Monday, May 10, 2010

War Games And The Man Who Stopped Them

Picture this. You're a senior staffer in the Polish Army, handling strategy and liaising with the Soviets. You see Soviet military plans against Europe, and realize that the attack corridor passes right through Poland. A first echelon of Polish and other Soviet republic troops attack through Poland; the equal sources of the Warsaw Pact and NATO mutually wipe each other out, allowing the second echelon of Soviet troops to come through Poland. NATO's desperation would likely lead them to launch nuclear missiles. And guess where they'd land? In Poland. Poland is the biggest loser in World War III. So what's a loyal, patriotic Pole to do? Ryszard Kuklinski decided to spy for the West.

He first made contact via a letter during a sailing trip and proceeded to pass documents and information to the CIA for a period of ten years between 1971-1981. It has been estimated that he passed over 35,000 documents to the west,earning intense respect from everyone who knew him. He wasn't a James Bond type; rather he was modest and retiring. He didn't ask for money; he simply wanted to do what was right for Poland and the world.

Just before martial law was declared, Kuklinski was spirited from Poland to the US. The CIA agent who was his contact and was responsible for getting him out described attempts on three separate evenings, before they were successful in getting him out.

Upon settling in the US, he and his family tried to adjust. This was particularly hard for his wife, who didn't speak English. One consolation was his sailboat as he still loved to sail, and pictures show him on the water. At one point, his story was exposed in the Washington Post; Kuklinski felt abandoned when the CIA did nothing to salvage his reputation at that time. His sons both die young, both in accidental deaths. His youngest dies on the ocean on a trip to the Keys with a friend. The undamaged boat is recovered, but never any bodies. The older son is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Coincidence? Or revenge?

When he defected, he was sentenced to death in Poland in absentia; the sentence was later commuted to 25 years and finally he was pardoned. When he returned in the 90s, it was to a mixed reception, some considering him a hero and others a traitor. He died of a stroke in the US, just after he'd finally agreed to talk to the director in detail.

This was a very interesting movie. I would recommend this movie. But there is a lot of handheld footage, which would be very shaky and disconcerting for people bothered by handheld filming.

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