With the Dark Forces

Flying toward what he envisioned as the very lair of the Dark Forces, Belenko knew little of the international storm he was precipitating and nothing about the intensity of continuing Soviet efforts to snare him. In his psychological approach to America, he was continuing the same intellectual quest which had driven him much of his life. He had to understand the underlying order, causes, purpose of the world he was entering. His reasoning convinced him that not all that the communists said about the United States could be true; analysis of their own words suggested the possibility that freedom of some land actually might exist. But he was so inured to lies, deceit, hypocrisy, and the devious that he was skeptical of everything. For him, not even seeing was believing. Indeed, at times, the more obvious something seemed, the greater the cause in his mind to suspect the ulterior.

As the 747 descended toward Los Angeles, Jim handed him a wig and dark glasses so that he could not be recognized subsequently from pictures photographers might snap at the airport. On the runway they jumped into one of several waiting CIA cars and, escorted by police on motorcycles, darted through night traffic to a private airport, where a small passenger jet was ready to take off.

[143] Climbing into the plane, Belenko pulled off the wig, which was insufferably hot, and put away the glasses, drastically changing his appearance. One of the CIA men already in the plane looked around and, not seeing the man who came aboard as Belenko, panicked. "Jesus Christ! We've lost him already! Where in the hell did he go?"

Once Jim translated the exclamations, Belenko laughed along with the four CIA officers who were to accompany them, and all welcomed him in Russian. Belenko asked if they had any urgent questions, and the senior American replied much as Jim had over the Pacific: Relax; don't worry. There will be plenty of time to talk later. You're too tired now.

He was right. Days of tension, drama, anxiety, and time changes had drained him physically, intellectually, and emotionally. His impressions, sensations, and thoughts were blurred and imprecise, and he felt as if he were suspended midway in half-light between dream and reality.

The executive jet was to him a masterpiece of design, maneuvering as nimbly as a fighter while outfitted inside like an elegant hotel suite. Well, I knew they were rich and built good airplanes.

He sampled sandwiches set out on a table unfolded in the middle of the cabin thick layers of turkey, corned beef, pastrami, cheese and lettuce and tomatoes, between slices of white, brown, and rye bread. He unhesitatingly requested instructions as to how to eat the sandwiches and wanted to know the contents of each. They're delicious. But they probably have good food in the KGB, too. And so what? I didn't come here for food.

There was something wrong with the CIA officers; at least something he expected was missing. In their late thirties or early forties, they looked too trim, too healthy; they were too neatly and, he thought, too expensively dressed; more troublesome, they were too much at ease, too casual, too friendly with each other and him, too, well, too open, too guileless. They wouldn't frighten anybody. But of course. They're not typical. They were picked for this. We know the Dark Forces are clever. This is their way of fooling me.

Over the western deserts and the Rockies, Belenko slept [144] in what he was told, but did not believe, was the CIA director's bunk. He was served tea upon awakening, and an officer pointed to the lights of a sprawling city on the port side of the plane. "That's Chicago. It's famous for stockyards and gangsters."

"Yes, the gangsters of Chicago are very famous in my country."

"Which country do you mean?"

Belenko grinned. "I understand your point."

They landed at Dulles Airport around 4:00 A.M. in darkness and heavy rain and drove for about an hour along back roads until the car turned into a long driveway. The headlights illuminated an imposing southern mansion built of red brick with tall windows, a double door, and a two-story veranda buttressed by white porticoes. Jim pointed to a bedroom and told him to sleep as long as he could. On the ceiling above the large bed, he spotted a fixture, either an airconditioning outlet or a smoke detector. He was sure it was a concealed television camera continuously focused upon him, but he was too exhausted to care.

Belenko awakened at midmorning startled. What's that nigger doing in my room? Although he had never seen a black person, the prejudices against blacks he had been taught and absorbed throughout his life were thoroughly ingrained. On a scale of ten, blacks ranked in bis eyes tenth, below Asian minorities of the Soviet population, below Jews. He warily eyed the middle-aged maid, who smiled at him, said something in English he did not understand, set down a tray bearing a pot of coffee and a pot of tea and a note scribbled in Russian: "Breakfast is ready whenever you are." While drinking tea, Belenko noticed laid out on a chair a pair of slacks, a sports shirt, socks, T-shirts, and boxer shorts, but not having been expressly told they were his, he put on his hybrid Japanese suit and went to the dining room.

There Jim introduced him to Peter, one of the three Americans who were to affect his future most significantly. Peter looked the way Belenko thought an artist or composer should; in fact, his countenance, distinguished by a handsome head of dark, curly hair, a delicate face, and [145] black, meditative eyes, reminded Belenko of a portrait of Beethoven he had seen as a boy.

Peter was a devout Catholic, the father of eight children, an accomplished linguist, and one of the best clandestine officers the United States had. Out of the Army and graduate school, he had come to the CIA in 1950, two years after its organization. For a quarter of a century he had fought around the world on some of the fiercest and most pitiless battlefields of the subterranean war that continued to rage without pause between the Soviet Union and the West. Through combat, he had acquired an intuitive feel, an uncommon understanding of Soviet society, culture, history, the language, mentality, and ethnic idiosyncrasies of Russians.

Probably Peter still would have been somewhere abroad had he not contracted on an Asian mission a rare disease for which no cure was known. He was brought home in hope that medical researchers might devise one. Unless they succeeded, he did not have many years to live. Because of disability provisions and tax benefits, he would have profited financially by retiring. He had resolved, however, to fight as long as his body allowed.

