Motives? At Least Two
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[PL: Motywy? Co najmniej dwa]
Piotr Falkowski in conversation with Eugene Poteat, President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO).
What was your first reaction to the news of the Polish plane crash at Smolensk?
I first read about it in the online version of ‘The Washington Post’ and turned on the TV to see the coverage on one of the information channels. When I realized that so many Polish top political and military leaders were killed when the plane was on its final approach to Smolensk airport and that they were about to take part in the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the 1940 slaughter in Katyn Forest, I immediately thought that that Russia must have had a hand in the crash. I was reminded of the whole history of open and concealed murders, manipulating beacon lights, shooting down Korean Air 007 [Sept.1 1983] and many others.
Shouldn’t NATO be concerned over the catastrophe? After all, top military commanders who could have had sensitive date were killed…
Absolutely. When secret documents, codes, mobile phones carried by the passengers, as in this case, are lost, NATO should start the damage assessment procedure to define what secrets might have been lost and what measures should be taken in order to minimize the damage. This is standard practice in the US. Damage Assessment should determine what changes regarding the encryption codes need to be made. What’s more important, security measures analysis is made in order to eliminate similar situations in the future.
For instance, NATO could formulate new rules regulating what items the representatives of the NATO member states may carry with them when traveling, especially to the Russian Federation. It would be best if the rule was: no confidential materials with you, names or numbers in the mobile phone memory, etc.
Do you think CIA or other intelligence services may have vital information about the crash of the TU-154M government plane?
I’m not aware if any of our intelligence services has any special information about the catastrophe. I’m afraid they unfortunately have nothing. I don’t even know if they have conducted their own internal investigation to examine the Russian possible involvement in causing the crash.
What is your experience with the Soviet secret service operations directed against aircrafts belonging to ‘enemy’ states?
During the cold war, on Sept.2 1958 Russians were moving their beacons, so the result was that the US Air Force Hercules C-130 strayed into the territory of Armenia, then part of the Soviet Union, where it was shot down by Soviet MiG-17 pilots. Another American aircraft, Boeing RB-47 flying over the international waters in the Barents Sea was mislead and directed to Russia where it was shot down by Soviet MiG fighters north of Murmansk and that was on July 1, 1960.
Is it theoretically possible to try such methods with a plane equipped with the latest electronic navigation and instrumentation?
Yes, no doubt about that. In the case of the Smolensk airport, the plane was heading towards the beacon, the pilot hoping to see the ground next, while the ATC tower was repeating it was ‘on course, on glide path’. In fact, however,
the plane was to the left of the right course and at an incorrect altitude. Finally, it indeed crashed to the left of the path leading toward the runway. It’s enough for the beacon to be shifted slightly to the left and the controller to assure that the machine is on the right course, so in fact there is no way to avoid impact.
Any aircraft, regardless of its equipment, is bound to crash in similar circumstances.
And if a US president’s plane crashed somewhere outside the US territory, e.g. in Russia?
I doubt if Russians would now want to attack an Air Force One. It would politically harm mutual relations. Besides, they are aware that we immediately would start investigation using all available means for as long as it is needed
to discover the whole the truth. I also think Americans would send a special team to examine the status of preparations of the airport long before the expected visit to secure safe landing of the president, a team who should also supervise all operations during the approach to landing. This is our standard procedure.
Are you not astonished with the attitude of Polish officials who have let the Russians take the initiative in the Smolensk catastrophe investigation?
It doesn’t surprise me that the Polish government acts like that. These are pro-Russian politicians who see no problem that the investigation is in the Russian hands. I’m only curious if nobody has thought that there won’t be any credible fact finding apart from blaming entirely the pilot. Did they expect the Russians would reach conclusions other than the ones presented in the final report?
When discussing the catastrophe are you not afraid to talk about the Russian fault and the possibility of their intentionally causing the accident? In Poland such views are considered extremely one-sided and irrational…
I simply see their motives. I believe at least two of them are powerful. First of all, Russians could have been afraid of the world’s reaction to the ceremony highlighting Russia’s culpability in the massacre with President Kaczynski
attending it in Katyn. It was a round anniversary of the atrocity and Katyn could have been discussed again. Next, it was in their interest to divert Poland from NATO and establish a pro-Russian leadership, which was exactly the case. It’s sad so many of the Kaczynski team happened to be on board at the same time. What were they thinking?
The people currently in power are indeed unanimously declaring their wish to improve relations with Russia at any price, an example of which being support for the START treaty. Is it the right moment for Poland to reconcile with Russia?
I’ll repeat: Russia could benefit from the catastrophe. The Katyn ceremony did not take place, Warsaw is governed by people well-thought of by the Kremlin who talk about reconciliation, restoring good relations (just as our ‘reset’) and additionally Poland has backed START. It might not appear so at first glance, but NATO has lost one of the strongest allies.
Is there a chance that the truth about the tragedy will come out?
It’s always difficult to unveil the truth about cases in which Russians are involved. They are really good at deniability. We shouldn’t forget how they treated the Katyn case – they kept blaming it on the Germans for tens of years, even after revealing the evidence of the murder. They assume that if you consistently keep denying something or admitting it for a long time, some naïve people will eventually believe it. Personally, I do not believe in disclosing the real facts about April, 10, not any time soon. And when it ever comes to that, if at all, it will for sure be a different generation to receive the truth and will say: ‘So what?’ And also now the time is not ripe for the US to do something about it. Our plate is full with a failing economy, war with terror and other things.
Thank you for you time.
Eugene Poteat graduated from the The Citadel Military College as an electrical engineer and was later employed as member of Technical Staff, Bell Telephone Laboratories and Cape Canaveral Space Center. His career in intelligence included work as a top analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1960-1980. He received the CIA’s Medal of Merit and the National Reconnaissance Office’s Meritorious Civilian Award for his satellite intelligence systems innovations. Outside USA he served abroad in London, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Asia. He managed development programs of special long range and high altitude aircrafts used for intelligence. In 1980-1993 he led an independent research team ‘Petite’ dedicated to intelligence technology, and then formed a special team called electronic war technology. An author of numerous publications on intelligence he has been President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers since 2000.
[PL: Motywy? Co najmniej dwa]