acceptable solutions and avoiding the need for physical confrontation.
This option offers only a limited chance of overcoming the impasse without the use of force. Its greatest weakness lies in abandoning the element of surprise.”
The Chief of Staff then went on to say that: “From the point of view of achieving success for the organs of state and security forces responsible for execution of the provisions of Martial Law, and especially for the successful conclusion of important special operations, prior disclosure of preparatory operations is inadvisable.
That is why the General Staff and the Ministry of the Interior regard the second option as critical:
- firstly, it assumes total secrecy for the preparations; and
- secondly, it allows us to choose our moment for introducing Martial Law in order to produce the greatest element of surprise, essential not only for the success of operations, but also in order to release a strong shock-wave throughout the population.”
In the ensuing discussion about the second option, General Siwicki also informed the meeting, that: “analysis of the Martial Law planning and operational documentation, which is constantly being updated, allows me to report that from an organisational point of view, we now need very little time to introduce this particular measure for the defence of the state.”
In conclusion General Siwicki stated: “Martial Law is an unusually difficult and complex operation to bring about. The very fact that this means of defence is being employed by the authorities may give rise to many, today unforeseeable, reactions within society. As always in such singular circumstances, the use of arms is an issue. We have, however, reason to believe that those who might engage in active opposition to the authorities are the extremist minority, while the greater part of the population, which now has to endure the serious trials and tribulations of our current reality, will show restraint and ultimately lend its support to the government. Over and above this, one should take into account that we are not alone. Should events turn out badly, we can always count on assistance from our dependable friends. This makes for the need to enhance cooperation with our allies, the USSR and the other Warsaw Pact countries. However, the General Staff has assessed that there is a strong chance of resolving our problems ourselves. In order to achieve this it is necessary to undertake determinedly aggressive and well synchronised action with all the forces at the disposal of the State.”
General Tadeusz Tupaczewski, the Deputy Defence Minister and Secretary of KOK, subsequently presented the legal provisions of Martial Law for the meeting to review (these proved to be 99% identical to those which the population became acquainted with on 13 December 1981).
Essentially all the members of KOK spoke for the introduction of Martial Law. Stanisław Kania was taken aback by the course the meeting took. While not questioning the inevitability of Martial Law he nevertheless stated: “confrontation with the class enemy is inescapable. The fight must be carried out by political means, and only when and if these fail should repression be introduced”.
From 13 September 1981, only Kania stood in the way of the final political decision on the implementation of Martial Law. The removal of this obstacle did not prove difficult. Hounded by Moscow, which since the conclusion of the IX Extraordinary Party Congress completely ignored him, he was forced to make way for the one person who in the eyes of Moscow represented a last hope. As is known, Kania's formal resignation from the post of Party First Secretary occurred, on 18 October 1981 at the IV Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the PUWP. In practice, however, he lost power on 13 September 1981 when he opposed the use of force against Solidarity.
Although no final decision had been taken at the KOK meeting which Kania attended on 13 September, on the 14th Jaruzelski ordered the General Staff, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior, to begin the detailed planning for three additional Martial Law contingencies:
- firstly, countermeasures in the event of the threat of sit-ins;
- secondly, countermeasures in the event of prolonged sit-ins; and
- thirdly, the introduction of Martial Law in stages (“creeping Martial Law”).
At the same time the Ministry of Defence was restructured on a war footing. Within the new chain of command, the Operational Section of the General Staff would be, for the duration of Martial Law, the principal centre running the country. The Section was reinforced with officers from other departments of the Ministry of Defence and key functionaries from the “civilian ministries”.
It was divided into two sub-sections:
- planning, to be headed by me (Ryszard Kukliński), and
- command, under the leadership of Colonel Franciszek Puchała.
From the end of September new facilities were being prepared with special communications equipment installed.
The simple offices of my sub-section became crowded, the atmosphere nervous. The operational group which had been on duty since the strikes broke out on the Baltic coast in 1980 was supplemented with additional officers from the Ministry of Defence and further functionaries from the Interior Ministry. The door to my own office where all planning issues focused was rarely shut. Throughout nearly a year of Martial Law planning, I had got used to putting ideas on paper, but in September those same ideas, when applied to actual units of personnel, assumed a human dimension.
