POWER WITH POWER
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with a colonel Andrzej Kowalski about spies, agents, illegal refugees and using a threat towards the country for political-propaganda purposes
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: – In the recent years, the opposition accused the Polish special services, especially the counter-intelligence ones, of failing to do their tasks. And, suddenly, here such a great success: two Russian spies were arrested! What do you think about this success?
COLONEL ANDRZEJ KOWALSKI: – In fact I do not really know what to say about it. We do not have any information confirmed by governmental factors, there was not a conference of the chief of the Foreign Ministry, a conference of the prime minister and it is difficult to consider the statement of the general prosecutor as satisfactory. Respect to the society and well-understood professionalism orders us to inform about these kinds of events or keep silent. Unfortunately, in our services there is a wrongly-understood professionalism…
– What does it mean?
– It means constant and really not always necessary hiding oneself behind the state secret. In this way one can easily hide incompetence, organizational gaps and present everything as a success.
– Expert generals expressed their delight in media about effective functioning of Polish services…
– Indeed, older generals, yet from the times of the People’s Polish Republic, were strangely willing to praise this operation. Those expressed their opinion who never served in the counterintelligence. And just this united group of supporters seems worrying.
– Because – in my opinion – there were attempts to exaggerate the role of arrested spies. Probably only in order to promote not only the services on this ground, but also power and credibility of the new government. Suddenly the anti-Russian attitude was raised. And, strangely enough, it is done by those who did not perceive any dangers from Russia…Such a manipulation of information and using a threat of a danger towards the country for political-propaganda purposes may cause a real danger.
– In a way of diverting attention or even making the society indifferent. In a situation of a real danger from Russian services – with which today we are undoubtedly dealing in Poland – this letting air out with a valve of safety seems at least very unreasonable.
– What does it mean?
– Poles have believed for a long time that the Russians can do too much in Poland, that their policy in Poland is very visible, that the policy of Tusk’s government – whose fundaments were made also by the minister Sikorski – allowed the Russians to do too much. So, for me carrying out such a counter-intelligence action is like perforation of a balloon of social moods. In my opinion, this is a very dangerous level of manipulations because it is distracting attention from the essence and real sizes of the whole phenomenon.
– Would you be able to define today – using your knowledge and calculus of probability – how big and serious the presence of the Russian intelligence in Poland is?
– it is easy to calculate and identify functionaries of the interview on diplomatic grounds; according to careful estimations there may be over twenty of them. During work for a dozen years, the best of them will make a few hundred contacts useful for them. And, what is interesting, these are them who are running the most important operations…It is difficult to say how many people there are who act without any relation to the embassy, in commercial representations, companies which work as journalists of Russian media. At present the Soviet intelligence is a big machine which takes in information like a strong vacuum cleaner – from various places, in various ways, with various suction cups. It can be literally everywhere. There are also its functionaries who appeared in the life of the country to such an extent that we do not recognize any strangers in them.
– That is, the so-called illegal citizens whom you describe in your book entitled ‘A Russian dagger’. Illegal citizens are a specifics, creation and power of the Russian intelligence?
– It was in Soviet Russia where in the 20s the form of intelligence had been used for the first time. At present Russian illegal citizens are creating an intelligence network, mainly in case of a war or freezing relationships among countries; then they are active, take over an agency, start running intelligence work.
– Was it possible in Poland to track down illegal citizens? Can Polish services have generally any knowledge about them?
– We surely know that illegal citizens in Poland acted in the 80s of the last century. And, in fact, nothing can be added on this issue. This is the card in history of the Polish counter-intelligence on which there are only a few sentences and after turning it over it is not known what is next.
– We have some traces, pieces of information in the archives of the Institute of National Remembrance on this issue; these are historians of the Institute of National Remembrance who, flicking through resources, came across suspected people. However, stating the fact that illegal citizens were sent to Poland in the 80s, comes from the book of Wasilij Mitrochin entitled: ‘An archive of Mitrochin’; there are particular nicknames in it.
– Was it possible to localize them closer?
– Our historians tracked a few people in the existing documentation, who could be associated with the illegal citizens. What next? This is a big secret…
– What was it possible to observe the highest activity of the Soviet intelligence in our modern history?
– It is said that during the so-called Spring of Solidarity, I would rather express an opinion that the intensified activity of Soviet services in Poland lasted continually for the whole first half of the 80s. certainly, we do not have any detailed data on this issue, only estimations which prove the presence of about 100 officers of the counterintelligence KGB and GRU at that time – placed in diplomatic buildings and military units.