Peter amused and relaxed Belenko, bantering with him as if they were meeting for nothing more serious than a game of golf and telling Russian jokes.

"Did you hear about the very sincere Armenian students? They went to a learned professor and asked, 'Is it truly possible to build communism in Armenia?'

" 'Yes,' replied the professor, 'but why not do it to the Georgians first?'"

"That's funny; and true, too."

Having changed into the slacks and shirt procurred for him before he awoke, Belenko met his "baby-sitter," Nick, who was his age. Born of Russian parents, Nick was a Marine sergeant who had volunteered for two tours in Vietnam and, Belenko surmised, at one time or another had engaged in secret operations against the Russians. He, crewcut, bulging biceps, quick reflexes, unquestioning obedience, and all, was on loan to the CIA. Confident, trained for trouble, Nick could relate to Belenko as a peer [146] and somewhat as a Russian as well as an American. He was to be in the next weeks companion, guide, friend, and, although it was not put that way, bodyguard.

The countryside of northern Virginia, wooded, rolling, and with the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains visible from far away on a clear day, is beautiful in all seasons. But it was the man-made order of the farmlands they passed that most struck Belenko: the symmetry of the fields; the perfection of their cultivation; the well-maintained fences; the fatness of the cattle grazing in lush meadows; the painted barns; the white farmhouses that to him seemed huge; the cars, trucks, and machinery parked nearby; the apparent paucity of people working the farms.

"Where are the outhouses?" he asked.

The Americans laughed, and Peter explained how septic tanks and automatic water pumps made possible indoor plumbing in virtually all American farmhouses. "Probably there still are outhouses in some rural or mountainous regions. I just don't know where."

They stopped at a shopping center on the outskirts of a small Virginia town and headed toward a clothing store, but Belenko insisted on inspecting a supermarket on the way. He noticed first the smell or rather the absence of smell; then he explored and stared in ever-widening wonder. Mountains of fruit and fresh vegetables; a long bin of sausages, frankfurters, wursts, salami, bologna, cold cuts; an equally long shelf of cheeses, thirty or forty different varieties; milk, butter, eggs, more than he had ever seen in any one place; the meat counter, at least twenty meters long, with virtually every land of meat in the world wrapped so you could take it in your hands, examine, and choose or not; labeled and graded as to quality. A date stamped on the package to warn when it would begin to spoil! And hams and chickens and turkeys! Cans and packages of almost everything edible with pictures showing their contents and labels reciting their contents. Long aisles of frozen foods, again with pictures on the packages. And juices, every kind of juice. Soaps and paper products and toiletries and much else that he did not recognize. Beer! American, German, Dutch, Danish, Australian, Mexican, Canadian beer; all cold. (How many times had he thought [147] and even urged during seminars with the political officers that people be offered low-alcohol beer instead of vodka?) Nobody doled any of this out. You picked it out for yourself and put it in fancy, clear little bags and then in a big, expensive cart. It was all just there for anybody to take.

Turning into an aisle lined on one side with candies, confections, and nuts and on the other with cookies, crackers, and cakes, he saw another "nigger," who cheerfully bade him "Good morning." (There was no gainsaying it; the "nigger" was a handsome fellow except for his color, he did not look like a slave, and he was dressed in the same clean light-blue uniforms the other store workers wore.)

Never had Belenko been in a closed market selling meat or produce that did not smell of spoilage, of unwashed bins and counters, of decaying, unswept remnants of food. Never had he been in a market offering anything desirable that was not crowded inside, with lines waiting outside. Always he had been told that the masses of exploited Americans lived in the shadow of hunger and that pockets of near starvation were widespread, and he had seen photographs that seemed to demonstrate that.

If this were a real store, a woman in less than an hour could buy enough food in just this one place to feed a whole family for two weeks. But where are the people, the crowds, the lines? Ah, that proves it. This is not a real store. The people can't afford it. If they could, everybody would be here. It's a showplace of the Dark Forces. But I what do they do with all the meat, fruit and vegetables, milk, and everything else that they can't keep here all the time? They must take it away for themselves every few nights and replace it.

As Peter and Nick steered him back toward the clothing store, Belenko bolted into a shop offering televisions, stereos, radios, and calculators. Several color television sets were tuned to different channels, and the brilliance and clarity of the hues as well as the diversity of the programs amazed him. So did a hand-held calculator and the technology it implied. But he was not fooled. A color television set in the Soviet Union cost a worker approximately five months' wages, and because of difficulties with transistors and solid-state circuitry, the quality was poor. Obviously [148] this was another showplace of the Dark Forces packed with merchandise affordable only by the exceedingly rich.

He had to appraise the clothing store only a minute or so to realize that it also was a fake. Here were perhaps 300 suits, along with sports jackets, overcoats, raincoats hanging openly on racks, piles of trousers and shirts lying openly on counters, ties within the reach of anybody passing; even the shoes were out in the open and all this was guarded by only a few clerks. Peter found a section containing perhaps twenty-five suits Belenko's size and started taking them from the rack for him to examine. They know him here, and that's why he can do that.

A toothy, glad-handing salesman approached and among other banalities remarked, "It always makes me glad to see a father buying suits for his sons." Belenko thought that whether planned or spontaneous, the comment, which Nick translated in a whisper, was hilarious, and thereafter Peter was known as Father Peter.

The three-piece flannel suit he selected at the advice of Peter required slight alterations, and the salesman suggested they could be made within half an hour if they had other shopping. More evidence. Who else but the Dark Forces could command such service? They purchased shirts, ties, underwear, socks, a warm-up suit and tennis shoes for jogging, a blazer, a raincoat with zip-out lining, and the finest pair of shoes Belenko had ever seen.