I felt unease when listening to the representative from the Party Central Committee propaganda department outlining his vision of the country stripped of certain newspapers and magazines, publications I read and even valued. Or when he began to mention by name commentators and journalists I liked to listen to and read, who were soon to be silenced. Apprehension deepened when I heard the names of the opportunistic mediocrities who were to be substituted for my favourite journalistic voices. I felt no better, indeed worse, in my working contacts with representatives of the Interior Ministry, and in particular with one of its directors, Colonel Bronisław Pawlikowski, who dreamt of a “night of long knives”, a bloody showdown with a number of Solidarity activists. Although I knew that his reach was too short to touch all the people for whom he felt so much hate, I was still uneasy and concerned that the internment process was to be the sole remit of the one ministry Pawlikowski hailed from.
In spite of Kania's opposition, preparations for what would happen on 13 December were already under full steam from mid-September. In October and November the centre of gravity moved across to the Ministry of Interior and the Party Central Committee propaganda department, who were to prepare justifications for the use of force which were robust enough to convince the general public. For Jaruzelski, who knew the Polish historical context and well understood that those who applied the use of force against society earned only condemnation, probably the most important issue at that time was the creation of his own self-justification.
As it was proving impossible to fabricate evidence about a counter revolution steered by the West, the Interior Ministry and the Party Central Committee propaganda machine mobilised its energies to portraying Solidarity as a movement being pushed by its leadership towards seeking confrontation, and even as a corrosive social force, whereas the authorities on the other hand were the protectors of the state and of its citizens.
At the end of October Poland experienced a serious build-up of strikes. One in particular, a warning one hour general strike on 28 October, was to have a decisive effect on the further course of events. On that day I was in Budapest attending the Military Council of the United Forces of the Warsaw Pact and had the opportunity to witness how at least half of the council members present, including all the Russians and Poles, were following the course of the strike and its aftermath. That very evening we received official news that the strike had failed. According to an early evaluation made by the General Staff, the strike enjoyed only 40% support from Solidarity members; over half of the workers up and down Poland believed the strike was unjustified and did not participate. This was the best news which Kulikov had received for several months. When on 31 October our delegation (headed by General Molczyk) landed at the military airport in Okęcie (Warsaw) I heard a member of Poland's top brass who was there to greet us say the words which I had feared since 13 September: “The decision has been made. “The top man” (i.e. Jaruzelski) is at this moment agreeing with our allies the precise timing and details of the operation”.
On 2 November, at around 2.00 pm, I was called to present myself at the office of Lieutenant General Jerzy Skalski, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, who supervised Martial Law planning through the General Staff Operational Section.
With me were the Chief of the General Staff Operations Section General Wacław Skalski, and his own two deputies, Colonel Czesław Witt and Colonel Franciszek Puchała. In the gravest of tones General Skalski informed all those present that there had been two extremely important developments which would have a decisive influence on our planning.
The first was that Jaruzelski had received a formal ultimatum from a group of prominent communists from Warsaw and the regions who threatened take matters into their own hands if there was further delay in taking action. The second was that information had been received from a reliable source that the Americans were in possession of our most recently revised Martial Law plans including the legal provisions to accompany its implementation. The ultimatum made little impression, as Moscow had had its “Targowica Confederation” in place since December 1980, and, anyway, the fact could make for little change in the decisions already undertaken. None of us even asked for the names of its signatories, we could all guess that they belonged to Stefan Olszowski, Stanisław Kociołek (a co-architect of the December 1970 Baltic coast massacre), the hard-liner Tadeusz Grabski, and from the army General Eugeniusz Molczyk, General Włodzimierz Sawczuk, Lieutenant General Tadeusz Krępski and a few others. However, the news that our secrets had leaked to the West and that Solidarity could be forewarned at any time froze all those present. A dramatic exchange ensued. All of us spoke in turn – General Szklarski, Colonel Puchała, Colonel Witt, all emphatically stated that they had nothing to do with the matter and asserted their willingness to place themselves at the disposal of Security. The last to speak, Colonel Witt, reiterated his long held view that from its beginnings all the actions of Solidarity indicate that it has a clandestine ally in the very centres of power.
By the time all the heads in the room turned towards me to hear what I had to say, I had had time to compose myself and decided to support Witt's thesis, to confirm that I was of similar mind to the others, and to present my thoughts on the matter. So I began by saying that I fully endorsed what my predecessor had just said, that I was at the disposal of the authorities and willing to subject myself to any investigation ...
