It is curious that Kennedy would try to unseat a sitting Democrat, Jimmy Carter, in an election, but it becomes even more curious that he would try to curry favor with the Soviets to do so. Kennedy's motivation in 1980 was to secure the release of the hostages in Tehran, a matter in which Carter failed miserably. He sought detente with the Soviets both in 1980 and in 1983, when the Tunney meeting took place.
Outside the Sebastian article and Kengor’s book, there is independent confirmation that Sen. Kennedy made yet another overture to the Soviets. In 2002, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, chaired by former Sen. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) and which can hardly be regarded as a Republican shill, published Working Paper #40. That paper is online at this link, and contains about a dozen references to Sen. Kennedy. On page 167 it refers to Kennedy’s intent to work with the Soviets to free the hostages in Tehran–in order to bolster Kennedy’s prospects against President Jimmy Carter, against whom Kennedy was running for the Democrat nomination for president in 1980. Kennedy was also hoping to work with the Soviet leadership to keep detente on track, even as Carter was castigating the USSR for its invasion of Afghanistan. Working Paper #40 goes into some detail about Kennedy’s efforts against President Carter’s anti-Soviet policies in 1980.Did Kennedy put his personal power and ambition ahead of that of the nation? Is he continuing to do so now? These are serious questions that deserve further research, and thus far do not reflect well on the Senior Senator from Massachusetts.
The rapport between Kennedy and the Soviets didn't simply begin in 1980, but several years earlier, with Tunney playing the intermediary.
One of the documents, a KGB report to bosses in the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee, revealed that "In 1978, American Sen. Edward Kennedy requested the assistance of the KGB to establish a relationship" between the Soviet apparatus and a firm owned by former Sen. John Tunney (D.-Calif.). KGB recommended that they be permitted to do this because Tunney's firm was already connected with a KGB agent in France named David Karr. This document was found by the knowledgeable Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats and published in Moscow's Izvestia in June 1992.Even at that time, Kennedy ignored the real threats posed by the Soviet Union, as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and were gearing up their forces in Eastern Europe. And this also further implicates Tunney in the matter, and brings into question where his loyalties lay.
Another KGB report to their bosses revealed that on March 5, 1980, John Tunney met with the KGB in Moscow on behalf of Sen. Kennedy. Tunney expressed Kennedy's opinion 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 offered to speak out against President Carter on Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter he made public speeches opposing President Carter on this issue. This document was found in KGB archives by Vasiliy Mitrokhin, a courageous KGB officer, who copied documents from the files and then defected to the West. He wrote about this document in a February 2002 paper on Afghanistan that he released through the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center.