All of Belenko's suspicions about the true nature of the shopping center were fully and finally validated when he saw a service station on the corner. Three cars, all, as it happened, driven by women, were being fueled at the same time, a boy was cleaning the windshield of one car, and there were no lines. In Belenko's past life, gasoline outlets were so scarce that a wait of four or five hours for fuel was ordinary.

"I congratulate you," Belenko said en route back to the mansion. "That was a spectacular show you put on for me."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that place; it's like one of our show kolkhozes where we take foreigners."

Nick laughed, but not Peter. "Viktor, I give you my word that what you've just seen is a common, typical [149] shopping center. There are tens of thousands of them all over America. Anywhere you go in the United States, north, south, east, west, you will see pretty much the same. Many of the shopping centers in the suburbs of our cities are bigger and fancier and nicer."

"Can the average American worker buy what we saw there? Can he buy a color television set?"

"Yes; if he's willing to pay more than for a black-andwhite set, he can. I don't know what the statistics are; I would guess more families have color sets than not. It's nothing to own a color television. But look, don't take my word. Wait until you travel around and see for yourself."

Why argue with him? That's his job.

The CIA had sent some thirty books and magazines in Russian to his room, and Peter urged him to read, relax, and sleep as much as he could. He showed him a well-stocked liquor cabinet, the kitchen and refrigerator crammed with food, including smoked salmon, herring, and cold borscht, and he pointed out the room where Nick always could be reached. "I almost forgot. Come on."

From another bedroom Peter started pushing a portable color television set toward Belenko's room, but after a few paces he stopped. "Nick, would you mind?" For the first tune Belenko discerned that there was something physically wrong with Peter. If he exerted himself even slightly, he could barely breathe.

That afternoon and evening Belenko experienced another transcendent spiritual upheaval as he read The Gulag Archipelago. In the blackness and iniquity of the concentration camps Solzhenitsyn depicts he saw the light and purity of truth, and he trembled again as he had in the Japanese prison. He finished about 10:00 P.M., took a beer from the refrigerator, and, attracted by the brightness of the moonlight and fragrance of the country ah-, decided to drink it on the veranda. As he opened the door, two men sprang up simultaneously, one with a pistol in hand. "Please excuse us," he said in poor Russian. "We did not know it was you. Come out and make yourself at home."

The Dark Forces, they are not stupid. They would not tell me I could see anywhere what I saw today unless that is true or unless they intend to imprison me or kill me. [150] But if they're going to kill me or imprison me, what do they care what I think? I don't know. It can't be true. But if it is true, if what I saw is everywhere, then something is very right here.

Jogging around the grounds early in the morning, Belenko saw a little red convertible roar up the driveway at an imprudent speed and screech to a stop. That's a crazy car. Whoever heard of a car without a top? The driver must be crazy, too. But what a girl!

Out stepped a voluptuous, lithe young woman, whose beguiling brown eyes and windblown auburn hair made her look wild and mischievous to him. Anna, as she called herself, spoke Russian melodiously and with the fluency of a native, but she was from the Midwest, having mastered the language in school and during travels in the Soviet Union. Her command of the contemporary vernacular, her seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of his homeland, and the skill with which she put him at ease, persuaded Belenko that she worked closely with the important Russians who had taken refuge in the United States.

Because she continuously studied the Soviet Union from perspectives denied him, Anna was able to fascinate and enlighten Belenko with facts and vistas he had not heard or seen before. Her revelations concerning the dissident movement and samizdat (underground) publishing in the Soviet Union as well as the number, diversity, and influence of Soviet nationals who had preceded him to the West surprised and heartened him. I am not alone then. Others have realized, too.

And her demonstrable understanding of the Soviet Union persuaded him that she might also understand him. She was the first person to whom he could release the accumulated and repressed thoughts, anger, hatred that had driven him away. Once the flow began, it swelled into a torrent, and Anna, who had indicated she would leave at noon, stayed the day to listen.

In listening to Belenko during these first days, the overriding purpose of Peter, Anna and other CIA officers was to assess bun as a human being and, accordingly, to propose any modifications in standard resettlement procedures likely to help him adjust and adapt Luckily for both [151] Belenko and the United States, they did understand him well. And their analysis and recommendations were to permanently and felicitously shape the behavior of the government toward him. Despite the simultaneous clamor from various segments of the intelligence community for an opportunity to question bun, the CIA restricted his debriefings to an absolute limit of four hours a day. It allocated his first two working hours, when he would be freshest, to tutoring in English, the one tool most indispensable to his new life. Afternoons and evenings were reserved for reading, study, and excursions planned to show him American life. Save for a few installations, he would be shown anything in the country he asked to see, however inconvenient the showing. And on weekends he would fly, actually take the controls, soar, zoom, dive, roll.

The value of the MiG-25 alone was so immense as to defy calculation in monetary terms, and the CIA fully intended to guarantee Belenko a secure and affluent future. But pending his final resettlement, there would be no mention of money or compensation unless he broached the subject.

These decisions reflected several basic conclusions about Belenko. He craved freedom and independence, although his concept of freedom was far from crystallized in his mind. Presently, flying symbolized freedom to nun, and he had to fly. Otherwise, he would feel himself imprisoned, and the consequent frustrations might erupt in the form of aberrant behavior. While he unavoidably would be dependent during his work with the government and initial orientation to the United States, his social integration must begin at once so he could see that he was progressing toward ultimate independence and self-reliance. His motivation was purely ideological, and he would be affronted unless his contributions were accepted in the same spirit he offered them. Any suggestion that he had fled for materialistic reasons, that he had come to sell the MiG-25 and his information, would cheapen Americans in his eyes and confirm the worst the Party said about them. He must be treated as neither merchant nor ward but as a teammate. Finally, he would believe nothing which he could not see, then comprehend through his own thought processes. One [152] should and must tell him the truth, show him the truth. But in the end, he would have to discover the truth for himself.

