Poland - Agencja Wywiadu (AW)

In Poland, the equivalent of the British Secret Intelligence Service, is their own Foreign Intelligence Service Agencja Wywiadu, abbreviated to AW(pronounced A-jens-ya Vivi-ardu) .

Polands' history is very much centred on their borders, and the constant battle the country has had with maintaining them against foreign forces for many many years.  Strategically placed between Germany and Russia, an ocean to the North and entry into Europe further South, the land has proved the scene of some immense struggles.  The most famous and recent of course was the invasion of the German army which led to the beginning of the Second World War.  At the time, with such a large Jewish population, Poland undeniably witnessed the true horror and atrocities we now know so well.  The sheer volume of information to do such a subject justice cannot and should not be dealt with in one page on our site, so instead please feel free to follow some of the links to resources that can provide important material on this subject.  Here we will focus primarily on the post war development of the foreign intelligence network.

It is only in the last 25 years that Poland has really begun to flourish after its subjection to communist rule following the Second World War.  Even now the country, its people and its culture, to some extent still struggles to shake off the vale of the Iron Curtain, as the current generation still bears the scars of the cold war.  For such a beautiful country and resilient people, the future relies completely on true independence and nowhere more so than in the development of its foreign policy and foreign defence initiatives.  

A “shock therapy” program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but Poland still faces the lingering challenges of high unemployment, underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure, and a poor rural underclass. Solidarity suffered a major defeat in the 2001 parliamentary elections when it failed to elect a single deputy to the lower house of Parliament, and the new leaders of the Solidarity Trade Union subsequently pledged to reduce the Trade Union’s political role. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of Euro-Atlantic organisations.

In recent years the UK has been able to build on a growing relationship with the Polish government as Poland cements its place within the European economic playing field.  Historically the bond between the two nations was strong in the Second Word War, with many of the Poles fighting alongside allied forces in many famous and important battles such as the 'Battle of Britain' where the second largest fighting contingent consisted of Polish pilots, and landmark battles such as the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy which saw the Polish 2nd Corp under General Anders, finally reign victorious alongside international allied forces.  The relationship during the war was a close one, and one which started earlier and was far more problematic that the UK and US relationship later on.  Whilst clearly denial concerning the atrocities was very much a Western theme at the outset, it became apparent during 1941 and specifically 1942 how bad the Polish people had suffered.  The mass movement of civilian and armed forces into Prisoner of War (PW) camps by the USSR to Siberia and the surrounding areas was the scene of some inhumane struggles by the Polish people.  Not for the first time in history, the Poles were having their borders and people torn between nations.  Examples of UK intervention were common from 1941 (although to many, still too little too late), and movements of Polish forces from the PW camps to serve under British command started in earnest.  Polish soldiers consisting of battalions of engineers, communications experts and ground forces were moved under British command and Polish command operating in London throughout the Middle East, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and eventually Italy forming the larger Polish 2nd Corp.  This marked an international effort in numerous areas of Italy but most prominently Monte Cassino, with troops from across the globe.


Developing this relationship is certainly paramount for both nations if, Poland in particular, is to grow successfully.  Clearly however the country will struggle to forget the effects foreign forces have had on their lands as many have seen Poland as a strategic base geographically.  Black sites operated by the CIA in particular, as well as other nations, are a reflection of that.  One can hardly blame the Poles for cynicism and a degree of pensiveness when it comes to developing relationships further.  That's why it has been, and is important for the UK to continue to work closely with Poland across all areas of development, politically, economically, militarily and of course strategically when it comes to an inevitable renewed escalation in cold war methods.  Interestingly, the threat of terrorism (according to the terrorism index) is extremely low in Poland.  Poland is one of the few countries in Europe with very few religious groups and once boasted, until recently, a 99% population of Roman Catholics.  This has had an influence, and certainly groups of other denominations and different races, are few and far between. Meaning of course, they are easily controlled should they in fact present a problem.  A problem quite the reverse of course in the UK.

History of Agenjca Wywiadu

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A Culture of Secret Intelligence or Secret Intellect?

Differences in cultures, coupled with a somewhat myopic view of the importance of ones own, is a problem.  Foreign Intelligence is just that.  It is people and organisations in the business of gaining intelligence about foreign nations and foreign people and not just about those that pose a threat to their nation.  Intelligence about what a foreign organisation might do to another, even if it's not going to affect you (although it invariable does) is also useful.  Just knowing whats happening when, and to who and why, is all advantageous information.

