Sgt. Glukhov goes to Georgia
Last week we reported on the defection of Russian conscript Sergeant Alexander Glukhov from Russia’s imperial forces of occupation in Ossetia over to the Georgian side. Russia claims Glukhov had no reason to be unhappy in Ossetia, and therefore concludes he must have been “kidnapped” by evil Georgians looking to make Russia look bad.
There is only one word for this contention, and that word is: Nonsense.
Writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor one of the world’s leading experts on the Russian military Pavel Felgenhauer states:
Conditions in the Russian army are indeed appalling; according to official Defense Ministry data, 231 servicemen committed suicide in 2008 (Nezavisimoye voennoye obozrenye, January 23). Desertions of low-ranking soldiers and sergeants, both conscript and contract, are commonplace in Russia. In South Ossetia, according to human-rights reports, conditions are especially bad. The troops are surviving the winter in tents and without adequate supplies, because the only road to Russia, through the Roki Tunnel, is constantly blocked by snow (Kommersant, January 28).
In other words, the only thing that is suprising about Glukhov’s defection is that it didn’t happen sooner and that more of his comrades didn’t go with him. To say nothing of brutal economic privation and appalling living conditions, Russian soldiers must also face the brutal dedovshchina hazing rituals (which has killed many helpless young Russians and led others to have their genitals amputated) and the prospect of being hired out as slave labor by their underpaid officers.
And yet, instead of recognizing the problems when they appear and pursuing reform, the Kremlin’s neo-Soviet response is to deny the problems and blame evil foreign conspiracies — exactly the policy that destroyed the USSR. As Russia’s economic fortunes go from bad to worse, the circumstances of Russia’s wretched army of conscripts will do the same, and the Kremlin as always will simply turn a blind eye to the crisis and allow the nation to degenerate into ruin.
But what the Kremlin does not seem to realize is that Russia is no longer protected by the cloak of secrecy that shielded the USSR from prying Western eyes. Now, we have access to reporters like Felgenhauer and we know exactly how absurd the Kremlin’s childish lies really are. And, if the people of Russia really wanted to know, they could find it out too.
And yet they don’t. Instead, they choose to allow the Kremlin to victimize them, to brutalize their children under the guise of patriotic military service, and so they are equally complicit in this appalling nightmare.
And so, they deserve the suffering that waits for them around the historical corner.