Remarks by Central Intelligence Agency Director
Michael Hayden at the Polish Martial Law Symposium
(as prepared for delivery)
December 11, 2008
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you all for coming. CIA is honored to help pay tribute to a man whose bravery and sacrifice helped liberate his nation: Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski.
We also are very proud to host so many of his countrymen
today. A warm welcome to all our Polish friends, including Ambassador Kupiecki,
and the producer and director of War
Games, Dariusz Jablonski. And I would like to extend a very special welcome
to Colonel Kuklinski’s grandson, Michael Remmer.
long ago, Poles and Americans looked at each other across an ideological
divide. That we can come together today to honor a mutual hero is an expression
of the freer world in which we live, one that Ryszard Kuklinski helped create.
His motivation to work against an
oppressive regime came from what he saw as a military officer. Over time, the
cruelty and contradictions at the heart of the Soviet system became
increasingly clear—and, eventually, impossible for him to tolerate.
In 1968, Ryszard Kuklinski
witnessed his country, part of the Warsaw Pact, invade a supposed ally, Czechoslovakia.
As an intermediary between the commander of Polish forces in Czechoslovakia and the military and political
leadership in Warsaw, he saw just how far the
rulers of his country would go to please Moscow,
stooping to an act of treachery against a neighbor.
Later, Colonel Kuklinski was privy
to details on the suppression of the 1970 protests in northern Poland. He knew
a regimental commander who had been ordered to shoot striking workers. Kuklinski
lamented the hard truth that a “workers’ state” had resorted, for its own
survival, to killing the very people it claimed to champion.
aftermath of those protests gave him the resolve to act. His access to
strategic military plans only added to his conviction. He knew how far the balance
of forces in Europe was tilted in the East
Bloc’s favor. He saw that Warsaw Pact planning was oriented completely toward
offensive operations. And he understood that Poland—its
army and people—would be sacrificed by the Soviets in the event of war.
As a senior officer in a police
state, Colonel Kuklinski chose an especially bold and dangerous path to work
against the Communist regime: He got in clandestine contact with the West. This
he did for nearly a decade, at very great personal risk and with no expectation
of material gain.
From the start, he viewed his
actions as being in the best tradition of Polish resistance. He made his first
approach to America in the German port of Wilhelmshaven because, in May 1945,
it was where the Polish First Armored Division accepted the surrender of much
of the German fleet. Colonel Kuklinski hoped his own campaign would help lead
to another victory, this time against Soviet oppression.
His remarkable courage and
exceptional ability as a military officer gave US leaders matchless insight
into Warsaw Pact decisionmaking. His reports provided a deep understanding of
the principal national security challenge we faced, and reduced the chance for
miscalculation. In that sense, he saved lives. That is what the very best
compare intelligence analysis to putting together a jigsaw puzzle without a
picture to go by, and with a lot of pieces missing. Colonel Kuklinski didn’t
just give us a piece or two—he gave us the picture itself. His work is an
outstanding example of the unique value of human intelligence.
what came from this one man:
The complete Soviet game plan for attacking
NATO. Not an opinion of how it might play out, but a fully documented account.
A systematic description of how the Warsaw Pact
would mobilize for war, which was absolutely critical for us in recognizing the
warning signs of an attack.
The exact location of command-and-control
bunkers, along with details on their construction and communications systems. In
the event of war, surgical strikes on these facilities would eliminate the need
for a massive bombing campaign—much of which would have been aimed at sites in
And finally, information on some 200 weapon
systems, as well as the techniques used for evading US satellite surveillance.
Kuklinski would add to that distinguished record of accomplishment in the
chaotic 18 months between the worker uprisings of July 1980 and the imposition
of martial law in December 1981. He offered a window into both Polish and
Soviet deliberations during a period marked by the rise of Solidarity, threats
of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Poland, and heightened tension between Washington
1980, Colonel Kuklinski was assigned to a small group that would plan the
Polish military’s role in establishing martial law. Given the moral and ethical
implications, he was permitted the option to decline. As Ben Weiser writes, it
was painful for the Colonel to contemplate being part of a plan to suppress
Solidarity. They were his heroes—in Kuklinski’s words, “starting from Walesa
and ending with the last lady on the line yelling slogans.”
But he also realized that the
assignment would give him the chance to influence events and possibly prevent
violence. And, of course, it would put him in a position to report most
accurately on what the government was planning to do.
Kuklinski’s decision to accept the post ensured that, throughout a period of
terrible risk and danger for the Polish people, Washington would understand
what was happening in their country. His reports were always precise and
objective, although it was impossible for him not to occasionally give voice to
his fervent patriotism. At one point, when asked if the Army was preparing to
resist a possible Soviet invasion, he responded, “I am embarrassed to confirm
that nothing is planned.”
imposition of martial law approached in late 1981, the security services became
aware that a high-level officer was providing information to Washington. Colonel
Kuklinski knew about the investigation and held out as long as he could, but
finally accepted our offer to exfiltrate him and his beloved family to America.
One of the greatest heroes of the Cold War had fulfilled his mission.
Kuklinski’s story transcends the field of foreign intelligence. It is a lesson
in individual courage, in selflessness on behalf of a higher good.
Our men and
women who worked with Colonel Kuklinski saw him not as an asset, but as a
revered colleague. Ultimately, his loyalty rested with the free Poland that
would reemerge, thanks in no small part to his faith, skill, valor, and
sailor, he knew how to navigate by the stars. And in life, his actions were
steered by fixed points of honor that he devoutly observed. His North Star was
Poland. But he also was guided by principles shared by free men everywhere,
throughout the ages.
Colonel Kuklinski believed, as
America’s founders did, that governments derive their just powers from the
consent of the governed. And that whenever any form of government becomes
destructive to those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish
years of anxiety over the safety of his family and the future of his country,
Colonel Kuklinski ultimately had the satisfaction of having acted according to
his beliefs. As he wrote to one of our officers, “I have boundless faith in the
rightness of what I am doing.”
We are glad
that our dear colleague lived to see a free Poland. We will always remember him
as a hero and patriot. May this symposium advance our nations’ awareness and
understanding of his extraordinary life and work.