In the Tbilisi deserter market22.03.2009 | 23:30
In the last few days, a wave of articles has again unexpectedly swept through the pages of the print and electronic media about the fugitive Sergeant Glukhov. By rephrasing the eternal expression from Viktor Chernomyrdin, we can say the following: the Russian prosecutor's office "wanted the worst, but it turned out as always!" Farcically!
Is it possible to demand that a state with which we have broken off any diplomatic relations should hand over a deserter? Theoretically, at least, it's probably possible. But in practice, the prosecutor's office has got itself into a mess. Because it has itself whipped up interest which had faded within both the Georgian and Russian public in the run-of-the-mill Russian army deserter, who is by no means the first and will, alas, be far from the last.
Let's clear up the situation. Who is Sergeant Glukhov? A deserter who went abroad for reasons of conscience? No, of course he isn't.
During the USSR there were deserters who were in possession of state secrets. But the incidents of their treachery were written about extremely rarely. However, at times they would bring down a network of agents which had been working for years, or they would fly over on the latest strategic aircraft.
As far as Glukhov is concerned, this lad either got stoned or got drunk, but having just left the location of his division, and clearly being in a bad state, he managed to cross over the border between South Ossetia and Georgia with incredible ease, and then daringly turned up in the Georgian capital. Perhaps someone helped him out?
Tbilisi's propaganda machine immediately exclaimed that "enlightened soldiers have begun to flee the Russian occupying army en masse, because they don't want to remain cannon fodder for Kokoity". Which was then followed by a ridiculous and clearly inappropriate reaction by the Russian military, which announced that Glukhov had been abducted.
This begs the question: why would anyone want to take a sergeant hostage who, apart from blowing off his service, is not capable of anything more than that? When Glukhov is asked what prompted him to betray his oath and leave the Motherland, he answers like a complete prat: "In South Ossetia they used to feed us badly". Which would suggest that somewhere in the army, soldiers are being well fed. Alas, even during the Soviet times, a soldier's ration did not stand out for being full of delicacies, so nowadays it is extremely unlikely that they're going to start feeding Russian soldiers to NATO standards. And again, it is ludicrous to argue that the sergeant had endured the humiliation of "dedovshchina" - after all, he is far from having a puny physique.
So it turns out that Glukhov is fibbing, the Georgian secret services, which welcomed the deserter even though he has the qualities to be nothing more than a useless agent, are lying. But in terms of their propaganda aims, you can give them top marks for acquiring this "trump card".
But the most annoying thing is that the Russian military is playing up to this absurdity by saving the honour of the uniform where nothing should be saved. But what should they have done? Simply say that if Tbilisi likes accepting deserters, then let them get on with it. Because it's unlikely to lift the fighting spirit of the Georgian army. Especially since Glukhov has been housed in a two-room flat and been given an allowance of 15 lari (about $9 US) a day.
I don't know how Georgian pensioners will feel about this generous step by the authorities, since their monthly pension doesn't always exceed 20 lari. They're probably not overjoyed that the Georgian treasury is so favourably disposed to fugitive sergeants from the Russian army, and at the same time so miserly towards their elderly country-men.
Today Glukhov is a small cog in the Saakashvili regime's propaganda machine. Something of a benchmark of the victory of the Georgian spirit over the Russian army. Well let them have him! Glukhov is no fighter against "Putin's totalitarianism". He doesn't give a damn about politics. The main thing for him is to fill his face! Glukhov is a deserter by nature. And if Tbilisi is willing to make a fuss of such an unsympathetic character, that's their business.
As far as the actions of the Russian side are concerned, they are also worthy of regret. Now they're declaring Glukhov a victim of abduction by the Georgian intelligence services, now they're accusing him of doing away with 25,000 roubles worth of travelling expenses, now they're recognizing him as a deserter, and now they start singing: "come back, come back, I'll forgive everything".
My friends from Tbilisi told me with slight irony that in Georgia Glukhov is a detested figure. Why should they heat any political passions over him? A person who betrayed his mother for the sake of a bigger morsel is not worthy of being called a human being, think my acquaintances. And I can perfectly understand their contempt.