Belenko was incredulous when Peter and Anna generally outlined the program charted for him without, of course, explaining much of the rationale behind it The stated willingness of the Americans to let him fly, much less so soon, impressed and touched him. It all sounded so logical, so sensible, so generous, so good. It is too good to be true. They are just being clever in ways t do not know. They will not let me see everything. I will test them and make them reveal themselves.

Sure that he was asking the impossible, Belenko said he most wanted to tour a U.S. Air Force fighter base and go aboard an aircraft carrier. Peter acted as if the requests were routine and reasonable. The visit to an air base posed no problem; the Air Force should be able to arrange it within a couple of weeks. As for the carrier, he would have to ascertain from the Navy when one would be close enough ashore for them to fly out. It would just be a question of when. Father Peter, he's a good actor.

An emergency or problem of surpassing urgency delayed the beginning of the announced regimen. In the note Belenko drafted in English back in Chuguyevka after he decided to flee, he intended to say, "Contact a representative of the American intelligence service. Conceal and guard the aircraft. Do not allow anyone near it" What he actually wrote in the language he never had studied or heard spoken was: "Quickly call representative American intelligence service. Airplane camouflage. Nobody not allowed to approach." When the Japanese translated the message from English into their own language, the meaning that emerged was: "...Aircraft booby-trapped. Do not touch it"

Gingerly peering into the cockpit, the Japanese were further alarmed by the red buttons labeled in Russian "Danger." Apprehensions heightened when they and their American collaborators surmised that the safety catches which would prevent the buttons from doing whatever they were supposed to do were missing. If someone accidentally touched something, would the priceless MiG-25 blow up? Until definitive answers were forthcoming, examination of [153] the plane could not begin, and only Belenko could supply the answers.

So on his third day in America, Air Force officers brought to the mansion huge photographs of the MiG-25 cockpit blown up to its actual size, with resolution so fine that you could see every instrument and inch of the cockpit just as clearly as if you were sitting in it The leader of the group was a tall, powerfully built colonel with searching dark eyes and the weathered face of a lumberjack. The colonel, introduced as Gregg, shocked Belenko when he spoke. Peter spoke Russian well, Anna spoke it flawlessly, but this colonel spoke Russian as if he had been born and lived all his life in Russia. He is a Russian in disguise! No, that cannot be; that is ridiculous. But what if it is true? Call Nick. Don't make a fool of yourself. You have put your life in their hands anyway. It's their responsibility.

Gregg welcomed Belenko, cordially but not extravagantly, rather as if he were greeting a highly recommended young officer reporting to his squadron. There was important work to do, and he wanted to get on with it. They set up the panels of photographs in the library, creating an eerily accurate three-dimensional illusion of the cockpit, and placed against the wall photographs displaying various sections, actual size.

Belenko explained what he understood to be the purpose of each button marked "Danger." He could not explain why the safety pins had been removed; they were supposed to be there. A drunken mistake? Malice by someone in the regiment? Orders? He honestly did not know. But together, he and Gregg figured out where to insert replacement pins, which Japanese and American technicians would have to fabricate.

"Okay, now show me how to start the engines."

"Why not wait until we have it over here? I can show you everything then and teach your pilots how to fly it."

"I'm afraid we're not going to be able to fly it. It looks as if we'll have to give it back in a month or so."

"What! Are you stupid?" Belenko was incredulous, enraged, betrayed. "Give it backl Do you think that if an F-14 or F-15 landed in Czechoslovakia or Poland, you would ever get it back? It's your airplane now! I brought [154] it to you! I risked my life, I gave up everything to give it to you! Make the Japanese let you have it! If you give it back, the Russians will laugh at you! They will think you are fools!"

"Calm down!" Gregg commanded. "I'm as pissed off as you are. I agree with you. But I don't make policy. We figure with your help we can learn most of what we need to know without flying it. So let's get started."

It's unbelievable. What can I do? I guess nothing except help them as much as I can.

As they worked together, two professionals addressing a common task, Belenko increasingly realized he was talking with an authentic flier and a man who spoke his language in every way. The more he learned of the colonel, the surer he was of his initial impression. For Gregg was everything that Belenko had aspired to be fighter pilot, combat pilot, test pilot, adventurer. In Vietnam he had flown 100 Wild Weasel missions over Hanoi, Haiphong, and the nests of SAMs protecting strategic bridges, and from his lessons in American tactics, Belenko knew what these missions were. Wild Weasel pilots, usually flying F-105s, were the first to venture into a target area and the last to leave. They flew about trying to provoke the SAM crews into turning on the radar that guided the missiles and firing at them. Quite simply, they dangled their lives before the North Vietnamese and their Soviet advisers. If the SAM crews rose to the bait, other American aircraft could lock onto the ground radar and fire; Shrike missiles would follow the radar beam down to its source, obliterating the SAM site, crews and all. If the Wild Weasel pilots were lucky, they would see or their instruments would detect the arrays of SAMs rocketing toward them at three times the speed of sound. Then they could flout death by diving at sharp angles a SAM could not emulate. If they did not see the SAM, which looked like a flying telephone pole, if they did not dive quickly enough, if they were caught in the inferno of ground fire that erupted as they pulled out of the dive to go back up as live decoys, they would not know what happened. A sympathetic telegram from the Defense Department, however, would inform their wives and children back in the States.