The problem with culture however, is that it is often used as the reason to justify and sometimes dismiss, the behaviour of nations and specifically intelligence agencies in the way they operate.  Sometimes removing the shades and really seeing and accepting what's going on is the difficult but overall, the right thing to do in order to improve as an organisation.  Why is it that MI6 has such a solid and undeniably accomplished reputation for carrying out its intelligence affairs?  By comparison, and by the same token, is MOSSAD for example equally revered but for entirely different reasons?  Culture, and the history behind it makes the people, and that makes the nation it is.  

Although this next statement might be a somewhat dangerous and possibly irreverent analogy, what if we view secret intelligence as a business, or part of providing a service?  When exploring a subject such as Exponential Technology and its application to Intelligence Agencies in the modern world, it is useful and indeed necessary to compare it to any other commercial organisation ie, one with budgets and targets and goals and highly competitive (albeit one which can cost lives rather than currency).  If it is providing a service then how does the service MI6 provides compare to the French DPSD or the Polish AW?  If one goes to a coffee shop in Paris and places an order, one is almost accepting of the fact that a happy, friendly service is not likely to follow.  We are accustomed to a rude service and indeed, now we expect it.  Take Poland for example, even the most ardent supporter or patriot will humorously raise a wry grin at the idea of good service in Poland.  It is engrained, and Poland without queues, poor service, a slightly aggressive undertone and the odd curse, is not a Poland I nor anyone else knows.  Visit any Polish government agency and you will know what this means.  On the other hand, go to a road side coffee shop of Route 66 in the US and it won't be long before a gleaming smile of a Doris Day lookalike is followed with "have a nice day" and "hey, missing you already".  The point is, cultures are different and one isn't necessarily better than the other or right or wrong.  Correction!!!! That's not true, sometimes one is better than the other which is why some agencies are left a little.......wanting.  We go back to the "taking the shades off" example above.  Poland has a difference culture, and sub cultures with those, which compared to the UK do not always lend itself well to intelligence gathering in todays "markets".  Poland and the Polish people have without doubt the intellect.  It is no surprise to learn that their standard of education across all age groups within the system are well ahead of those in the UK.  Dispel stereotypical notions that all Polish immigrants are builders and plasterers and look at some of the great historical figures through Polish history, such as Copernicus, Marie Curie or Chopin.  An average student at a school in Krakow could probably pass the most demanding of UK University courses.  There is a sense of discipline and respect for the intelligentsia that flows moderately through Polish culture and the chess and coffee rooms of Eastern Europe even today.  On the flip side, as above, there is still the military inspired, more rural type that also has an important impact. Again, the point is not to judge, but to look at the facts and learn and, more importantly, use these facts to make improvements.

Examine the two leaders of their own respective Intelligence Organisations.  Mr Alex Younger, educated at St Andrews, ex-military and arguably part of the old-school establishment.  The current head of the Polish Foreign Intelligence Agency is Piotr Krawczyk .  On December 28, 2016, he was appointed the head of the Foreign Intelligence Agency.  

Certainly since Mr Krawczyk has been at the helm, we have seen a noticeable shift towards a more polished, sophisticated and PR/Media friendly organisation.  Clearly somewhere along the line the organisation has recognised the need to update itself and stay in touch with the modern more inclusive method of selling the intelligence agencies.  After all, the plight of all intelligence agencies has always been that the public only hear of the great failures, but never hear about the near misses or successes.  Having a more positive PR stance with the general public, changes perceptions and more importantly than that often changes budgets.  The negative public press, especially in the UK, had its effect on the intelligence agency purse strings to such an extent that something had to change. You can almost hear the ministers now talking to their chums at the club saying, 'come old chap we'd love to fund your boys but we need something back, we are politicians after all'.  The recent moves and shakeup in the MI6 culture is probably a result of that type of approach and the simple truth that to win the hearts and minds and prepare for what lies ahead, we need more funding into the service and indeed, many would argue, the military forces in general.  The fact that the opposite is happening and guns are being replaced with nano-technology, biometrics, AI and encryption are symptomatic of where the war is now taking place. Invariably behind a computer terminal.  This is where Poland in particular is realigning itself as indeed many are.  Although we talk about the 'exponential curve' and how critical it is we stay ahead of it, the mechanisms which have been put in place to actually do that, have in large part been made well before now.  We are now at the next line in the sand, and as the wind blows away any semblance of lines once drawn, we now have to ensure we stay ahead of it.  That is the challenge all intelligence agencies should be and are setting themselves.  It looks by all accounts that the Polish AW has one foot tentatively ahead of that line.  Keeping it there?  Well that's a different story.


