Warren Throckmorton, PhDÂ
Fellow Grove City College professor and friend Paul Kengor took some time to address several questionsÂ I put to him about his new book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and theÂ Fall ofÂ Communism.Â As Dr. Kengor notes, his book is full of vital information for those interested in Reagan as person, President and crusader against the threat of communism. I recently reported on one interesting fact recorded in the book which is the attempt made by Sen Ted Kennedy to involve Yuri Andropov in American politics during the 1980s. There is much, much more in the book and well worth a read.
Warren ThrockmortonÂ – What is your source for the assertion that Sen. Kennedy sought to make an arrangement with Andropov to undermine President Reagan’s policies?
Paul Kengor – My source is a May 14, 1983 KGB document, a memo from the head of the KGB (Viktor Chebrikov) to the head of the USSR (Yuri Andropov), classified at the highest levels, and filed away in the Soviet archives. It was first found by a London Times reporter named Tim Sebastian, who now works for the BBC. He reported the document in a February 2, 1992 article for the London Times, which was completely ignored by the entire American press. The mainstream press is ignoring it today as well. I haven’t had a single mention or inquiry from CNN, CBS, the New York Times, or even one non-conservative source. The difference between 1992 and 2006, however, is that the mainstream media no longer has a monopoly on information. There is talk radio, FoxNews, and the web, and blogs like this, which is the only reason that you’re hearing about the document this time. By the way, the difference between what I’ve reported in my book, THE CRUSADER, and theÂ London TimesÂ article, is that my book presents the document in full, whereas the TIMES piece was brief and only quoted a few passages from the document.
WT – How damaging could this course of action been for President Reagan’s re-election and policies?
PK – An interesting question, which I can’t answer. I’m assuming, and maybe I shouldn’t, that if Andropov had accepted Kennedy’s offer, the senator would have made public his offer and role. The reaction to that, too, would have been quite interesting.
WT – Did Senator Kennedy also work against President Carter’s Soviet policy?
PKÂ – I can’t answer that either. However, there is another document in the archives, which I haven’t seen, that was reported by Vasiliy Mitrokhin in a 2002 report for the prestigious Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and which makes similar allegations about Kennedy in regard to Carter. I briefly discuss this document on page 209 of my book, and give the full citation in the footnotes on page 370, including directions on how to access it.
WT – What, do you think, Senator Kennedy hoped to accomplish via his conversations with the KGB?
PK – It’s very clear: Kennedy was deeply fearful of Reagan’s defense policies. He thought that Ronald Reagan and Ronald Reagan’s policies were dangerous, and might be spiraling out of control. He was more fearful of Reagan than he was of Andropov; indeed, the May 1983 document notes that Kennedy was “very impressed” (exact words) with Andropov, but was obviously quite unimpressed with Reagan. For the record, on the day Reagan died in June 2004, Kennedy credited Reagan with winning the Cold War, which was not only a sharp departure from his previous thinking but, I believe, a genuinely gracious concession.
WT – Has Senator Kennedy commented on your book? If so, what has he said?
PK – His office issued a statement, saying that the interpretation was “way off the mark,” but not denying the authenticity of the document. If his office is disputing my interpretation then that means his office is disputing Chebrikov’s interpretation. I merely reported what Chebrikov wrote. In fact, in my book, I try to avoid casting judgment on what Kennedy allegedly did. I don’t need comment. The document is remarkable on its own terms. I simply report it and place it in the context of the historical narrative of the Reagan presidency.
His office said that, quite the contrary, Kennedy was supportive of Reagan’s policies toward the Soviet Union, and gives an example from Reagan and Gorbachev. That’s a distratcion from the document. I don’t dispute that Kennedy agreed with Reagan’s overtures to Gorbachev. No one does. The focus in the document was Reagan and Andropov, which his office avoided in the response.
WT – If you could sum up why Ronald Reagan was successful in ending the Cold War, how would you do so?
PK – Sorry, but you’ll have to buy the book! I’ve written 412 pages on the subject, small print. (Actually, the final manuscript that I delivered was nearly 600 pages). There’s too much to summarize. I will, however, end with this: It had long been Ronald Reagan’s intention to end Soviet Communism and win the Cold War. That was his intention since at least 1950, as I document in the book. In fact, I quote a May 1967 remark by Reagan calling for the destruction of the Berlin Wall, 20 years before his challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Brandenburg Gate.
One more thing: there’s a much, much more in the book than simply the Ted Kennedy incident, including literally a thousand other documents from Soviet (and U.S.) government and press archives.
Paul Kengor, PhD is Associate Professor of History at Grove City College and Director of the Center for Vision and Values there. He is also the author of God and Ronald Reagan and God and George Bush.
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College. He maintains an active blog at www.wthrockmorton.com and can be reached at email@example.com.