Trading Military Secrets for a Big Mac

In 1975, Soviet Navy officer Valery Sablin led a mutiny onboard the Soviet destroyer Storozhevoi and came close to diverting it to Sweden. A year later, Soviet Air Force pilot Viktor Belenko flew his MiG-25 to Japan and then defected to the United States.

Sergeant Alexander Glukhov did not rebel against Soviet authority, take over command of a warship or flee to the West on a MiG fighter. He had no plans to defect to Tbilisi to make a political statement. Glukhov claimed he left the Russian army because of unbearable conditions in the military. Apparently, he was not allowed to take a shower. Poor kid.

It is difficult to imagine an Israeli soldier deserting to Hamas because he couldn't get a decent bath or wasn't given kasha. That couldn't happen because Israeli soldiers are treated well. But even if an Israeli soldier was denied his shower privileges, this would never be a reason to desert to the other side.

The Glukhov case is a purely Russian phenomenon. We have heard so much over the past years from our leaders about how Russia has gotten up off of its knees. As a reborn superpower, Russia was able to defeat the formidable Georgian army after Tbilisi launched its attack on Tskhinvali. Several months later, a hungry Glukhov, craving McDonald's, shows up in Tbilisi, more than willing to reveal Russia's military secrets in return for a Big Mac. And Glukhov's secret was indeed a whopper -- that he had been on training maneuvers in South Ossetia since June, when Russian forces first started digging entrenchments in preparation for the August war against Georgia.

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This is the first time in history that somebody has traded military secrets for a Big Mac. This would never have happened in Soviet times. For one, the borders were sealed tight; Belenko pulled it off only because he was able to maneuver his MiG just 100 meters above ground level, dodging hills, to evade radar. Second, Soviets would never think of selling out their Motherland for a greasy hamburger.

If Russia has, in fact, risen from its knees, why couldn't its army feed Glukhov? If Glukhov ever returns to Russia, he'll be given a long prison term for sure. But I am confident that the military officials who stole the money allocated for feeding the troops will never face charges.

The Kremlin claims it was forced to fight Georgia to protect Russians in South Ossetia. But Glukhov is also a Russian citizen. And so was Private Pasko, who was killed in battle but never buried. How am I supposed to believe that we were defending our fellow citizens in South Ossetia when Pasko's corpse was forgotten and left lying in a body bag in the morgue and Glukhov defected because he wasn't being fed?

It remains unclear if Georgia will grant Glukhov political asylum because if every Russian soldier starts defecting there for a shower or Chicken McNuggets, the struggling, young democracy in Tbilisi could face acute water and food shortages.

There is nothing to fear, however, because I have a great plan for conquering Georgia. Russia can send wave after wave of new troops to South Ossetia. From there, thousands of lice-infested, undernourished and scrawny privates make a mad dash for Tbilisi in search of the nearest McDonald's and a place to take a shower. When their numbers are sufficient, they stage a coup and topple Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Don't laugh at this. These "deserters" are not the scrawny, hungry conscripts they appear to be; that is just a cover so the Georgians don't suspect anything. Beneath that facade are our elite Alpha forces on a clandestine mission to overthrow the Georgian government.

Now, how's that for a plan?

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.