[155] Professors at Armavir explained that the Wild Weasel pilots were willing to offer up their lives because (1) they were highly paid mercenaries or (2) they were under the influence of marijuana or stronger narcotics. Belenko believed neither explanation and had asked himself, Would I be so brave? Could I do that?

Gregg's parents, like Nick's, were Russian emigres, and determined to impart some of their native culture to their children, they insisted on speaking Russian in the home, and he studied the language throughout his university years. Because of his command of the language, as well as the technical background acquired as a test pilot, Gregg frequently had been diverted, against his will, from flying to intelligence assignments. He had gamed the respect and confidence of the CIA, not given lightly to outsiders, and hence, it was decided that he should be primarily responsible for the technical debriefing of Belenko. As it developed, there could have been no better choice.

The personal rapport that evolved between Belenko and his three principal American stewards failed, however, to demolish the barricade of skepticism which guarded him against the wiles of the Dark Forces. He did not blame Peter, Anna, and Gregg or the Dark Forces for presenting him with the most roseate picture of their country. That was their duty; he understood. He merely remained disposed to disbelieve much of what they said and to regard what he saw as atypical.

Certainly, nothing could convince him that the garden apartment in Falls Church, Virginia, where he and Nick settled was approximately typical of those being constructed in the Washington suburbs and within the means of young couples with a moderate income. Whoever heard of a worker's apartment with two bathrooms and carpets all over the floors and machines that wash the dishes and do away with the garbage? And a special room for reading [a small den]. Of course not.

True to their word, the Dark Forces arranged for him to fly from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington to visit a fighter base. He and Gregg were waiting in the departure lounge when the wing commander at Andrews, a general, strode in, recognized Gregg, and came over to [156] shake hands. Belenko was incredulous because the general was black. He's not a real nigger. No nigger could be a general. They must have painted somebody and dressed him in a generafs uniform. Sure, they painted him just for me.

The fighter base, he judged, artfully combined the authentically representative with the seductively phony embroidered to impress selected visitors like him. He was invited to inspect the fighters, F-4s, F-106s, and then one of the two he had been taught most to dread, the F-15. "Go ahead, sit in the cockpit," Gregg said. "But if you fly away with one of these, they'll have my ass." No question: the fighters were real enough, just as they had been described in the Soviet Union. Some attributes did surprise him. The electronic, fire control, armament, navigational, and certain other systems were much more sophisticated than he had been told, and the exterior surfaces of all the U.S. planes were smoother than those of the MiG-25. Essentially, though, they were what he expected: marvelous machines, but known machines.

The clubs for enlisted personnel, noncommissioned officers, and officers, with their various rooms for dining, dancing, drinking, reading, pool, Ping-Pong, cards, and chess; the athletic fields, gymnasiums, swimming pools, tennis courts; the theater they might be real.

"How can you afford to spend so much on people rather than weapons?"

"How can we afford not to?" responded the fighter-base commander, a colonel, who was escorting them. "The best weapons in the world are no good unless you have people willing and able to man them."

That's right, absolutely right. That's what I was trying to tell the Party.

The base commander told Belenko that the Air Force wished to give him an American flight suit as a memento of the visit. Never had he admired any apparel so much. Although made of synthetics, it was silken and flexible in feel, light, yet warm. "You make a fine-looking American pilot," Gregg said, as Belenko looked at himself in the dark green suit before a mirror.

"Let me show you something," said an officer, who [157] flicked a cigarette lighter and touched the flame to the flight suit.

"Don't do that!" shouted Belenko, shoving the officer away.

"No, just trust me. It's fireproof. If it burns, we'll give you a new one." The officer held the flame to a sleeve, and Belenko saw that the suit was, indeed, impervious to fire.

Belenko then asked to meet a typical sergeant, whom he questioned about his work and standard of living. Believing none of the straightforward answers, Belenko announced he would like to visit the sergeant's quarters. Easy enough, said the commander. He lives only a few blocks away. Come on, we'll go in my car. Obviously, this was a put-on. Can you imagine a colonel actually driving people around, including one of his own sergeants, like a common chauffeur?

The sergeant lived on base in a two-story stucco house with a screened front porch, small yard, and attached garage. Belenko asked how a sergeant could have such a large house, and the commander told him the size of the house allotted depended on the size of the family to occupy it. Oh, that's absurd. And look at that car [a 1976 Impala}! They want me to think a sergeant owns a car like that. Why, it's better than the colonefs car.

Upon looking at a major's house, which was nicer but not that much nicer, Belenko gave up. I've seen the show. Why put them to more trouble?

That evening some officers took Belenko and Gregg to a good dinner at a civilian restaurant near the base. Belenko felt that the conversation, pilots talking to pilots, was genuine and stimulating. But when the host attempted to pay the check, the whole scheme was exposed to him. The proprietor, a Greek immigrant, refused to take money, and the meal cost well over $100. Gregg translated. "He says he owes this country more than he can ever repay, but as a token repayment he is giving us dinner. I think he's guessed or someone has told him who you are."

Sometimes, though, Belenko saw significance in the mundane, and some of his observations began to engender doubts about his doubts. On successive Sundays, Peter took him to the zoo in Washington's Rock Creek Park and the [158] King's Dominion Amusement Park north of Richmond. The zoo, situated in lovely woods, maintains a large collection of exotic animals. The amusement park is a wholesome place offering many ingenious rides and delights for children and teenagers. Yet at both the zoo and park he was most impressed by the people.