Will the Polish intelligence service draw a leaf from the MI6 book and still look for broadening its horizons when it comes to recruitment, in particular diversity within the candidates? The MI6 advertising campaign in the United Kingdom under the title "#secretlywerejustlikeyou" focuses on this approach and supports Younger's recent public statements that in order to compete in the future and effectively secure the UK's security against both foreign and domestic threats, MI6 must grow exponentially in line with advances in technology.  

The 2019 Belvedere Forum

The Polish-British Belvedere Forum brings together representatives from a wide range of backgrounds, including academia, business, media, think tanks, NGO’s, culture, and the diaspora.  The Forum aims to deepen the dialogue between British and Polish civil society by bringing together a diverse group of non-governmental actors from both countries to strengthen the extensive partnership between our countries. While the initiative is focused on links through civil society, it enjoys the full backing of both governments and follows an agreement by Prime Ministers in November 2016 to complement annual, Polish-British intergovernmental consultations.


Following the success of the inaugural forum in Warsaw in 2017, the second edition took place in London in February 2018, and brought together over 200 people from both countries to discuss one main theme: “the UK and Poland in a changing Europe: coming together or moving apart?”


On 18 September, the Steering Committee of the Forum, led by Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC and Professor Zdzisław Krasnodębski MEP and Vice President of the European Parliament, met to discuss details of the third edition. It was agreed that the third Forum will take place on 6-7 March at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.


During a reception to mark the announcement of the third Forum, Sir Malcolm highlighted the importance of the Forum to Polish-British relations:  Governments are here to serve people, and civic dialogue is what democracy is all about. That is why the Belvedere Forum was founded - as a platform for dialogue between civil societies.

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Wuhan conspiracy theories aside, diplomatic traction is the reward.


A week or two ago we wrote an article "Conspiracies & Ripples" which focused primarily on conspiracy theories and kicked off with the rather obvious statement that a conspiracy theory is simply a theory without the facts i.e. just a theory.  Within that we highlighted that ‘flavour of the month’ theorist’s delight, the origins of the Coronavirus and its links to Wuhan.  This echoed our views published in February which, as many did, ponder the chances of this remote coincidence maybe actually being true.  Since then there have been swathes of articles on the topic citing all sort of sources and from numerous ‘renowned’ scientists.  We have also recently had the opinions offered by those whose opinions really count, that this virus originating from the labs in Wuhan may not actually be so far-fetched after all.

We do tend to agree, or at least we did.  That was then and this is now and in the world of Politics things move quickly and one does have to look at the reality of the situation.  If there is enough fog between you and your destination, then sometimes the route you take can change, leaving you all sorts of options.  If the objective was originally to circumnavigate through uncertain waters to establish who, what, why and when the virus came about – then that is now lost in the fog.  It is arbitrary.  Now we have something that is far more concrete and tangible to use to our advantage – we have uncertainty.  We now have enough debate and conspiracy to render the findings of the scientists open to interpretation.  And that… is a diplomat’s dream come true.   This particular carcass will feed many and although the WHO will go in, on the ground, and no doubt find yet more uncertainty…it really is irrelevant.  You will certainly not find individual government’s chomping at the bit to send their representatives into Wuhan anytime soon, and even if they did, why?  Wuhan is not some sleepy suburb in leafy Northamptonshire… it is in China.  Whatever was there has long gone, if indeed it was ever even there.  So perhaps it would be wise to assume that at least for the next few decades this is a conspiracy that will never find out those salient facts. 

Now, listening to the scientists, there is an overwhelming urge to say, “shush now”.  Step back ladies and gentlemen and look at the bigger picture at play.  Nobody is actually interested whether or not the virus started in Wuhan, intentionally or not.  As long as it is open to debate, it is far more valuable.  The scientists have debated at length and argued, but there is still no unequivocal proof either way that satisfies all parties…and why could that be?  Scientific fact is not open to debate or questioning, that is a given.  However, to say Science is correct, is not true.  That is because Science has Scientists, and Scientists are human beings who in turn are fallible and motivated by many many other factors.  In China for example, one might say that scientific fact is exactly what they want it to be.  Indeed, who is to say it ends in China.


So why is uncertainty such a blessing in this case?  It provides an additional bargaining chip and a weapon in the armoury for all Governments to now use against the Chinese.  Maybe on the other side of the fence their own initial conspiracy theory that a foreign Government (the US) planted the virus in their midst, is being written about in their own press.  Or maybe not. The fact is it is a safe bet to assume that no body will ever know.  There will be no compensations or admissions of guilt in this case sadly…however the capillaceous network that is politics, diplomacy and economic negotiations will be the real beneficiaries.

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