By MICHAEL SZPORER
Seven distinguished political analysts and intelligence experts, during an April 8- symposium at the Library, provided a rare glimpse at intelligence activities in Central and Eastern Europe in the post-Cold War era.
"The Oleksy Affair: The Legacy of the KGB in Central and Eastern Europe" referred to the resignation of Polish Prime Minister Josef Oleksy, who currently heads the ruling Alliance of the Democratic Left (postcommunist) Party. On Dec. 24, 1995, after a year in office, Mr. Oleksy resigned when a military prosecutor began investigating allegations that the premier had been a spy for the Russian intelligence service.
The prognosis of the panelists for the immediate future of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, if not grim, was cautious. They cited the Oleksy investigation, electoral victories by post-communist parties throughout the region, the citizenry's frustration and the policies of the West, which, according to some experts, have simply enriched and entrenched the old communist elites.
As the Russian presidential elections in June - and the possible return of the communists to power in the Kremlin - loomed, the colloquium was sponsored by the Polish Round Table in cooperation with the Library's Office of Scholarly Programs, the Institute of World Politics and Catholic University of America.
Jan Nowak Jezioranski, author of Courier from Warsaw and former head of the Polish Section of Radio Free Europe, reviewed the events leading up to the Oleksy indictment and was persuaded that there was merit to the charge that the prime minister was a Moscow agent. Nevertheless, Mr. Jezioranski, who is also national director of the Polish-American Congress, predicted that the charges against Oleksy would be dismissed because no court would render a verdict on the basis of evidence gathered from foreign intelligence sources.
The allegations against Oleksy were widely interpreted as President Lech Walesa's parting shot, made public three days before he left office, and therefore suspect. Mr. Jezioranski drew parallels to similar incidents: the spectacular John Profumo scandal, which brought down Britain's Tory government in 1963, when the British foreign affairs minister's 21- year old mistress, Christine Keeler, was found to be a spy for the GRU [Soviet military intelligence], and the East German spy incident, involving Gunther Guillaume, a trusted aide of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, that led to Brandt's resignation in 1974.
Mr. Jezioransky accused Poland's ruling postcommunist party of a coverup. Unlike his Western counterparts, neither of whom was personally implicated, Mr. Oleksy refused to resign, painting an image of himself as a victim of the "dirty provocation of Walesa," said Mr. Jezioranski. The prime minister and the postcommunist party, he added, used their political power to blunt the investigation by forcing resignations in the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Security and by strong-arming investigative reporters. In the end, the prime minister was forced out of office by pressure from the parliament and the opposition.
"I'm sure there are many Oleksys [in Central and Eastern Europe] and that the KGB is trying to recruit agents of influence in all the parties," Mr. Jezioran-sky said.
Even more perplexing to him was the electoral return of postcommunists to the region. "Every victorious revolution generates excessive hopes and expectations which are followed by frustration, disappointment and nostalgia," he said.
Nonetheless, the Oleksy case, he argued, demonstrated that democracy passed its test "with flying colors" and warned against using the affair as a pretext for not admitting Poland and the other countries of the region into NATO. On the contrary, integration ought to be accelerated to consolidate democracy, he said.
"It was the integration of Europe and NATO that prevented Western Europe from falling into the communist orbit in the aftermath of World War II," Mr. Jezioransky said. A policy of exclusion, he warned, is not in the interest of the United States or its Western allies. "It would lead to erosion of democratic aspirations and to the 'Finlandization' of Central Europe."
In a Jan. 27 interview with the weekly Polityka, Josef Oleksy never denied befriending Russian diplomat Vladimir Alganov or his replacement, Georgy Jakimishin, who allegedly reported on the details of their talks to their superiors in Moscow. Mr. Oleksy even admitted feeling obligated to educate the Russians on the changes taking place in his country: "I sometimes wonder what I could have spied on or how I could have hurt the interests of Poland," he said.
However, as Oleg Kalugin, former major general of the KGB and chief of foreign intelligence, explained, the line between the passing of confidential information and explaining the subtleties of the political decision-making process does not really exist in intelligence gathering.
