Text of KGB Chairman’s memo to Andropov about US senator
The following is the translated text of a classified memorandum from KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov (pictured) to Soviet Communist Party chief and former KGB chairman Yuri Andropov, dated May 14, 1983. I will hand out a photocopy of the original Russian document in class.
KGB is the Russian initials for “Committee for State Security.”
In the memo, the KGB Chairman reports to Andropov about a suggestion from a US senator, through a secret go-between, to assist Soviet military propaganda efforts in the United States and to discredit the national defense strategy of the incumbent US president.
Among other things, the senator requested a meeting with Andropov and for Andropov to make media appearances on US television in August or September 1983. It is not immediately known if the meeting took place, but the media appearances did not occur. The reasons why are unknown, though it is significant that on September 3, 1983, the Soviets shot down a Korean 747 jumbo jet, killing all aboard, including a Democratic US congressman.
There is no dispute about the authenticity of the document, which was first cited by Paul Kengor in The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (Harper Collins, 2006), pp. 317-320.
The document supports earlier KGB memoranda concerning the senator and his intermediary. Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats unearthed the memos from the Soviet Communist Party General Secretary’s personal vault in 1991, and described them in her book The State Within a State (Farrar, Straus Giroux, 1994). The KGB used a decades-long agent named David Carr, and former US Senator John Tunney (D-CA), as intermediaries with Senator Kennedy. Albats, then a reporter for Moscow News, shared the documents with me in Moscow in 1992. I provided her with the political details and interpretations about Carr, Tunney and others. Since she was the one who discovered the documents in Gorbachev’s vault, I consider Albats to be the primary source.
[English translation of the text follows. Emphasis is added in bold.]
COMMITTEE OF STATE SECURITY of the USSR
14.05.83. No. 1029 Ch/OV
Regarding Senator Kennedy’s request to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Yu. V. Andropov
Comrade Yu. 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 Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Yu. 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 to his politics. He feels that his domestic standing has been strengthened because of the well publicized improvement of the economy: inflation has been generally 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 may 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 potential 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 resistance 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 USSR are non-constructive, Reagan will be 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 policies 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, Yu.V. Andropov.
1. Kennedy asks Yu. 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 benefit of a meeting with Yu. 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 Americans and political circles in the USA. (In March of 1982, Hatfield and Kennedy proposed a project resolution to freeze the nuclear arsenals of the USA and the USSR and published a book on this 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 Yu.V. Andropov in the USA. A direct appeal by the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 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.
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 Yu. 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 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 terms. 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 for the world. Kennedy is very impressed with the activities of Yu. 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 re-marry 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.
[END OF DOCUMENT]
Chairman of the Committee [for State Security, KGB]