By Kevin Mooney -
Senator Edward M. Kennedy offered to work in close concert with high level Soviet officials to sabotage President Ronald Reagan’s re-election efforts and to arrange for congenial American press coverage of General Secretary Yuri Andropov, according to a 1983 KGB document.
Specifically, Kennedy offered to have “representatives of the largest television companies in the U.S. contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interview.” The idea here would be for the Soviet leader to make an end run around Reagan with a direct appeal to the American people.
Kennedy suggested that Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters and Elton Raul, the president of the board of directors for ABC, be considered for the interviews with Andropov in Moscow. He also asked the KGB to consider having “lower level Soviet officials, particularly the military” take part in television interviews inside the U.S. where they could convey peaceful intentions.
The confidential correspondence between Sen. Kennedy and Soviet agents first came to light in a Feb. 2, 1992 report published in the London Times entitled “Teddy, the KGB and the Top Secret File. Paul Kengor, a Grove City College political science professor, included the document in his 2006 book: “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and The Fall of Communism.”
However, the material has received a paucity of media attention even after Kennedy’s death last year and Monday’s release of his FBI files. Kennedy’s long history of secret overtures to the Soviets at the expense of his own president deserves further exploration as they could provide additional insight into the final, pivotal years of the Cold War.
The KGB document in question includes a letter dated May 14, 1983 from KGB head Viktor Chebrikov addressed to Andropov. Former Senator John Tunney (D-Calif.) traveled to Moscow in May of that year on behalf of Kennedy where he outlined a potential collaborative scheme aimed against Reagan, the KGB letter says.
In the interest of world peace and improved American-Soviet relations, Kennedy offers specific proposals built around a public relations effort designed to “counter the militaristic politics of Reagan and his campaign to psychologically burden the American people,” Chebrikov wrote.
Although it is not made clear who Tunney actually met with in Moscow, the letter does say that Sen. Kennedy directed the California Democrat to reach out to “confidential contacts” so Andropov could be alerted to the senator’s proposals.
“Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan,” Kengor the Grove City professor said in an interview. “But Kennedy attributed this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and other Soviet leaders.”
In Kennedy’s view, the main reason for the antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s was Reagan’s unwillingness to yield on plans to deploy middle-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe, the KGB chief observed in his letter.
“Kennedy was afraid that Reagan was leading the world into a nuclear war,” Kengor said. “He hoped to counter Reagan’s policies, and by extension hurt his re-election prospects.”
Tunney also discussed Kennedy’s presidential ambitions with the Soviet contacts, according to the letter. Kennedy was looking to run in 1988 when he would be remarried and his “personal problems” resolved. However, the letter also said he did not rule out 1984.
Kennedy also offered to travel to Moscow with Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) to meet with Andropov. Both senators favored a freeze on the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
“There’s a lot more here that needs to found,” Kengor continued. “This was a shocking revelation.”
Tunney has previously acknowledged his role as an intermediary not just for Kennedy for but other U.S senators. There’s an opening here for enterprising reporting in the New York Times and other media outlets that have so far ignored the story. It is worth noting that Tunney told the London Times he made 15 separate trips to Moscow.
An investigative piece might begin by asking which other U.S. senators were involved in correspondence which could be in violation of an obscure law dating back to the time of the early American Republic called the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from “directly or indirectly commenc[ing] or carr[ying] on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.”
The 2,352 pages covering the period of 1961 through 1985 included in Kennedy’s FBI file have enabled the Times and others to supply readers with rich, detailed reports. The following nugget from the Gray Lady’s Monday edition gives good cause to keep reading:
“They [the FBI files] document the keen interest the bureau took when Mr. Kennedy met with “ ‘intellectuals’ of leftist tinge” on a visit to Mexico in 1961; the relationship the Kennedy family had with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the F.B.I.; and the efforts of the Nixon administration to find out more about the 1969 Chappaquiddick accident, in which a young woman drowned after a car being driven by Mr. Kennedy plummeted off a bridge near Martha’s Vineyard.”
So why not delve more into a KGB document that has been preserved by Professor Kengor and others in anticipation of Russian government figures resealing those same files?
In his blog appearing on the American Thinker, Kengor details his many media frustrations.
“In 2006, when my book was released, there was a virtual media blackout on coverage of the document, with the exception of conservative media: talk-radio, Rush Limbaugh, some websites, and mention on FoxNews by Brit Hume,” he wrote. “Amazingly, I didn’t even get calls from mainstream reporters seeking to shoot down the story. I had prepared in great detail to be grilled on national television, picturing the likes of Katie Couric needling me. I didn’t need to worry.”
There is no escaping the “blame America first” mentality at work in Kennedy’s correspondence that omits and discussion of Soviet aggression in Europe and belligerence toward the U.S.
“Senator Kennedy, like other rational people, is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations,” Chebrikov observes. “Events are developing such that this relationship coupled with the general state of global affairs will make the situation even more dangerous. The main reason for this is Reagan’s belligerence, and his firm commitment to deploy new American middle range nuclear weapons within Western Europe. According to Kennedy, the current threat is due to the president’s refusal to engage in any modification of his policies.”
According to the New York Times opinion page (and more often than what passed for objective reporting) Reagan was also a threat to world stability. With the Berlin Wall demolished, enslaved nations set free and the capitalist system vindicated, the NYT and other media organizations that long sought to discredit the anti-communist cause ought to consider probing into perfidious exercises operating at odds with American interests.