Quoting Josef Stalin's remark "a good communist is a good Chekist [political police agent]," Mr. Kalugin, who is the author of The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West, said, "The test of any loyal communist was his loyalty to Moscow." It would have been natural for Josef Oleksy, a former party propaganda chief, to inform his superiors and colleagues. Poland was in a "union where every secret was shared with the Kremlin," he said.
Thus, according to Mr. Kalugin, it is immaterial whether Josef Oleksy was a spy; he did what he was supposed to do. During the 1960s, Mr. Kalugin explained, Soviet agents did not operate in "fraternal countries"; Moscow cultivated confidential "contacts of influence" who did not toe the official Kremlin line but kept it abreast of political nuances. Only in 1968, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, were KGB agents planted in the satellite states unknown to the local authorities and security services. According to Mr. Kalugin, it is often very difficult to separate what was done under the aegis of "internationalism," from what was done strictly in the service of Moscow, from what was done against the interests of a particular country.
Mr. Kalugin acknowledged that Moscow could have had a hand in the Oleksy affair to block Poland's acceptance into NATO but observed that it had little impact on the outcome of the presidential election won by the post-communist party candidate Alexander Kwasniewski. The former KGB major general underscored the role of ideology and proposed that the way to reshape the Soviet mentality is through acceptance into Western economic and security structures. Mr. Kalugin cited Britain's World War I prime minister Lloyd George, who said that the best way to deal with the atrocities of Bolshevism is through commerce. "We should be more cautious in our judgments, more fair in the treatment of people who for one reason or another lived under a totalitarian state and who had to promote that totalitarian state centered in Moscow."
J. Michael Waller, author of Secret Empire: KGB in Russia Today, argued against the cosmetic view of the changes following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian intelligence service, Dr. Waller said, perpetuates the tradition of the "Bolshevik Chekisty," both in its symbols and intentions. He praised Vaclav Havel's moral leadership of the Czech Republic and argued that post-communist states must own up to their past in a "spirit of national repentance," not through witch-hunts or show trials, but by fostering processes that promote a clean break with the past.
Those in power should be screened to inculcate a sense of national and international confidence that the emerging system is genuinely democratic and the economy is driven by market values. Dr. Waller established parallels with the situation in Western Europe in the aftermath of World War II, observing that the acceptance of West Germany and Italy into NATO involved a complete and unquestioned dismantling of the internal security structures and the Nazi and Fascist party apparatus. "You didn't have the Gestapo suddenly becoming Germany's new law enforcement service," he said. A screening process was put in place, and West Germany was very gradually brought into NATO.
Dr. Waller argued that Western policy toward Central Europe after the collapse of communism was misguided: "The West supported and financed the program of privatization to the nomenklatura of these countries and enriched the communist ruling class, allowing it to fund a political machine with which to crush or somehow overwhelm the democratic parties."
The so-called lustration ('purification') attempts in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Poland never received support and were in fact discouraged. "As long as you have everyone in the West wondering, 'Is this prime minister a KGB agent? Is this general working for Russian military intelligence?' you don't have the confidence that these countries can be loyal, full- fledged NATO partners." Dr. Waller argued for a gradual enlargement of NATO and a more constructive, confidence-building policy that restores legitimacy to institutions through lustrat-ion laws and international "truth commissions."
John Dziak, a former U.S. senior military intelligence officer, warned that "there has been no meaningful reform of the KGB." The repressive and extralegal organs of what he called "the Soviet counterintelligence state" have never been held accountable for more than 70 years of repression. Reorganization has taken place, the names have changed, but the old nomenklatura remains on top.
They are the new capitalists, the new political leaders. But even more important, the intelligence hierarchy has been preserved, streamlined and adjusted to new circumstances, said Dr. Dziak. The primary focus of the KGB was on the security of the monopoly position of the party and the state, not foreign intelligence. Russian intelligence essentially performs the same principally internal security function. The security apparatus remains intact aside from some downsizing and reorientation, with the different services "essentially carbon copies of the former KGB directorates."
In short, Russian intelligence has undergone "retitling rather than reorganization," he said. With the exception of the Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs, which report to the ministerial structure, the critical units answer directly to the president and, because of the August 1991 coup attempt, remain outside parliamentary channels.
