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.