Book: Teddy Kennedy Plotted with Soviets to Oust Reagan

A conservative author and political scientist alleges in a new book that Senator Teddy Kennedy made an overture to the Soviet government to assist in a campaign to smear President Ronald Reagan to derail his 1984 re-election bid.

The antipathy that congressional Democrats have today toward President George W. Bush is reminiscent of their distrust of President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War, a political science professor says. “We see some of the same sentiments today, in that some Democrats see the Republican president as being a threat and the true obstacle to peace, instead of seeing our enemies as the true danger,” said Paul Kengor, a political science professor at Grove City College and the author of new book, 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.


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.”


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.

Several rather important caveats apply here. First, we don’t know the authenticity of the letter. Why the KGB would fake such a memo and then not use it is unclear but it could certainly happen. Second, Kengor is a rabid partisan. He’s the author of God and Ronald Reagan, God and George W. Bush, and several other books praising contemporary Republican presidents. He’s also the director of The Center for Vision & Values which “embrace[s] the wisdom of Western Civilization that biblical truth is the foundation of freedom.” His scholarship is very much informed by his ideology. Third, 1983 was hardly “the height of the Cold War.” Tensions had certainly escalated during the last days of the Brezhnev regime and the unstable period before Gorbachev took power but the prospects for something akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis were remote.

That said, if this is indeed true, it is indeed, as Dan Riehl puts it, “freaking outrageous.” One simply doesn’t collaborate with foreign powers, let alone the enemy, to undermine the official policies of one’s country. Michael van der Galien thinks it “dangerously close to something called treason.” SeeDubya would like to see Kennedy impeached if this is proven true. Since that’s Constitutionally reserved for officers of the Executive and Judicial branches, we’d have to settle for expulsion from the Senate pursuant to a vote by at least 67 of his colleagues.

There’s reason to be skeptical, though, beyond the caveats above. Ace (via someone called MS) has unearthed a 2004 NewsMax article archived at Free Republic (again, obviously very biased fora) alleging this and other collaborations between Kennedy and the Soviets.

Teddy also will have unprecedented power in a Kerry White House. Clearly, a serious examination of Uncle Ted’s views needs to be conducted before Election Day.

NewsMax was deeply disturbed by an article written last December by Herbert Romerstein for Human Events, the conservative weekly. Romerstein, a former House intelligence committee staffer and a researcher of Soviet archives, uncovered numerous documents suggesting that Ted Kennedy was a “collaborationist” with the Soviets during our Cold War. Romerstein also co-authored, along with Eric Breindel, the highly praised “Verona Secrets, Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors.”

According to Romerstein, a review of Soviet Communist Party archives offers an unflattering view of Kennedy. Some of the documents that have come to light since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 include claims that:

Sometime in 1978, Kennedy requested the KGB’s assistance to set up a relationship between the Soviets and a firm owned by former Sen. John Tunney, D-Calif. Again, on March 5, 1980, Tunney, acting as Kennedy’s liaison, met with KGB agents in Moscow. During that meeting, Tunney articulated Kennedy’s position that “nonsense about ‘the Soviet military threat’ and Soviet ambitions for military expansion in the Persian Gulf … was being fueled by [President Jimmy] Carter, [National Security Advisor Zbigniew] Brzezinski, the Pentagon and the military industrial complex.” Kennedy, according to the documents, offered to speak out against President Carter on Afghanistan.

Romerstein notes that soon after the meeting, several public speeches subsequently were made by Kennedy criticizing Carter on his handling of Afghanistan. This particular document was found in KGB archives by a KGB officer named Vasiliy Mitrokhin, who copied the records and defected to the West.

Other reports regarding Kennedy’s affiliation with the Communists also were divulged. According to information provided by the KGB, Kennedy told Tunney to carry a message to the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Yuri Andropov. Kennedy conveyed his concern over the anti-Soviet activities of then-President Ronald Reagan.

