When Ted Kennedy's Russian Pal Wanted to Kill the Pope
By Paul Kengor
As longtime readers of American Thinker know, I’ve here several times reported the story of Ted Kennedy’s undisclosed outreach and offer to the Kremlin, as revealed in a remarkable May 14, 1983 memo from KGB head Victor Chebrikov to his boss, the odious Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov, designated with the highest classification. The document was found in the Central Committee archives and first reported in a February 2, 1992 article in the London Times. I was the first to break the document in full via both the original Russian and an English translation, which I printed in books published in 2006 and 2010. The latter of these two books, titled Dupes, detailed the facts surrounding the memo.
The subject head of the document, carried under the words, “Special Importance,” read: “Regarding Senator Kennedy’s request to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Y. V. Andropov.” According to the memo, Senator Kennedy was “very troubled” by U.S.-Soviet relations, which Kennedy attributed not to the tyrant running the USSR but to President Reagan. The problem was Reagan’s “belligerence,” said the memo, and made worse by Reagan’s stubbornness. “According to Kennedy,” reported Chebrikov, “the current threat is due to the President’s refusal to engage any modification to his politics.” That refusal, said the memo, was exacerbated by Reagan’s political success, which made the president surer of his course, and more obstinate -- and, worst of all, re-electable.
To address this Reagan problem, Kennedy offered various suggestions to his Russian friends -- or, as Chebrikov, put it: “Kennedy believes that, given the state of current affairs, and in the interest of peace, it would be prudent and timely to undertake the following steps to counter the militaristic politics of Reagan.” He described certain ideas from Kennedy to help the Soviets “influence Americans,” including Kennedy arranging for Kremlin officials to meet with certain major American media organizations and reporters, such as Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters, both of whom were named in the memo.
Again, this was so important because Reagan, as Kennedy saw it -- and conveyed to his Russian pals -- was so belligerent and, apparently, dangerous.
This was decidedly different from how Kennedy reportedly felt about Andropov and his cohort. As Chebrikov noted in his memo, “Kennedy is very impressed with the activities of Y. V. Andropov and other Soviet leaders.”
Very impressed? With Andropov and other Soviet leaders? Really?
The KGB memo concluded with a discussion of Kennedy’s own presidential prospects in 1984, and a note that Kennedy “underscored that he eagerly awaits a reply to his appeal.”
What came from this? We don’t know. The KGB didn’t tell us, and our liberal journalists didn’t want to find out. Our illustrious news organizations didn’t probe Kennedy for an answer on what this was all about. My reporting on this document exploded in the conservative media in 2006 and again in 2010, addressed by Brit Hume on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller, and, still to this day, sources such as Glenn Beck and Mark Levin and Andrew Wilkow. (Levin and Wilkow, above all, have stayed on this issue very closely.) But Kennedy escaped any scrutiny whatsoever. He took his knowledge to the grave.
So, why am I mentioning this now?
The main reason is as obvious as the hourly headlines: I repeat it in order to underscore the hypocrisy of liberals in suddenly hooting and hollering about Russian connections now that Donald Trump is in the White House. They have no credibility. They are partisans.
But secondly, I’d like to add still more to this story -- a new perspective that further exposes the sheer egregiousness of Kennedy’s alleged affections for Yuri Andropov.
I’m here to update this now in light of an even more disturbing wrinkle to the Kennedy-Andropov story. In the last few weeks, I released a new book for which I began filing FOIA requests even farther back (namely, starting in 2000-2001). That book is on Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, titled A Pope and a President.
In that book, I chronicle the events of May 13, 1981, when Pope John Paul II was shot smack in the middle of St. Peter’s Square. I lay out in that book that Moscow ordered the hit on the pope.
The crime is traceable to the Soviet GRU, military intelligence. The GRU ordered the hit on the world’s leading religious figure, though the GRU proceeded with the go-ahead of the odious head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, who had been Vladimir Putin’s boss. (For the record, I cannot imagine that Putin had a scintilla of involvement in this conspiracy. He wasn’t high-level enough; only the rarest Soviet officials had any knowledge of this -- of what William Safire would dub “The Crime of the Century.” That said, to this day, Putin has been a major protector of the GRU and the KGB since he came to power. Surely Putin now, today, knows what happened on May 13, 1981.)
I include in my book verbatim details of a phone call between KGB head Yuri Andropov and the KGB’s top official in Warsaw back in October 1978, just after the Polish cardinal had been named pope. Andropov was beside himself, stunned that this could happen: “How could you possibly allow the election of a citizen of a socialist country as pope?” he asked the KGB chief in Warsaw.
Andropov wanted this pope -- that is, Ted Kennedy’s pope -- gone. Literally.
Just six weeks after Karol Wojtyła’s election, Yuri Andropov ordered up what John Paul II’s biographer later characterized as a “massive” KGB analysis on the potential impact of the new pope. He would also sign a document ordering that his stooges find a way to get “physically close” to the Polish pontiff.
The man tasked to do the job was a 23-year-old Muslim Turk named Mehmet Ali Agca. Later he would name seven accomplices, all working under a plan conceived by the Bulgarian secret service. The Bulgarians were dutiful stooges to the Kremlin. They didn’t do anything without Soviet approval.
Agca used a Browning semiautomatic 9-millimeter handgun. He fired four times and hit the pope twice.
There are many tantalizing threads to this story. Among them is a crucial finding in my research: Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, Bill Casey, ordered a truly super-secret investigation of the case. Casey, like Reagan, like top Reagan officials such as Bill Clark, suspected Moscow from the outset. That investigation, conducted by a tight-knit group under Casey’s command, identified Moscow.
Moreover, I learned that Casey briefed Ronald Reagan on the finding. I believe the exact date and time that Casey briefed Reagan on that explosive finding was May 16, 1985 at 11:02 a.m. in the White House. And Casey would also brief John Paul II in Rome. The pope was utterly unsurprised. He suspected Moscow since 1981, from the outset.
This information and its implications were so explosive that the full details of the CIA’s internal investigation have never been released or even acknowledged. To this day, it remains the most secret investigation of the Cold War.
But back to my main point in this article:
It was the GRU that organized the hit. But the GRU did so with the knowledge, the blessing, and the direct go-ahead of none other than Yuri Andropov.
This was the same Yuri Andropov that Ted Kennedy was reportedly so “impressed” with, according to none other than the head of the KGB at the time -- according to a typed document by Chebrikov.
And what makes this so much worse is that this pope was the Polish pope who helped win the Cold War, who is now no less than a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, and who -- bear in mind -- was the pope of a professing Roman Catholic named Ted Kennedy.
Will the liberal media be interested in this story as they mount their tanks toward Moscow? Not a chance. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know the sound of crickets when I hear it. I heard it when I began breaking the Kennedy-Andropov story over 10 years ago. I know I’ll hear it again now.
And besides, the collective liberal media is far more interested in Donald Trump and the Russians and Trump’s “white-nationalist dog whistles” in Warsaw.
If the Kremlin worked against Hillary -- well, that would be beyond the pale! Political Armageddon! Horrors! Now that’s an outrage!
But if the Kremlin might have considered working with Ted Kennedy against Ronald Reagan… or, whether the Kremlin ordered the assassination of Ted Kennedy’s pope, a great religious leader, a great Polish figure who helped defeat an Evil Empire?