Dr. Dziak cautioned that, in the event of Boris Yeltsin's defeat in the June presidential elections, his successor, whether it be the communist Genady Zyuganov or the ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, could have access to a tightly knit, highly centralized security apparatus reminiscent of Joseph Stalin's in the 1920s.
"The party may have lost power, but its 'action arm', which has kept it in pow-er for all those decades, is still intact," Dr. Dziak said. He offered several examples of how Russian intelligence has not changed its aggressive methods, aims or ideology, as evidenced by its role in Chechnya and the Armenia-Azerbaijan, Abkazia-Georgia and Moldova-Trans Dniester conflicts. "What began during the communist period," Dr. Dziak concluded, "did not disappear with its collapse. Wishful thinking will not undo the penetrations usually associated with the totalitarian period."
"The Oleksy affair is but a tip of the iceberg, part of the general pattern across the Eastern bloc," warned Paul Goble, assistant director for broadcasting of Radio Free Europe, in a grim appraisal of the KGB's penetration of political and financial institutions in the relatively progressive postcommunist Baltic states. Like Dr. Dziak, the former State Department adviser on the Baltics argued that Western analysts have allowed themselves to fall into the trap that "renaming means something new." According to Mr. Goble, all one must do is remember how former foreign intelligence chief and current Russian Foreign Minister Evgeny Primakov last year praised Felix Dzerzhinsky [founder of the Soviet Cheka] to understand that continuity persists and that Western policymakers have underestimated its impact.
Mr. Goble believes the Oleksy affair illustrates that Moscow's long-range goal toward its "near abroad" neighbors - the Baltic countries, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine and Central Europe - has changed little. The policy of "frozen instability," Mr. Goble explained, is not to take control, but to foment instability, so that no one else can become a potent force in the region. "Not only was Oleksy run by Moscow, but I suspect Moscow played a key role in having the Oleksy affair revealed," said Mr. Goble, echoing Mr. Kalugin's observation.
For Grzegorz Kostrzewa-Zorbas, former deputy chief for Central Europe and the Soviet Union in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Poland's Solidarity government, the major issues are the residues of postcommunist mentality. He observed that the agents who gathered the evidence against Josef Oleksy were part of the old security structure. Even after the Oleksy affair, Mr. Kostrzewa-Zorbas noted, the support for the neocommunists in Poland increased to an all-time high of well above 30 percent, with the popularity of the newly elected president, Alexander Kwasniewski, soaring in the polls.
Mr. Kostrzewa-Zorbas believes that political correctness shapes the West's foreign policy decisions; thus post-communist states are called "emerging democracies." Is it too "politically incorrect" to use the term "neocommunism?," he asked.
John Lenczowski, president of the Institute of World Politics and former director of European and Soviet Affairs in the National Security Council in the Reagan administration, detects in the Oleksy affair a need for a deeper national debate over the foundations of the new societies in the region. The affair represents a continuation of the Cold War, albeit in different wardrobe. "At its roots the Cold War was a moral conflict," Dr. Lenczowski reminded the audience. It pitted those who "subscribed to the idea of a transcendent objective moral order" against those who rejected it, "believing that all laws, morals and rights come from those in power who have the biggest guns and the greatest will to use them."
He said that while one can cite any number of reasons for the collapse of the Soviet empire - the arms race, the economic pressures on Moscow, the West's technological edge, the Afghan war, the information revolution - the renaissance of democracy, which first flared up in Poland and ignited the Baltics, was fundamentally a moral revolt.
"It reclaimed the moral territory, the realm of human dignity, that had been invaded by the totalitarian state through the inculcation of a forced system of lies," he said. While "the organizational weapon of the institutionalized lie" had crumbled, the final victory has not been realized because of a Western lack of resolve to foster genuine liberation. "A new society must be built on a moral foundation," Dr. Lenczowski observed, concluding the colloquium.
On April 23, the Polish military prosecutor dismissed the case against former Prime Minister Josef Oleksy, who currently heads the ruling postcommunist party, and two Russian diplomats, Vladimir Alganov and Georgy Jakimishin. President Alexander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Grzegorz Cimoszewicz promised to make the documents of the affair public.
Dr. Michael Szporer is the coordinator of the Polish Round Table.