I don’t recall them getting mainstream attention at the time. Granted, as Ace implies in a separate post, the mainstream press isn’t as eager to investigate scandals involving liberal politicians as conservative ones. But the story was first reported in Human Events, which is much more mainstream than Freep or NewsMax (hell, I write for them occasionally) in December 2003. The conservative blogosphere, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others were in full swing by then.

There has to be a reason that story never got any legs.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. madmatt says:

    Why that would be like reagan working with iranians to defeat carter during the hostage crisis…so your side did it first and yet you neglect to mention that!

  2. McGehee says:

    Why that would be like reagan working with iranians to defeat carter during the hostage crisis…so your side did it first and yet you neglect to mention that!

    It would be. If it had happened. Maybe you should go back to proving 9/11 was faked.

  3. James Joyner says:

    From Wikipedia:

    During the Iran hostage crisis, the Republican challenger Ronald Reagan feared a last-minute deal to release the hostages, which would hand incumbent Jimmy Carter a goodwill vote winning the election. The Reagan campaign and several well-known Republicans attempt to persuade the public that President Carter was secretly making deals and negotiations to score a hostage release right before the election just for political campaign. The Carter administration denied they were doing such for Carter’s own benefit in the election and it turned out that in the days prior to the election, press coverage was consumed with the Iranian government’s decision–and Carter’s simultaneous announcement–that the hostages would not be released until after the election. In fact, the election coincidentally fell on the one-year anniversary of the 1979 hostage-taking and Carter lost in a huge landslide, both in the popular and electoral vote, to Ronald Reagan.

    Due to the release of the hostages at the precise moment of Reagan’s inauguration on January 20, 1981, rumors surfaced that the Reagan campaign made an “secret hostage deal with the Iranian government” whereby the Iranians would hold the hostages until Reagan was inaugurated, ensuring that Carter would lose the election. Two separate congressional investigations as well as several investigative journalists looked into the charges, both concluding evidence was insufficient. Three books, all titled October Surprise are major sources detailing the allegations by senior Carter and Reagan staffs (Gary Sick, Barbara Hoeneger) and Robert Parry (an investigative journalist).

  4. kenny says:

    This was first reported back in 1992 by The Times(london).
    I would imagine that the reason nothing has ever came of it is that there is nothing to it.

  5. floyd says:

    “His scholarship is very much informed by his ideology.” Some iteration of this statement nearly always accompanies any issue from a conservative. It seldom, if ever, accompanies even extreme left views.That being said,whose scholarship is not “informed by his ideology”? *the exceptions being present company and those with whom we agree!*

  6. Cernig says:


    As you well know, many felt those congressional hearings were fixed to give the Reagan camp a clean bill, thus paving the way for Iran-Contra.

    Interestingly, one of the senior Republican lawyers who worked on those investigations later went straight to a special team put together by Republican special prosecutor Joseph diGenova, when ordered by the State Dept. IG to investigate Bush Snr. campaigner wrongdoings in the leak of an alleged passport scandal which involved accusations that Bill Clinton had tried to renounce his US citizenship. One Clinton official described that team as “the cleaners”.

    That same lawyer, David Laufman, is now IG at the Defense Dept. where I’m sure his talents will come in useful.

    Regards, C

  7. Cernig says:

    Interesting to contrast the uber-right’s zeal to believe this story with their scepticism of Bob Woodward’s book, isn’t it? At least Woodward has a track record of being right on at least one major scoop.

    Regards, C

  8. Anderson says:

    It seldom, if ever, accompanies even extreme left views.

    Because “extreme left” views never get discussed in the first place. Unless you mean “opposition to the flat tax” or something like that.

  9. Gary Denton says:

    There have been limited reports on this previously. At the time the Russians were making overtures to the West indicating their desire to reduce their military and open their society. Reagan had taken a very hard line as the anti-communists didn’t believe it. If someone sends word to the Kremlin leaders to have more publicity about their offers to reduce weapons does this make one a Communist traitor? Only in some Republican circles.