Most, in his opinion, were from the "working class." Try as he would, he could not honestly discern in their appearance or behavior any manifestations of the fear, anxiety, or privation which he from childhood on had been assured prevailed among the majority of Americans. Families and couples strolled about as if, for the moment anyway, they were carefree and having a good time. Among them were many black people. They were dressed just as well as the white people, were equally attentive to their children, and, so far as he could tell, seemed to have no qualms about mingling with the white people.

He momentarily froze, then pointed at a rather pretty young blond girl holding hands with a young black man at the amusement park. "Is that allowed in this country?"

"It's their business," Peter said. "Not ours, not the government's."

There was something else. According to the Party, zoos, museums, and other public recreational facilities in the United States cost so much that ordinary people could not afford them. But as he verified for himself, admission to the zoo was free, and while the rides at the park cost money, the workers, including the blacks, obviously could afford them.

He doubted that the zoo and park were Potemkin creations of the Dark Forces, as he had thought the shopping center, mansion, apartment, and air base were. His Sunday observations did not convince him that the United States was a land of universal contentment, justice, and racial equality. But if what he saw was fairly representative, then social and economic conditions were vastly different from what the Party said. If this is true, they're bigger liars than I ever dreamed. If this is true, then something is right here.

It took Peter and Nick a while to locate "a real workers' bar, a cheap place, "where the lowly laborers might repair [159] in the evening, but they found an approximation on a side street in Falls Church. There was a long bar with stools on one side and a row of wooden booths on the other. Men in working clothes were drinking beer, talking, and laughing or watching a savage game (Monday night football) on color television. The menu of the establishment was chalked on a blackboard, and although Belenko already had dined, he insisted on sampling the food, which he ordered at random. A black man served an extravagant portion of barbecued beef sandwiched in a large bun, together with french fried potatoes, coleslaw, and a beer. The little green check totaled $2.08.

That was real meat, delicious, and so cheap. And I think that black man made it himself and was proud of it. The men's room was clean. Nobody was drunk or vomiting or fighting. Come to think of it, I haven't seen drunks or fighting on the streets here. But there are bars everywhere here. You can buy vodka and beer and wine here a lot easier than in the Soviet Union. And it's so cheap, people could stay drunk all the time if they wanted. It's as if 1980 has already cornel

When Belenko expressed some of these thoughts, Peter remarked, "I'm sorry to say that alcoholism is a serious problem in the United States. By our definition, between nine and ten million Americans are alcoholics."

"What is your definition of an alcoholic?"

"Someone who is dependent on alcohol or whose consumption of alcohol harmfully interferes with his or her life."

"Well, by that definition, three-fourths of all the men in the Soviet Union are alcoholics."

Peter agreed that alcoholism was a more acute problem in the Soviet Union than in the United States but went on to explain the American problem with drug addiction.

Referring to purveyors of illicit drugs, Belenko exclaimed, "Why don't you arrest them? Shoot them! Or at least put them in jail!"

"We try to arrest them. But, Viktor, as you will learn, it is not so easy to put someone in jail in the United States."

Both Peter and Anna emphasized to Belenko the [160] necessity of learning to drive, a task he relished. Upon being told that prior to his lessons he would have to obtain a Virginia learner's permit, he was incensed.

"Why cant you just give me a license?"

"We don't have the power to do that."

"That is ridiculous. In the Soviet Union you can buy a license on the black market for a hundred rubles. If you can't issue me a license, buy me one."

"Take my word, Viktor, you're going to have to pass a test like everybody else. We can give you false identity papers, but not a license."

Belenko learned to drive in less than an hour but tended to maneuver a car as if it were a fighter plane and habitually exceeded the speed limit. He was driving with Peter along a four-lane divided highway, when a siren sounded behind them.

"God dammit, Viktor, you're speeding. Now do as I tell you. Slow down, pull off the highway, and stop and roll down the window. The state trooper will come up and ask for your driver's license. Just give it to him, and say nothing. He will write a ticket. When he hands it to you, just nod and say, Thank you, Officer.'"

Belenko was unconcerned; indeed, he welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate to Peter his ability to cope with the unexpected. He knew what to do. Every 100 kilometers or so along Soviet roads, police maintain checkpoints and routinely stop all vehicles. The driver routinely gives the policeman two or three rubles; otherwise, he is accused and convicted on the spot of a traffic violation, and his license is punched and, with the third punch, revoked.

A tall state trooper wearing a broad-brimmed gray hat bent down by the window. "Son, do you realize you were going eighty-five miles an hour?"

Belenko grinned and tried to hand the trooper two twenty-dollar bills.

"No! No!" Peter yelled in Russian. "Take that money back, Viktor!" Then in English: "Officer, I am a representative of the Central Intelligence Agency. May I speak with you privately?" Peter got out of the car and talked with the trooper.

[161] After a couple of minutes the trooper returned and said to Belenko, "I would like to shake your hand."

With a seriousness that Belenko did not mistake, Peter warned that bribery of a policeman or public official was a major crime. "Some will take bribes, that's true. But ninetynine point nine percent won't, and if you try it, you will be arrested, and I may not always be around to rescue you. I'm telling you for your own good."

Father Peter, he means what he says. But if officials don't take bribes, maybe the law is the same for everybody. Well, that's right, they put Nixon's men in jail.

The Party depicted America as awash in pornography, a social pox communism spares the Soviet Union. Having seen none in the Virginia suburbs, Belenko asked where all the pornography was, so Peter took him to an X-rated movie. "What did you think?" he asked as they left the theater a few blocks from the White House.