As I was gathering my thoughts before continuing, General Skalski interrupted, stating that he was not leading an investigation, that that was the business of the Secret Police, and that the list of possible suspects was not confined to the four of us. He then suggested that we should instead consider how best to organise the work at hand, given the challenges before us. In opening the discussion he then informed us of the conclusions which General Jaruzelski and General Siwicki had drawn from current developments.
Their first conclusion: Given the receipt of the ultimatum there was now no turning back from Martial Law and its introduction had to be expedited before Moscow's men had a chance to step in and take over.
Their second conclusion: Given that our plans are now known in the West, we should be prepared for far greater difficulties. We can be sure that if Solidarity is forewarned, it will adopt defensive measures – a general strike combined with a call to its membership to barricade themselves in their factories and plants. If we were to allow this to happen our forces might not be sufficient to deal with the situation, and others would have to come to our assistance. To avoid this we must be ready to pre-empt any move by Solidarity.
Between 2 and 7 November, everything in the General Staff proceeded along the lines of the Ministry of Defence briefing given us by General Skalski. With all this going on, the day on which the Polish Peoples’ Army celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the October Revolution turned out to be my last day of service in its ranks.
K.: It is understandable that with your life in serious danger and the possibility of repressive measures against your closest family, you should have decided to leave Poland. Could you explain how this came about?
R.J.K.: The danger I was in did not manifest itself suddenly or unexpectedly at the very beginning of November. However, I had never seriously entertained the idea of leaving my country. Even after 13 September, when the security services began their energetic search in my milieu for the source of the leaks to Solidarity, I remained in place. As the trade union leadership was aware of the code name for the internment process, which narrowed the list of suspects, I had to take into account the possibility of being arrested at any time. My reaction to this situation was, however, exclusively limited to the writing of something akin to a political testament. And I also felt that I was still needed. Between 2 and 7 November that belief began to abate.
On the morning of 7 November I took part in a routine briefing at the General Staff. General Siwicki had nothing new to say, which only served to reinforce my view that nothing could now avert the introduction of Martial Law.
I left the small conference room about mid-day and began to organise my thoughts. What now? My Volga sped down Rakowiecka Street, as usual along Puławska and the Avenue of the 1st Polish Army, and then down the Łazienkowska Trasa to link up with the Vistula Highway. I was returning to our apartment in the New Town. “No need to hurry today” I said to my driver, asking him to drive slowly. For the first time in over a year I began to take in the people walking in the streets, the architecture, even the trees of my city.
As we drove past the Royal Castle I remembered a small incident when I had unwittingly irritated General Jaruzelski. It was in 1979, during preparations for a meeting, which we were hosting, of the Defence Ministers of the Warsaw Pact countries. The General asked me what attractions had the East Germans showed members of the Committee when last in Berlin, and what could we show them in Warsaw. I replied that the Germans had taken us to see their Palace of Culture and Recreation as they still felt uncomfortable with their Imperial legacy. But we really do have something worthwhile to show, and further suggested, that given the subject matter of what was to be discussed at the Warsaw Pact gathering, it was an apt proposition. So what is that asked the Minister of Defence, not without a degree of curiosity. The Royal Castle, I replied. At that point the General's face changed instantly, as if I had committed a serious faux pas. He stiffened and began walking away from me without saying a word. Well I know the castle hasn't been fully rebuilt, I added, following in the General's footsteps. It makes a big impression even in its unfinished state, I walk by it, I know … At this time such an excellent showcase of our history … I was unable to finish the sentence, the General would have nothing of it. He took the view that showing the Royal Castle to the Russians, at a time when they were demanding of Poland and the other Warsaw Pact countries the surrender of the last vestiges of control over their armed forces, would be seen as a provocation. Today Solidarity represents a provocation to the USSR and therefore it has to be destroyed.
When we drove off the Vistula Highway into Sanguszko Street my congenial soldier-chauffeur, to whom I was attached as if he were family, asked when he should next pick me up to take me to work. “Tomorrow go straight to the General Staff, the car may be needed by other officers in our Section”, I replied. “The same on Monday ... If I need you I'll ring you”, I added. As we passed Przyrynek Street, I noticed, not for the first time, two young men who turned away as we passed. Similarly at the end of Rajców Street next to the presbytery of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, some fifty metres from my home. They had been there day and night for almost a week. I well knew that they were not Solidarity extremists, who according to the official warnings of my superiors, intended to kidnap the families of important army people in order to blackmail the authorities into a milder form of Martial Law, or even to block it altogether. I also knew perfectly well that the men in question were not there to offer my family protection against such an eventuality – had they been, they would be uniform and these men were in civilian clothes. I could assume that I had been staked out.