    BTW, Kennedy was right – this was the beginning of the fall of Russian communism. I know personally several Republicans didn’t believe it fell even years after it happened. “It’s all a trick, a trick I tell you. They are just waiting for us to put our guard down.”

  10. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Foreign policy is the sole bailiwick of the President of the United States. No where is a senator from Massacusetts authorized, or qualified for trying to establish, modify or contribute to American foreign policy. Kennedy’s contact with an enemy spy agency is virual treason. But then he was guilty of real manslaughter and nothing happened. Fact is the wrong brothers were assinated.

  11. Ric Parker says:

    Teddy, to me, has always been the most slothful, pompous and corrupt of all the Kennedy Clan. This does not mean to say that Jack and Bobby did not have similar flaws. However, the latter two learned well from Papa Joe and Mama Rose the nuances one needed to secret one’s most loathsome traits.
    Amazingly, bloated Ted maintains his power cushion, even after the long ago, sordid and swept under the carpet, Chappaquiddick affair. Other sordid messes, too, were dismissed by his constituency. Undoubtedly, he will, somehow, evade any true and hardcore censuring for his dalliances with the Soviets spy agency.
    Bobby and Jack took it on the chin sort-to speak… not so, Teddy… he is a grease-ball, thus nothing sticks to him. However, they had all too much in common as brothers; they were all utterly unscrupulous. Duping America and the world to perceive them as royalty, however, was their masterstroke. Ted never possessed the charisma of his dead brothers but he survived, employing the skills, also learnt, from his father… by emulating the Sopranos more so than royalty.

  12. civilbehavior says:

    Oh dear, oh my, Kennedy was “impressed” by some Soviets. Oh dear Oh my, that”s defintiely a direct connection that he was supplying them with nuclear weapons. Or maybe he was a double agent……Oh dear, the PR involved with such a secret life…..

    The Iraqi prime minister TODAY as in the present has ordered the medical authorities to stop reporting casualty figures. This policey was likely recommended by the White House since Iraq cannot stand on their own yet and we know Bush is sending them their marching orders. This is Bush’s version of democracy in action. HIDE THE BODIES! Looks like the bushies don’t want ANY measurement of how badly things are spiraling out of control in Iraq.

    600K Iraqi’s dead in less than four years as compared to Saddams 500K over 21 years, 22,000 Americans maimed or dead, close to a million Iraqi’s have fled their homes and are now living as refugees.

    And all you turds can write about is something that happened 20 years ago. What a pathetic bunch of Americans we’ve raised.

  13. spencer says:

    If I reported that Casper Weinberger and George Shultz were seen in the same hotel in Madrid with the Iranian defense minister twice during the run-up to the election and that just three months after Reagan took office his administration resumed arms shipments to Iran would you give it the same type of analysis as this?

    I do not think it is true, but I’m reporting it because everyone should know these facts.

    When did you quit beating your wife?

  14. Herb says:

    Nothing would sup prise me about Teddy Boy. After all, he got away with the killing of Mary Jo and has done everything possible to make our country another France. Teddy is definitely not the patriotic American he would have everyone to believe and is the next thing next to being an outright traitor to America.

    Democrats seem to be proud of Teddy and that alone should tell every American how to vote in this coming election.

  15. Larry Seale says:

    Gary Denton,

    Kennedy wasn’t “right about communism” … Reagan was “right about communism” and how to deal with them. Kennedy’s intent was to prevent Reagan from being re-elected. But, by all means, “spin away” ….

  16. ellen collins says:

    I’m afraid that the fans of Ted Kennedy and his ilk were allowed to change the focus… as usual. I believe the discussion was about Kennedy’s secret dealings with our cold war enemy.

  17. Oren says:

    If you read the Herbert Romerstein’s Venona Secrets you may have the same opinion as I do and have no doubts about the real possibility of Ted Kennedy in cahoots with John Tunney and his KGB handlers to attempt to sabotage Reagan’s battle against the USSR…Fat Ted is the original Kennedy traitor!