8/28/2009, "Ted Kennedy's Soviet Gambit," Forbes.com, Peter Robinson
"Picking his way through the Soviet archives that Boris Yeltsin had just thrown open, in 1991 Tim Sebastian, a reporter for the London Times, came across an arresting memorandum. Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.
“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 (1983) memorandum (posted below) explained,
“Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”
Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”
Kennedy made Andropov a couple of specific offers. First he offered to visit Moscow. “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Kennedy would help the Soviets deal with Reagan by telling them how to brush up on their propganda.
Then he offered to make it possible for Andropov to sit down for a few interviews on American television. “A direct appeal…to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country.…If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews.…The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.”
Kennedy would make certain the networks gave Andropov air time–and that they rigged the arrangement to look like honest journalism.
Kennedy’s motives? “Like other rational people,” the memorandum explained, “[Kennedy] is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations.” But that high-minded concern represented only one of Kennedy’s motives.
“Tunney remarked that the senator wants to run for president in 1988,” the memorandum continued. “Kennedy does not discount that during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party may officially turn to him to lead the fight against the Republicans and elect their candidate president.”
Kennedy proved eager to deal with Andropov–the leader of the Soviet Union, a former director of the KGB and a principal mover in both the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the suppression of the 1968 Prague Spring–at least in part to advance his own political prospects.
In 1992, Tim Sebastian published a story about the memorandum in the London Times. Here in the U.S., Sebastian’s story received no attention. In his 2006 book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, historian Paul Kengor reprinted the memorandum in full. “The media,” Kengor says, “ignored the revelation.”
“The document,” Kengor continues, “has stood the test of time. I scrutinized it more carefully than anything I’ve ever dealt with as a scholar. I showed the document to numerous authorities who deal with Soviet archival material. No one has debunked the memorandum or shown it to be a forgery. Kennedy’s office did not deny it.”
Why bring all this up now? No evidence exists that Andropov ever acted on the memorandum within eight months, the Soviet leader would be dead–and now that Kennedy himself has died even many of the former senator’s opponents find themselves grieving. Yet precisely ecause Kennedy represented such a commanding figure–perhaps the most compelling liberal of our day–we need to consider his record in full.
Doing so, it turns out, requires pondering a document in the archives of the politburo.
When President Reagan chose to confront the Soviet Union, calling it the evil empire that it was, Sen. Edward Kennedy chose to offer aid and comfort to General Secretary Andropov. On the Cold War, the greatest issue of his lifetime, Kennedy got it wrong."
"Peter Robinson, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a former White House speechwriter, writes a weekly column for Forbes."
Text of May 14, 1983 KGB letter re: Sen. Ted Kennedy from appendix of Paul Kengor’s 2006 book "The Crusader – Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism." Appendix pp 317-320.
"TEXT OF KGB LETTER ON SENATOR TED KENNEDY"
Committee on State Security of the USSR
14.05. 1983 No. 1029 Ch/OV
Regarding Senator Kennedy’s request to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Comrade Y.V. Andropov
Comrade Y.V. Andropov
On 9-10 May of this year, Senator Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant J. Tunney was in Moscow. The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Center Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.
Senator Kennedy, like other rational people, is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations. 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 any modification on his politics. He feels that his domestic standing has been strengthened because of the well publicized improvement of the economy: inflation has been greatly reduced, production levels are increasing as is overall business activity. For these reasons, interest rates will continue to decline. The White House has portrayed this in the media as the “success of Reaganomics.”
Naturally, not everything in the province of economics has gone according to Reagan’s plan. A few well known economists and members of financial circles, particularly from the north-eastern states, foresee certain hidden tendencies that many bring about a new economic crisis in the USA. This could bring about the fall of the presidential campaign of 1984, which would benefit the Democratic party. Nevertheless, there are no secure assurances this will indeed develop.
The only real threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations. These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign
. The movement advocating a freeze on nuclear arsenals of both countries continues to gain strength in the United States. The movement is also willing to accept preparations, particularly from Kennedy, for its continued growth. In political and influential circles of the country, including within Congress, the resistence to growing military expenditures is gaining strength.
However, according to Kennedy, the opposition to Reagan is still very weak. Reagan’s adversaries are divided and the presentations they make are not fully effective. Meanwhile, Reagan has the capabilities to effectively counter any propaganda. In order to neutralize criticism that the talks between the USA and the USSR are non-constructive, Reagan will grandiose, but subjectively propagandistic. At the same time, Soviet officials who speak about disarmament will be quoted out of context, silenced or groundlessly and whimsically discounted. Although arguments and statements by officials of the USSR do appear in the press, it is important to note the majority of Americans do not read serious newspapers or periodicals.
Kennedy believes that, given the current state of affairs, and in the interest of peace, it would be prudent and timely to undertake the following steps to counter the militaristic politics of Reagan and his campaign to psychologically burden the American people. In this regard, he offers the following proposals to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Y.V. Andropov:
1. Kennedy asks Y.V. Andropov to consider inviting the senator to Moscow for a personal meeting in July of this year. The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA. He would also like to inform you that he has planned a trip through Western Europe, where he anticipates meeting England’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Mitterand in which he will exchange similar ideas regarding the same issues. If his proposals would be accepted in principle, Kennedy would send his representative to Moscow to resolve questions regarding organizing such a visit.If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interview.
Kennedy thinks the benefits of a meeting with Y.V.Andropov will be enhanced if he could also invite one of the well known Republican senators, for example, Mark Hatfield. Such a meeting will have a strong impact on American and political circles in the USA (In March of 1982, Hatfield and Kennedy proposed a project to freeze the nuclear arsenals of the USA and USSR and pblished a book on the theme as well.)
2. Kennedy believes that in order to influence Americans it would be important to organize in August-September of this year, televised interviews with Y.V. Andropov in the USA. A direct appeal by the General Secretary to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. The senator is convinced this would receive the maximum resonance in so far as television is the most effective method of mass media and information.
Specifically, the president of the board of directors of ABC, Elton Raul and television columnists Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters could visit Moscow. The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.
Furthermore, with the same purpose in mind, a series of televised interviews in the USA with lower level Soviet officials, particularly from the military would be organized. They would also have an opportunity to appeal directly to the American people about the peaceful intentions of the USSR, with their own arguments about maintaining a true balance of power between the USSR and the USA in military term. This issue is quickly being distorted by Reagan’s administration.
Kennedy asked to convey that this appeal to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is his effort to contribute a strong proposal that would root out the threat of nuclear war, and to improve Soviet-American relations, so that they define the safety of the world. Kennedy is very impressed with the activities of Y.V. Andropov and other Soviet leaders, who expressed their commitment to heal international affairs, and improve mutual understandings between peoples.
The senator underscored that he eagerly awaits a reply to his appeal, the answer to which may be delivered through Tunney.
Having conveyed Kennedy’s appeal to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Tunney also explained that Senator Kennedy has in the last few years actively made appearances to reduce the threat of war.
Because he formally refused to partake in the election campaign of 1984, his speeches would be taken without prejudice as they are not tied to any campaign promises. Tunney remarked that the senator wants to run for president in 1988. At that time, he will be 56 and his personal problems, which could hinder his standing, will be resolved (Kennedy has just completed a divorce and plans to remarry in the near future).
Taken together, Kennedy does not discount that during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party may officially turn to him to lead the fight against the Republicans and elect their candidate president. This would explain why he is convinced that none of the candidates today have a real chance at defeating Reagan.
We await instructions.
President of the committee
Above, "text of KGB letter" listing, screen shot of index of Kengor book.