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Ryszard Kuklinski, the man who prevented the cold war from becoming WW3.

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

Not many people know how close the world came to WW3 during the cold war in Europe, and who was the man who prevented it. According to secret Soviet plans, the USSR had envisioned a quick takeover of the European NATO member states and planned to use Polish territory as a marching ground for more than millions of Soviet soldiers, tens of thousands of tanks and 3,200 military trains transporting weapons and explosives, all aimed at Western Europe. Ryszard Kuklinski, a Colonel in the Polish army, was the person who revealed those plans to the West. Colonel Kuklinski realized that being outnumbered in the arsenal of conventional weapons, the West would have no choice but to resort to nuclear warheads, which would obliterate Poland, huge parts of Europe and would cause WW3. He was also instrumental in stopping of a Soviet invasion into Poland in December 1980, a time when Solidarity was becoming an increasing political problem for both the Polish leadership and the Kremlin. Colonel Kuklinski warned the C.I.A. that Moscow was on the verge of invading Poland in order to crush Solidarity. The information came in time to allow the outgoing Carter administration to warn Moscow, both publicly and privately, against taking military moves against Poland. In the end, the Soviets stayed out.

Ryszard Kuklinski as a Colonel in the Polish army.

While many spies on both sides of the Iron Curtain were motivated by greed, Colonel Kuklinski was one of those very rare men who spied in order to protect his country from harm and to help liberate his country from Soviet occupation. He was sickened by the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and by the use of Soviet troops to shoot at Polish striking workers in 1970. He also realized that Poland would be especially vulnerable in case of a Soviet attack on Europe because any NATO/American nuclear response would hit primarily Poland because that's where, according to the Soveit war plans, the bulk of Soviet armies and troops would be concentrated. Documents confirming the USSR's readiness to go into a nuclear war have been found in Eastern Germany, Czech Republic and Polish archives. The Soviets had planned to launch nuclear missiles at European major cities and NATO bases in order to destroy them early in the war. In all the Soviet plans wanted to use 189 nuclear weapons in their planned western Europe invasion: 177 missiles and 12 bombs ranging in yield from five kilotons—roughly a quarter the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima—to 500 kilotons.

In his decision to expose the USSR's most secret strategic plans, capabilities and military assets to the West, he made it virtually impossible for the USSR to execute their invasion plans, and provided key strategic leverage to NATO and the west to prepare and counter the possible Soviet invasion. He basically single handedly stopped the cold war from becoming WW3. His contribution to prevent WW3 has been corroborated, not only by American political, military, and intelligence chiefs ( “In the last 40 years,” wrote CIA director William Casey in a memo to Ronald Reagan, “no-one has done more damage to Communism than that Pole.”) but also by Soviet leadership.

Ryszard Kuklinski memorial at Jordan Park, Kraków

In 1981 he and his family were forced to flee Poland after the KGB finally uncovered him. He was pronounced a "traitor" to Poland by the Polish Soviet authorities. In 1984 Kuklinski was sentenced to death, in absentia, by a military court in Warsaw. After the fall of communism, the sentence was changed to 25 years. When Communism fell he came back to Poland and successfully fought to clear his name.Though Kuklinski and his family managed to defect to the USA, in subsequent years both of his sons died while living in America. The older, Waldemar, was run over by a truck without a licence plate in August 1994 on the grounds of an American university. His younger son, Bogdan Kuklinski, drowned half a year earlier on January 1, 1994, when his yacht capsized on a silent sea. Ryszard Kuklinski did not insist that they were assassinated by the KGB, but he never rejected such possibility either. He died from a stroke at the age of 73 in Tampa, Florida, February 11, 2004. In 2016, the Polish President Andrzej Duda has posthumously promoted Ryszard Kuklinski to the rank of brigadier general. Bibliography: Benjamin Weiser - "A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country." "Preparing for Martial Law: Through the Eyes of Col. Ryszard Kuklinski."

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