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Solidarity - 1980-1989

On 1 July 1980, Poland's Communist government, without advance notice,announced that it had raised prices of food and other consumer goods. Meat prices were increased by as much as 60 to 90 percent. The next day, strikes for compensatory wage increases erupted throughout Poland. To Western observers these events appeared to put the Polish workers and ruling powers on the same kind of collision course they had gone through twice in the last decade.

On 20 July the US Intelligence Community prepared an Alert Memorandum warning that the labor disputes in Poland could become even more intense and widespread. It said that tensions were increasing throughout the country and that agreements that had appeared to settle some disputes were coming unglued. It characterized the situation as potentially degenerating into a violent confrontation between the unions and the regime.

CIA-sponsored covert actions frequently enjoy significant operational and financial support from other countries. American activities in Poland in the early 1980s were assisted by the Vatican. Estimates of direct costs of actions in Poland and the Former Soviet Union can be no more than illustrations of upper bounds which cannot be excluded. Nonetheless, it is possible to obtain a fairly comprehensive accounting of recent covert action funding levels, and in the process gain some insight into a few of the more obscure corners of this nether world.

By 1986 Warsaw had failed to improve or even normalize relations with Washington. Although the White House had lifted most of the sanctions it had imposed in 1981, the strongest measures, including withdrawal of Most Favored Nation status, remained in force. The United States was covertly supporting the underground opposition in order "to keep the spirit of Solidarity alive," and the National Endowment for Democracy, a quasi-private, government-funded, public diplomacy initiative, was about to receive $1 million in congressionally appropriated funds earmarked for Solidarity.

The activities of the Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980s was widely supported in Washington, and any American covert support would have not occasioned the political outcry that placed other covert actions in the public eye. In his account of CIA activities in Poland, Bob Woodward left his readers with the impression that in 1984 Agency efforts "were minuscule" [Bob Woodward, "Veil - The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987" (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1987), page 375.] " .. a minor secret channel through a Catholic Church organization in Poland funnel CIA funds of $20,000 to $30,000 to benefit the Solidarity trade union was closed down because of political risk."

However, it was subsequently revealed that the scale of CIA operations was much larger than this would suggest. Carl Bernstein, in "The Holy Alliance," Time, 24 February 1992, page 28, reported that "Tons of equipment - fax machines (the first in Poland), printing presses, transmitters, telephones, shortwave radios, video cameras, photocopiers, telex machines, computers, word processors were smuggled into Poland via channels established by priests and American agents and representatives of the AFL-CIO and European labor movements. Money for the banned union came from CIA funds, the National Endowment for Democracy, secret accounts in the Vatican and Western trade unions." The total cost of this effort has not been reported, but other sources can be used to gauge its magnitude. It cannot be excluded that CIA support for Solidarity approached the level of Agency activity in Afghanistan.

CIA had had an agent inside the general staff who had drafted the operational blueprint for martial law. CIA had "evacuated" the agent and his family from Warsaw on 8 November 1981 and flown them to safety in the United States. The case of Polish Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski is simple and yet complex. The colonel has freely-and proudly-revealed what he did during the Cold War. For more than a decade, he passed Warsaw Pact military secrets to US intelligence. Thus, the controversy is not about what Kuklinski did but whether his motives were patriotic or treasonous, and whether his actions helped or hurt Poland. On another level, however, the furor is over what Poles think about their Communist past and their future in the Western community of nations. Lech Walesa, Solidarity's leader and the first freely elected president of Poland, dismissed Kuklinski as a traitor and refused to pardon him. The Solidarity crowd still resents the colonel, contending that hero worship of Kuklinski denies workers the credit they deserve for starting a rebellion that brought down the Soviet empire.

Kuklinski revealed that planning for martial law had begun in late 1980-far earlier than the regime had admitted-and that the Communists had intended all along to crush Solidarity, belying their claim of having negotiated in good faith with union leaders and the Polish episcopate.

When asked to assess Kuklinski's importance, a senior CIA strategic expert called him "our second Penkovsky." He worked in place far longer-almost 10 years-and produced far more information-an estimated 35,000 pages of documents compared to Penkovsky's 8,000.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2013 00:03:36 ZULU