"At first I was amazed. Then I felt as if I were watching people go to the toilet. Nobody loved anybody in that movie. What I don't understand is why, if pornography is so popular, the theater was so empty."

"Obviously, there's a market for the stuff, or the theater couldn't stay in business. But which would you rather do? Watch some whores go through the motions of making love or go out and find a girl and make love yourself?"

Anna invited Belenko to a Washington restaurant to meet her husband, an urbane, older man who was highly informed about the Soviet Union and spoke Russian confidently. Because Belenko was conditioned to believe that American presidential elections were meaningless, all candidates being puppets of the Dark Forces, he listened with surprise and interest as his host talked about the contest under way between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Anna favored Carter; her husband, Ford. They discussed, then debated, then ardently and angrily argued about the qualifications of the two candidates.

Wait a minute. Maybe elections here do make a difference. At least they think they do, and they are not fools.

It was the carrier, or rather, what he deduced from the carrier, that finally shattered the image of America instilled [162] by the Party. He and Gregg landed on its deck in a small plane about 100 miles off the Virginia capes. The captain welcomed Belenko by saying that the United States Navy was proud to have him as its guest. He could see anything aboard the ship he desired; any question would be answered. But the captain believed that first he should watch the launching and recovery of aircraft, the essence of carrier operations.

As Belenko stood by the landing control officer, the fighters plummeted, thundered, roared down straight toward him. Bam! Screechl They hit the steel deck and crashed into the arresting gear. Then, with a tremendous roar that vibrated his body, the afterburners of a fighter ignited, and it shot off the deck, dipped toward the sea, and rocketed out of sight This, every ten seconds!

No show could have been more spectacular to Belenko. The technology of the ship, the planes, the diverse individual skills of the crew were incredible. But that was not what was most meaningful. Everybody of all ranks participating in the operation relied, depended on, indeed, trusted their lives to everybody else. Nobody abused anybody. They all were one team, and it couldn't be any other way. You couldn't terrify, intimidate, threaten, or coerce men into doing what they were doing. They had to want to do it, to believe in it. They couldn't do it under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And this was real. The Dark Forces did not not construct this carrier or recruit and tram men just to put on a display for him. Now he was inclined to believe what he saw and was told.

"Do you have a jail on this ship?"

They showed him the brig five or six immaculate cells with standard Navy bunks which happened to be empty. * In answer to his questions, the captain enumerated some of the offenses for which a sailor might be confined drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, assault.

"Why is your jail empty?"

"Maybe we're lucky. We don't have much trouble aboard this ship."

[163] "How many people do you have on this ship?"

"About five thousand officers and men."

It's a small city, and nobody is in jail!

Noticing the insignia of the cross on the shirt collar of an officer, Belenko asked if the crew was required to profess faith in God.

The captain replied that although Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish chaplains regularly conducted services, crew members were free to attend or not and that religious beliefs or the lack of them was entirely a private matter of individual conscience.

Belenko wanted to know if the chaplains additionally functioned as political officers, and the captain did not at first understand what he meant.

"Who tells your men how they must vote?" He realized that the laughter the question caused was real and spontaneous. If nobody can even tell the soldiers [enlisted men] how to vote, then they do have some freedom here.

The carrier was the flagship of an admiral who presented Belenko with a fleece-lined leather jacket worn by Navy pilots. He said he hoped Belenko would wear and regard it as a symbol of the appreciation and comradeship U.S. Navy fliers felt toward him. The gift and words so affected him that he spoke with difficulty. "I will be very proud of this jacket"

He was so proud of the jacket that throughout the day he carried it with him wherever he went. All life had taught him that left unguarded, such valuable apparel certainly would be stolen.

"Viktor, leave the damn jacket here," Gregg said as they started from the cabin to see the evening movie.

"No, someone will steal it."

"Nobody will steal it. This is not a pirate ship."

"No, I know somebody will steal it."

After much argument, against all good judgment and under vehement protest, Belenko reluctantly obeyed and left the jacket on his bunk. During the movie he fidgeted and worried. "I think I'll go back and see about my jacket"

"Sit still. Your jacket is all right." Later Gregg slipped away to the cabin and hid the jacket in a closet

Returning from the movie, Belenko saw that the worst [164] had happened. "You see! I told you! I told you! They stole it!" Gregg opened the closet, and Belenko grabbed the jacket, clutched, hugged it, and did not let it out of his sight again.

The excellence, abundance, and variety of food in the enlisted men's mess did not bespeak exploitation of a lower class or reflect a national scarcity of food The provision of such food and nowhere except aboard the 747 had he tasted better was consistent with the Air Force officer's remark at the Air Force base about the importance of caring for people.

The admiral in his cabin opened a refrigerator and apologized that he could offer only a soft drink or fruit juice. Surely an admiral can have a drink in his own quarters if he wants? "No, I'm afraid we all have to abide by the rules." The reply was consistent with what Father Peter had told him about the law.

Everything I've seen is consistent. Every time I have been able to check what the Party said it has turned out to be a lie. Every time I have been able to check what Father Peter and Anna and Gregg say it has turned out to be true. Something is very right in this country. I don't understand what it is, how it works. But I think the Americans are much farther along toward building True Communism than the Soviet Union ever will be.

A couple of days after they flew back from the carrier, Peter recounted to Belenko all the Soviet Union had been saying about him and all it was doing to recapture him. "They realize that we will not give you up and that their only chance is to persuade you to return voluntarily. So, almost daily, they demand from us another opportunity to talk to you. They're being rather clever, if brutal, about it. They know they can't do anything to us directly. Therefore, they are trying to pressure us indirectly through the Japanese. They're seizing Japanese fishing boats, threatening and harassing the Japanese in every way they can. And I'm afraid they won't stop until we let them see you once more."