I didn't believe that I would be arrested immediately, or even over the next few days. For their investigation, the Secret Police would first have to establish my presumed conspiratorial contacts, my connections within the Polish, Soviet and other Warsaw Pact armed forces, and my possible links in the communist party, the opposition, Solidarity, and so on. In spite of this, the situation was serious and I could always be wrong in my suppositions. So I began to by cleaning out the house, where apart from a sizeable library which included underground publications, I also had a considerable collection of highly classified material connected with the asymmetric relationship between the Polish and Soviet armies in the context of the Warsaw Pact, and all the documentation appertaining to Martial Law planning. Clearly all of this could qualify as the stuff of espionage. At this point I should make one thing clear.
I never questioned the purpose of Poland being a member of the Warsaw Pact as an equal partner. I was, however, in disagreement with everything that transformed the Pact into an instrument of Soviet expansionism, which denied member states sovereign control over their own armed forces and their own defence, and which ultimately supplied the basis for Soviet intervention in Poland's internal affairs. Given that my opinions met with negative reactions among my superiors, from a certain moment, I began to collect copies of almost all minutes of Warsaw Pact meetings, its resolutions and the records of its decisions from the time the organisation had come into being all the way through to the autumn of 1981. My collection also included material on the position adopted by the People's Republic of Poland on all Warsaw Pact matters.
Since 1980 I had begun collecting all documentation and material relating to Martial Law. I also had a valuable collection of material concerning Poland's participation in the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the role of the Polish army in the tragic December events of 1970 on the Baltic coast, the repression of religious practice in the armed forces, and personal notes taken at secret talks and negotiations between the Polish Ministry of Defence and the Russians.
I treated all this material as a sort of an extension of the diary which I had I kept, with only a few days missed, from August 1968. My notes were written at night, with the hope that a time would come for them to see the light of day. I spent 4, 5, and 6 November selectively burning my personal papers – photographs, letters, telephone numbers and addresses, anything which might seem to implicate innocent people in even the slightest way. On 7 November, just after I returned home, I began to burn my valuable archive. My apartment was full of smoke, the chimney flue was choking. To avoid asphyxiation I had occasionally to open the windows, but the escaping smoke drew the attention of the surveillance people circulating around the house. They could be in it at any time.
Increasingly I began to realize that I was destroying copies of historically crucial documents whose originals would probably never be made known. If I were arrested, nothing could either harm or help me, so I decided to take the remainder of the documents which remained intact and leave the country. I think it is too early for me to say how this was achieved. I hope, however, that even this story will be told one day.
K.: You mentioned your disapproval of everything which turned the Warsaw Pact into an instrument of Soviet domination over Poland. Could you comment on the nature of Polish subordination to the Soviet military leadership? Was this a relationship based on following orders, or did Jaruzelski have the possibility of countering Warsaw Pact decisions, or at least initiating discussion over policy.
R.J.K.: Well, first and foremost, I'd like to dispel the myth which is present both in the East and the West, that the very membership of the Warsaw Pact automatically dispenses with the sovereign right of a member state to decide its fate including the right to determine national defence policy. This is a simple misunderstanding, as neither the 1955 founding charter of the Pact (whose provisions are in the public realm), nor its secret clauses negate these rights. For instance, the Romanian People's Republic, not only pursues policies independent of the Soviet Union, but also retains complete autonomy in terms of its defence policy.
Romania does not advance two truths, one for the consumption of its army and its population, the other for the socialist community of nations under the helmsmanship of the Soviet Union, which is exactly the case with the People's Republic Poland. With no ambiguity or understatement, the Romanian constitution states, that in peace or in war, the responsibility for the defence of the country lies with its own military authorities. And the Romanian leadership never detracted from the principle. Though considerable pressure had been applied to the country by the Warsaw Pact, Romania has never signed a bilateral or multilateral agreement which might subvert what its constitution spells out. As a result, though a member of the Warsaw Pact, with the same geo-strategic determinants as Poland, Romania has remained master of its armed forces and defence potential. Since the late sixties the Polish leadership began to progressively diminish the country's sovereign right to control its own armed forces and defence policy.
