For the past 36 hours, progressive politicians and an their lemmings in the media have been apoplectic over the open letter sent to Iran by 47 GOP senators. The critics have called letter unprecedented and accused the signatories of treason. A glimpse backward reveals that the first assertion is false, and if there is any merit to the second, there are quite a few Democrats that should have been brought up on this most serious of charges.
For example, in 1985, Senator John Kerry traveled to Nicaragua for a friendly get-together with the Sandinista president, Daniel Ortega. The position of the Reagan administration was to support the opposition Contras. Kerry wasn’t much interested in the administration’s position. Upon his return to the United States, he met with President Reagan to convey a message from Ortega. Reagan “wasn’t thrilled,” Kerry later told the New York Times.
But there is a much more egregious example: In 1988, Ted Kennedy told the USSR he would help them in their negotiations with Reagan if they would help him become president.
In the early 1980s Reagan was isolating the Soviet Union, while rearming the U.S. at a pace that the USSR could not keep up with. His strategy, resulted in ending the cold war, destroying the Soviet Union, and bringing down the Communist dictatorships across Eastern Europe.
A full description of the event was profiled in a letter found by London Times reporter Tim Sebastian who found the report in the KGB archives in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“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.” [Anyone surprised?]
“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.”
Here are the details of Kennedy’s approach to America’s No. 1 enemy – long before glasnost and perestroika, way back in the dark days of bellicose nuclear standoff – according to the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee’s secret files (the full letter is posted at bottom of this article).
Kennedy dispatched former Sen. John Tunney, a fellow Democrat from California, to seek face-to-face meetings between Kennedy and General Secretary Yuri Andropov. Tunney brought with him a memo on the tense relations between the U.S. and Soviets – with Kennedy siding unequivocally with the Soviets and blaming Reagan.
In a report by KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov, Kennedy is represented as suggesting “that in the interest of world peace, it would be useful and timely to take a few extra steps to counteract the militaristic policies of Ronald Reagan.”
Kennedy also offered to arrange a U.S. television interview with Andropov in which he “would have the chance to address directly the American people with their own explanation of peaceful Soviet initiatives.”
The memo says Tunney and Kennedy U.S. senators involved were motivated to make the secret contact because they wanted to reduce the threat of nuclear war, Chebrikov wrote in his report that Tunney indicated Kennedy was “directing his efforts at becoming president of the U.S. in 1988,” a time by which he would be 56 and his personal problems would be behind him.
What did the Soviet think of the overture?
Not much. Andropov was not impressed with Kennedy. He suggested it would be better to meet with a more viable Democratic presidential candidate for 1988.
Paul Kengor, the author of the New York Times extended-list bestseller “God and Ronald Reagan” described the incident this way:
It was a May 14, 1983 letter from the head of the KGB, Viktor Chebrikov, to the head of the USSR, the odious Yuri Andropov, with the highest level of classification. Chebrikov relayed to Andropov an offer from Senator Ted Kennedy, presented by Kennedy’s old friend and law-school buddy, John Tunney, a former Democratic senator from California, to reach out to the Soviet leadership at the height of a very hot time in the Cold War. According to Chebrikov, Kennedy was deeply troubled by the deteriorating relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, which he believed was bringing us perilously close to nuclear confrontation. Kennedy, according to Chebrikov, blamed this situation not on the Soviet leadership but on the American president—Ronald Reagan. Not only was the USSR not to blame, but, said Chebrikov, Kennedy was, quite the contrary, “very impressed” with Andropov.
The thrust of the letter is that Reagan had to be stopped, meaning his alleged aggressive defense policies, which then ranged from the Pershing IIs to the MX to SDI, and even his re-election bid, needed to be stopped. It was Ronald Reagan who was the hindrance to peace. That view of Reagan is consistent with things that Kennedy said and wrote at the time, including articles in sources like Rolling Stone (March 1984) and in a speeches like his March 24, 1983 remarks on the Senate floor the day after Reagan’s SDI speech, which he lambasted as “misleading Red-Scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes.”
Even more interesting than Kennedy’s diagnosis was the prescription: According to Chebrikov, Kennedy suggested a number of PR moves to help the Soviets in terms of their public image with the American public. He reportedly believed that the Soviet problem was a communication problem, resulting from an inability to counter Reagan’s (not the USSR’s) “propaganda.” If only Americans could get through Reagan’s smokescreen and hear the Soviets’ peaceful intentions.
So, there was a plan, or at least a suggested plan, to hook up Andropov and other senior apparatchiks with the American media, where they could better present their message and make their case. Specifically, the names of Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters are mentioned in the document. Also, Kennedy himself would travel to Moscow to meet with the dictator.
Time was of the essence, since Reagan, as the document privately acknowledged, was flying high en route to easy re-election in 1984….
For the record, one news source, a regional cable outlet in the Philadelphia area, called CN8, took the time to call Kennedy’s office. The official response from his office was not to deny the document but to argue with the interpretation. Which interpretation? Mine or Chebrikov’s? Kennedy’s office wasn’t clear on that. My interpretation was not an interpretation. I simply tried to report what Chebrikov reported to Andropov. So, I guess Kennedy’s office was disputing Chebrikov’s interpretation, which is quite convenient, since Chebrikov is dead, as is Andropov. Alas, the perfect defense—made more perfect by an American media that will not ask the senator from Massachusetts a single question (hard or soft) on this remarkable incident. …They have not denied it. That’s important. Because if none of this had ever happened, and if the document was a fraud, Kennedy’s office would simply say so, and that would be the end of it.
In perspective, Kennedy’s offer to work with the USSR against the United States was much worse than the letter by sent by the 47 senators. Kennedy’s action was treason but not mentioned because he was a liberal?
Below is the entire KGB letter about Kennedy’s offer:
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
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:
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.
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 published a book on the theme as well.)
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, attact 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.
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. 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
Cross-posted at The Lid