"What do they say?"

"Oh, it's all bullshit. They say they're not sure the man they saw in Tokyo was you and that, in any case, they did [165] not have long enough to determine whether you were acting voluntarily or under duress."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Only you can decide. You do not have to meet them. But the Japanese have been valiant and steadfast throughout, and it would be a big service to them if you would."

"All right Let's get it over. But I tell you, and you can tell them, this is the last time."

Peter and several other CIA officers, including a couple of unfamiliar, tough-looking characters who comported with his original concept of CIA men, led Belenko to the anteroom of a conference hall at the State Department. "We will be waiting right here and will come immediately if there is trouble. We have made sure that they are in no way armed. You will be safe. Just be yourself."

Waiting in the conference chamber were MinisterCounselor Vorontsov, the chief Soviet representative at the Belgrade conference on human rights, a Soviet physician, and a KGB officer, who posed as a diplomat at the Soviet Embassy in Washington.

As soon as Belenko entered, Vorontsov warmly clasped his hand. "It always is good to meet a man from our Mother Country." Immediately trying to establish psychological control, he said, as if he, rather than the State Department, were in charge of the meeting, "Please sit down, and let's talk freely and openly. Now, we know that something happened to your aircraft and that you did not land in Japan voluntarily.

"We know that in Japan you tried to protect your aircraft by firing your pistol," Vorontsov continued. "We know that the Japanese employed force against you and clamped a bag on your head. We know that the Japanese put you in prison and drugged you with narcotics. We know that your actions and movements have not been voluntary.

"Your wife and son, all your relatives are grieving, crying, longing for you. Here, they have sent letters and photographs for you." Vorontsov laid them on the table before Belenko, who ignored them. Vorontsov pushed them closer. Belenko looked away from them and glowered directly into Vorontsov's eyes, provoking, he thought, a [166] flicker of anger. But Vorontsov, a forceful man, retained his composure and went on, calmly, seductively.

"We want you to know that despite all that has happened and even if you did make some mistake, you will be forgiven completely if you return to your Mother Country, to your family, your native land, the only land where you ever can be happy. You need not be afraid. I reiterate and promise on the highest possible authority that you will be forgiven.

"Let me give you an example. A Soviet major defected to the United States and, after meeting with us, chose to return to our Mother Country. Later he went to the American Embassy in Moscow and assured the Americans that he was free and not being punished."

At this an American, a cool young State Department official whom Belenko had not previously noticed, burst into laughter. "That is not true, Mr. Vorontsov."

"That's the trouble with you Americans," Vorontsov shouted. "You never believe us."

"Not when you lie like that"

Returning to Belenko, Vorontsov said, "My comrade, if you wish, you may leave this room with us right now, and tomorrow you will be in Moscow reunited with your family in your Mother Country. And you can continue your career as a pilot." Here Vorontsov beamed. "In fact, I am authorized to assure you that you can become a test pilot"

Belenko stood up. "Let me speak clearly and finally. All I did, before and after I landed in Japan, I did voluntarily. The Japanese were kind to me and helped me very much, although it was very difficult for them to do that. They gave me no drags of any sort. They did not put a bag on my head. They used no force against me. They protected me. Everything I have done, I have done of my own free will. In the United States nobody is keeping me by force or against my will. It is my own wish to be in the United States. I will not return."

Belenko turned to the presiding State Department official. "Although I understand there is a rule that only one Soviet representative may speak to me, I would like to waive that rale and invite the doctor here to ask me any questions he wants because I am absolutely healthy."

[167] That was obvious to the doctor, who seemed somewhat embarrassed, but he had to go through the motions.

"Do you have a headache?"


"Have you been taking any medicine?"


"How do you feel?"


The doctor looked for guidance from Vorontsov, who now began speaking heatedly. "Our foreign minister is discussing you with Secretary Kissinger and at the highest levels of the American government because we know they are using force and keeping you against your will."

"No, they are not using force or keeping me against my will. I will not return to the Soviet Union."

"What did happen, then? Why did you do this?"

"You can investigate and find out for yourself why."

Vorontsov resumed his unctuous manner. "You will decide to return. When you decide, just call the Soviet Embassy, and you will be welcome back." The KGB officer laid his card on the table.

"I have made my decision. I will not return. I will stay in the United States. There is nothing more to discuss."

The State Department official rose. "All right, gentlemen. It seems to me that our meeting is concluded."

As Belenko walked out, Vorontsov called to him, and there was in his tone a confidence, a sureness that slightly disquieted Belenko. "We know that you will return. We will get you back. You will come someday."

The CIA officers waiting outside each solemnly shook hands with Belenko. "I know that was very hard for you," Peter said. "You are a good and brave man, Viktor."

They drove across Memorial Bridge and into Arlington National Cemetery, then slowly wended their way along narrow lanes among the graves. "What are we doing in the graveyard?" asked Belenko.

"We are making sure that the KGB cannot follow us."

"What! You mean you have those bastards in this country, too!"

"Yes, and it is prudent always to bear that in mind. You will have to bear it in mind for the rest of your life."

[168] From the cemetery, shrouded in beauteous autumn leaves, they commanded a grand view of Washington, which in the late afternoon sunshine looked resplendent. Belenko thought of his new life and a little of his old.

Could they ever get me back? Would I ever go back? No, of course not.

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