The situation with Poland is thus complex, although not necessarily hopeless under all circumstances and in all instances.
The situation does, however, become hopeless with the threat of war or during a war. The reason is that at the turn of 1979/1980 Poland signed up to the so called “Statute of Combined Armed Forces and Command Structures in Time of War”. Under such a circumstance the defence of Poland and its armed forces become the responsibility of the Single Supreme High Command. The Polish People's Republic voluntarily agreed that the Single Supreme High Command would solely be the High Command of the Soviet Armed Forces, and its operational executive would exclusively be the Soviet General Staff.
Poland even agreed that there would be no Polish representation within these structures, not even liaison staff. In the event of war the Soviet military leadership was to command the Polish army through its own subordinate military structures, thus: The Polish Front comprising Poland's land forces and air force were directly subordinated to the Soviet High Command in the Western Theatre of Wartime Operations.
The whole of the Polish Navy, including its land based command facilities were to come under the direction of the Commander of the USSR Baltic Fleet, who assumes command during war or threat of war, and his Staff would become the Staff of the so-called United Baltic Fleet of the Warsaw Pact Countries.
Even Polish air defence, regarded as the key instrument in the defence of Polish territory from the moment it was created, would not be commanded by the national military leadership, but by the Soviets. A particularly piquant detail of these arrangements was the ability of the Soviets to use Polish air-defence outside the territory of Poland.
To sum up, in the case of a military threat or war, up to 90% of the Polish Armed Forces would be subordinated to Russian military leadership. Left at the disposal of the Polish national political and military leadership would be essentially a number of logistical units, engineers to facilitate the passage of Soviet Forces across Polish territory and military facilities for the training of reserves to provide replacements for combat losses. All Soviet orders and directives were to be issued directly to the Polish army units by passing Polish command structures. In practice this would give the USSR the unlimited freedom to use the Polish armed forces with no reference to or previous consultation with the Polish authorities. Polish soldiers under Russian command were not guaranteed national legal jurisdiction, i.e. Polish courts martial. Even Party matters were not to be co-ordinated by the Polish Party Central Committee, but by the political section of the Soviet High Command in the Western Theatre of Wartime Operations.
The role of the Polish military leadership would have been reduced to the organisation of comprehensive supplies for Polish forces fighting under Russian command, the training of reservists, and the provision of replacements for of losses in combat.
All these provisions, given their very sensitive nature, were top secret. No one in the Polish army is aware of them, other than the very top brass. Even service heads and regional commanders are only selectively in the know, and then only of matters directly concerning them.
In peacetime Soviet supremacy over the national Warsaw Pact armies was hidden under the general banner of the United Command of the United Armed Forces.
The Command was organised in such a way that all command postings, from the Commander in Chief, the Chief of the General Staff, deputies to the Commander in Chief for Air Defence, the Air Forces, the Fleet, Technical Units, Reserves, down through the ranks all the way to a Section Chief on a General Staff Technical Committee, were filled by Russian officers. Officers of the other Warsaw Pact armies, irrespective of what their command responsibilities were called, exclusively carried out roles reporting information to and maintaining liaison with their national armies.
The United Command of the United Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact, being in fact a subsidiary branch of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR, has, in peacetime, at least on an official basis, much lesser authority than at a time of military threat or war.
With certain albeit quite important exceptions concerning national air-defence and the procedures for moving the Polish Armed Forces on to a war footing, the United Command has no formal right to lead or command our Military above the heads of the Polish Ministry of Defence or the Chief of Staff. All United Command directives, orders or recommendations must be sent to the Polish Defence Minister or to the Chief of Staff, and only then, after they have been processed, can they descend down the military hierarchy as orders from the Polish Ministry of Defence. As a rule, before being signed off by the CiC United Command, draft directives or orders are agreed with the Polish Defence Minister – who may accept them, suggest changes, or even reject them. In matters of singular importance, the Polish Defence Minister could defer the decision to the Prime Minister and the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the PUWP (communist party). From the moment, however, that General Jaruzelski assumed the post of Defence Minister, the Russians had no political or military problems with Poland. In the years 1968-1981 they received everything they wanted, without having to go over the heads of the Polish military establishment. At the outset of the eighties they essentially controlled everything to do with Polish defence and the functioning of its Armed Forces.
