(CNSNews.com) - While Soviet troops occupied Afghanistan in 1980, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) worked in close concert with high level Kremlin officials to alter the direction of U.S. policy, according to documents made available through a KGB defector.
Details concerning Kennedy's correspondence with KGB agents are included in the writings of the late Vasiliy Mitrokhin who defected to Britain in 1992. The Mitrokhin papers highlight a meeting that took place at the behest of Kennedy between former Sen. John Tunney (D-Calif.) and KGB agents in Moscow on March 5, 1980.
The exchange of information between Tunney and the KGB is included as part of a report Mitrokhin filed with the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. The former KGB man continued to work with British intelligence until the time of his death.
Noted Cold War author and researcher Herbert Romerstein told Cybercast News Service Mitrokhin was a "highly credible source" with vast knowledge of the now-closed KGB archives.
Prior to his defection, Mitrokhin made meticulous copies of KGB documents by hand, explained Romerstein, who headed the U.S. government's Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation and Active Measures during the 1980s.
The KGB defector smuggled out six cases of notes that formed the basis of his reporting.
The KGB files Mitrokhin retrieved indicate that Kennedy fixed the blame for heightened international tensions on the Carter White House, not on the Kremlin. Kennedy at the time was challenging incumbent Carter for the Democratic nomination for president.
Tunney told his KGB counterparts that Kennedy was impressed by the foreign policy statements made by then General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Kennedy saw in Brezhnev a leader who was firmly committed to the policy of "d?tente," the report said.
But, in Kennedy's estimation, the Carter administration had assumed an overly belligerent posture toward the Soviet Union after the invasion of Afghanistan, Mitrokhin wrote.
In Kennedy's view, "the atmosphere of tension and hostility towards the whole Soviet people was being fuelled by Carter" as well as by some key advisors, the Pentagon and the U.S. military industrial complex, the Mitrokhin report states.
Throughout the meeting Tunney remained focused on the separation between Kennedy's proposals and the official stance of the Carter White House. While official U.S. policy called for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Kennedy avoided "touching the question of the legality of the presence of Soviet troops," Mitrokhin reported.
Instead, Kennedy relayed through his envoy, Tunney, his support for a withdrawal of Soviet forces that would be coupled with policy directives that "guaranteed non-interference" by competing foreign powers in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Since there was intense disagreement between Kennedy and the administration on policy toward the Soviets, Tunney told the KGB that the Massachusetts senator had concluded "it was his duty to take action himself, which could force the Carter administration to act to de-escalate the crisis," Mitrokhin wrote.
In 1980 Kennedy lost to Carter in the Democratic primary, and the incumbent in turn lost to Ronald Reagan in the general election.
As was previously reported by the Cybercast News Service Kennedy also subsequently made overtures to Soviet officials aimed at thwarting Reagan's military buildup in the 1980s.
Kennedy had offered to help the Soviets organize a public relations campaign in the U.S. that would dilute support for Reagan's policies. Once again, it was Tunney who traveled to Moscow on Kennedy's behalf to relay the senator's proposals.
The particulars of Kennedy's proposals are discussed in a letter dated May 14, 1983, that was sent from the head of the KGB to Yuri Andropov, who was then general secretary. Romerstein acquired a copy of the letter from a contact in Moscow who had access to the Kremlin archives.
"The letter speaks to the degree of opposition and the lack of understanding liberals like Kennedy had toward Reagan's policies," said Lee Edwards, a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
"Reagan knew we had to build up our armed forces before we could apply pressure to the Soviets." The notion of fighting to win the Cold War was an alien concept to liberals like Kennedy, Edwards added, because they had grown accustomed to the policies of containment.
A copy of the letter is reproduced in a new book entitled "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism." The author, Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College.
The pattern of behavior should concern members of both political parties, Kengor said, because it shows Kennedy was willing to work against American foreign policy, regardless of who occupied the White House.
In his book, Kengor points out that Tunney acknowledged making 15 separate trips to the Soviet Union where he acted as an intermediary not only for Kennedy but for other U.S. senators.
Charles Dunn, dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University, told Cybercast News Service Kennedy's activities were in "clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and at the expense of presidential authority."
The secret overtures to the KGB during the Reagan years were particularly insidious, Dunn said, because Tunney and Kennedy were working to undermine what ultimately proved to be a very successful policy that brought an end to the Cold War.
"If another country gets the idea that it can deal outside of official channels then that undermines presidential leadership," he said.
For his part, Romerstein said that Kennedy, and other senators, may have violated the Logan Act, which has been on the books since 1799, but is rarely enforced. The law prohibits American citizens from engaging in private diplomacy with a foreign government with the intention of influencing public policy.
At the same time, however, Romerstein cautions against viewing Kennedy as an agent for the Soviets. Instead, he said, it is appropriate to label him a "collaborationist" who sought out Soviet contacts to advance his own interests, not theirs.
When Kennedy spoke highly of Soviet leaders like Brezhnev and Andropov, he may have been "pretending," in an attempt to curry favor, Romerstein said.
"He [Kennedy] was no more loyal to the Soviets than he was to the United States.," Romerstein said.
Kennedy's office was contacted but declined to comment on the communication the senator had with the KGB, as reported in the Mitrokhin papers.
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