Paul Kengor, a political science professor at (right-wing, Christian) Grove City College in a new book, titled, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism
In his book, which came out this week, Kengor focuses on a KGB letter written at the height of the Cold War that shows that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) offered to assist Soviet leaders in formulating a public relations strategy to counter President Reagan’s foreign policy and to complicate his re-election efforts.
The letter, dated May 14, 1983, was sent from the head of the KGB to Yuri Andropov, who was then General Secretary of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party.
In his letter, KGB head Viktor Chebrikov offered Andropov his interpretation of Kennedy’s offer. Former U.S. Sen. John Tunney (D-Calif.) had traveled to Moscow on behalf of Kennedy to seek out a partnership with Andropov and other Soviet officials, Kengor claims in his book.
At one point after President Reagan left office, Tunney acknowledged that he had played the role of intermediary, not only for Kennedy but for other U.S. senators, Kengor said. Moreover, Tunney told the London Times that he had made 15 separate trips to Moscow.
“There’s a lot more to be found here,” Kengor told Cybercast News Service. “This was a shocking revelation.”
It is not evident with whom Tunney actually met in Moscow. But the letter does say that Sen. Kennedy directed Tunney to reach out to “confidential contacts” so Andropov could be alerted to the senator’s proposals.
Specifically, Kennedy proposed that Andropov make a direct appeal to the American people in a series of television interviews that would be organized in August and September of 1983, according to the letter.
“Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan,” Kengor said. “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 wrote in his letter.
“Kennedy was afraid that Reagan was leading the world into a nuclear war,” Kengor said. “He hoped to counter Reagan’s polices, and by extension hurt his re-election prospects.”
As a prelude to the public relations strategy Kennedy hoped to facilitate on behalf of the Soviets, Kengor said, the Massachusetts senator had also proposed meeting with Andropov in Moscow — to discuss the challenges associated with disarmament.
In his appeal, Kennedy indicated he would like to have Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) accompany him on such a trip. The two senators had worked together on nuclear freeze proposals.
But Kennedy’s attempt to partner with high-level Soviet officials never materialized. Andropov died after a brief time in office and was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev.
In his attempt to reach out the Soviets, Kennedy settled on a flawed receptacle for peace, Kengor said. Andropov was a much more belligerent and confrontational leader than the man who followed him, in Kengor’s estimation.
“If Andropov had lived and Gorbachev never came to power, I can’t imagine the Cold War ending peacefully like it did,” Kengor told Cybercast News Service. “Things could have gotten ugly.”