– In your book you write that this presence of the Soviet counterintelligence allows us to understand better the reality after the political system of the round table. Does it mean that it might have influenced the shape of Poland in a particular way?
– Yes, it does. A lot points to the fact that at that time the Soviet counterintelligence wanted and could build very strong abutments for the future. I would relate this intensified intelligence presence with strategic way of thinking characteristic for the Soviet services.
– Did the Soviet services outline the future scenarios for Poland?
– Surely. If Soviet planners considered perestroika – on the basis of various threads, one can assume that the decision about it was made already in 1983 – then its logical consequence was sending strong intelligence groups to subordinated countries, so as to prepare a moment and a way of transformation in such a way so that the authority would not slip away from hands of those who should keep it. And the fact that in Poland Jaruzelski and Kiszczak were not people who acted for the soviet communist system, but were connected with it organically, there is no doubt that everything what they suggested – the whole scheme of transformation, also people whom they promoted – had to be somehow supervised by USSR. And the Soviet Union had not only millions of people under weapon – but also an army of special services of over five thousand people. So, they could quite peacefully realize a scenario of transformations with minimization of one’s own losses.
– And do you think that the actions of the Soviet intelligence of that time had a really essential influence on mechanisms of changes which were to come in Poland?
– This is the logics of the empire. The intensified presence of the counterintelligence gave a possibility of watching over so that everything would proceed according to the strategic thought of soviet planners. Certainly, I do not suggest the idea that the Round Table is the work of KGB! But soviet services had to have an influence on various kinds of strategies which appeared in the actions of Polish elites, also later in the 90s.
– Can we make a conclusion that what was prepared by Soviet services in the 80s, makes itself known today?
– I do not have any doubts about it. It is, for example, proved by the current weakness of Polish services, while the Russian ones are extremely effective…The Soviets knew very well how to work in Poland in the 80s, and later in the 90s when for a long time they were supported by people, they also know very well how to work now, in the conditions of capitalism and the open society.
– Are influencing the awareness of the society and misinforming frequently used methods of the Russian counterintelligence today?
– This method of work is particularly efficient, and the Russian special services have used it for years. The first powerful misinforming operation of the Soviet services was carried out in the years of the new economic policy of Lenin, that is, in the 20s. Then the project of deceiving the West was created. At present it is much easier: officers of the counterintelligence receive a set of particular theses to promote, for example, through Internet. In this way foreign services interfere into informative spheres created by the governments and societies. The purpose is to distort, modify them. A deeper level of this kind of actions is creating the so-called an impact agency.
– How strong, in your opinion, is its current influence in Poland?
– Surely through media the so-called impact agents quite effectively give the tone to some interpretations of political events. It is not difficult to imagine that in Poland there are many impact groups, manipulated (consciously or unconsciously) by one or more people and which is able to model the social opinion. In a media village a man ‘with a surname’ will only say something so that it would undergo an act of reproduction and be multiplied in a mass imagination. A reality separated from the reality is created. Unfortunately, it is too often when attitudes, unbeneficial for Poland, are created with premeditation.
– Such as?
– For example, those that the society starts thinking in categories of ‘I do not feel like to make an effort’, ‘It is not worth fighting for the sake of Poland’, or that “NATO betrays us’, or it recognizes that discussing politics does not belong to a good manner….
– In the recent time, especially a big commotion has appeared around NATO. Do you think that to a large extent it became so because of the impact Russian agency?
– I think so. I think that in this matter there is a constant gigantic Russian misinforming operation. NATO was made a subject in Poland by media which is to defend us ruthlessly. Whereas in a treaty signed by Poland we read that first it is necessary to have one’s own possibilities of defence in order to be a partner within this Pact. If we analyzed the way of media influence on the Polish society in this issue, we would surely identify actions of the impact agency.
– It is not an exaggeration to say that the Russian counterintelligence belongs to the most effective ones in the world and is aiming high. After all, in Russia it took over the supreme authority. Is it powerful now than ever before?
– Undoubtedly, it is, because there is no political control over it. At the time of the cold war the whole power was based on the three pillars: political party, army and special services. Having taken over the authority by Putin’s politicians, there was business in this triad for a while. At present there is only an army and the former KGB, that is, power with power. In fact we are dealing with something unimaginable. The West does not understand this phenomenon.