By way of example, Moscow specifies, within multi-year cycles, the manpower strength of the Polish Army, its organisational structures, its weaponry and equipment, its battle readiness and mobilisation capability, the direction of its military training, its objectives and functions in wartime, etc., etc.
Polish undertakings in respect of the above are reviewed by the Soviet military leadership twice a year. A double system of control is in place. One report for Moscow is prepared by the Polish Ministry of Defence, and another, with identical structure and content, but based on data compiled in Russia, is prepared by the Russian representative of the Warsaw Pact United Command attached to the Polish Armed Forces. These two documents are then analyzed and compared in Moscow, and any divergences from Polish undertakings, the failure to meet accepted targets, and even errors of detail (in the Polish version) would occasion the need for onerous explanations from the Polish side.
The situation is not without paradox – the figure for the manpower strength of the Polish Armed Forces, reported by Poland during the 1980 US-USSR Summit in Vienna (and of course false) had been decided by the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces in Moscow. The fictitious data complicated the Vienna negotiations and the Polish General Staff wanted to present more realistic statistics. I was then with General Siwicki in Moscow where he was seeking to achieve this, and personally witnessed a Soviet two star General from the USSR General Staff say “nielzya” – “no, not allowed” to the Polish Chief of Staff and then hand him a piece of paper with pre-prepared data for use in negotiations with the West.
On the basis of undertakings made by the Polish People's Republic, the Polish General Staff has, among other matters, to seek agreement from the Russian military leadership for the disposition of Polish troops in peacetime.
The Russians have the guaranteed right to carry out inspections of units of the Polish army. However, the lack of a precise definition of what they could review, and what they couldn't, leads to situations like the one at the beginning of February 1981, when Russian Generals from the Warsaw Pact United Command stated they wished to ascertain Polish military readiness for the “Soyuz 81” exercises, which was no more than a pretext for gauging the preparedness of various command structures and military units for a confrontation with Solidarity.
You have asked me whether General Jaruzelski had the possibility of opposing decisions of the Warsaw Pact leadership, or of entering into discussions over Soviet decisions? I presume you have in mind countering, say, a planned invasion of Poland, or other forms of intervention in Poland's internal affairs by Warsaw Pact countries. Well, if you had posed the same question without mentioning a name, or just alluded to the leader of an unspecified Warsaw Pact country, I would have had no problems with the answer. Without hesitation I would have said yes, as nowhere in the provisions of the Warsaw Pact is it stipulated, that a member state, or a group of member states, has or have the formal right to intervene in the internal affairs of another member state, let alone engage in military intervention. He who upholds this principle may defend it. I know of several instances, where in matters of paramount interest to the USSR, the Romanian People's Republic said no, and no harm came to it as a result. One such instance occurred in Moscow on 23 November 1978 during a session of the Political Consultation Committee. At that gathering the Romanians would not agree to a resolution which included the recognition of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces of the USSR as the single command centre of Warsaw Pact forces at a time of war. When the USSR’s faithful allies began to berate Romania, President Ceausescu rose from the conference table and left Moscow with his delegation. Soviet pressure on Romania continued for the whole of 1979 and in the end Moscow had to let go. Ceausescu wishes to be a loyal ally of the Soviet Union, but he does not want to be its slave. Romania did not take part in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, nor, as I have mentioned already, sign up to anything which might call into question the sovereignty of the Romanian People's Republic.
General Jaruzelski, who had given the Soviet Union active support in its invasion of Czechoslovakia, thereby de facto recognising the right of Warsaw Pact military intervention in a member state, and who furthermore made Poland's defence so hugely dependent on the Soviet Union, represented something else. It is, therefore, difficult to imagine a situation in which General Jaruzelski (even if he desired to) could have given the Russians a resolute NO.
K.: There are those, both in Poland and abroad, who view General Jaruzelski as a sort of Konrad Wallenrod figure, a leader who for patriotic reasons saved the country from catastrophe. How do you react to this idea?
R.J.K.: I could then see, and still see, that there was a realistic chance to avoid both Martial Law and Soviet military intervention in Poland. At the beginning of the crisis political power was not solely concentrated in General Jaruzelski's hands. Nevertheless, from August 1980, his voice came to matter most. If together with Stanisław Kania, they had found within themselves the dignity and the strength to avoid such subservience towards Moscow, if they had both honestly stood up for the social accords the authorities had agreed to, it is probable that Poland would look very different today.