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.
 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
 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
"Yes, the gangsters of Chicago are very famous in my
"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
 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
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
"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
 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
 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
 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
 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.
 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
 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
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
 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
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
 the plane could not begin, and only Belenko could supply
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
"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
 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
"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.
 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
 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
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
"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
 flicked a cigarette lighter and touched the flame to the
"Don't do that!" shouted Belenko, shoving the officer
"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
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
 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
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
 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
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
"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
 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
"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
"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.
 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
 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
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
 "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
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
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
 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
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
"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
 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
"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
 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
"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."
 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,
"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."
 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.
<< Chapter V Chapter VII >>