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Posted on Aug 27, 2008 in Stuff We Like

Author POV – Viktor Belenko, Hero or Traitor?

By Miguel Vargas-Caba

Armchair General MagazineMiguel Vargas-Caba is the author of Bear: Flight to Liberty (iUniverse, 2007), a word of historical fiction about the defection of the crew of a Soviet Naval Aviation’s Tu-95 RTs "Bear D" long-range reconnaissance aircraft from Kola Peninsula to Northern Canada on August 4th, 1976. A native of the Dominican Republic who now resides with his family in The Bronx, New York, he asks questions about who is a traitor and who is a hero.

Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belenko was sometimes hailed as a hero.

In September 1976, Lt. Viktor Belenko defected from the Soviet airbase at Chuguyevka, Siberia, to a civilian airport in Hakodate, Japan. In his defection he brought to the West the best fighter the Soviets had managed to produce up to that time, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat, along with its pilot’s manual. Immediately after landing, he requested and obtained political asylum in the United States.


(Editor’s note: The Japanese government limited the U.S. to ground tests of the MiG’s radar and engines. The plane was then disassembled and returned to the USSR on a Japanese ship.)

In his book MiG Pilot, the Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko (McGraw-Hill 1980), John Barron, using the manuscript Belenko provided him, exposed in detail the reasons that moved Lt. Belenko to defect to the "adversary." Among the reasons given was the absurd life that common Soviet citizens were forced to live in those days, the so-called "years of Brezhnev’s stagnation." There were constant shortages of everything imaginable, from major food staples such as meat and sausages to toilet paper. When such items were available, citizens had to form kilometric lines to purchase them. As an elite fighter pilot, Lt. Belenko had access to many articles that were beyond the reach of the common citizen, such as meat and other food items (but not even he had access to toilet paper; old issues of Pravda was used).

It was not so much the scarcity of those articles that pushed him to defect, however; it was what he considered to be the obvious discrepancy between the promises of the Soviet communist system and the reality of life under it. All the promises the system made for a better life were accessible only to a select few members of the Nomenklatura in the upper echelons of Soviet life.

Another point of contention for him was the apparent contradictions between what Soviet propaganda fed their citizens about the West and the achievements Western society produced. In Belenko’s own words: "If they were so bad, how come they could send a man to be moon and bring him back? If they are falling apart right now, how come they’re producing better fighters than ours and have more Nobel Prize winners than we do?"

Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belenko was sometimes hailed as a hero for having escaped the totalitarian oppression of the Soviet regime in a bold and daring way, but after 2004 he was once again vilified as a traitor to Rodina, "Mother Russia." His detractors accuse him of having been "recruited" by the CIA while still in fighter pilot school, and of defecting solely for monetary gain, namely, the promise of U.S. $100,000 given to all those who defected to the West bringing with them a fighter plane.

My questions are: Is the old adage "once a traitor always a traitor" true? Is one who betrays a totalitarian regime a traitor or a hero? By defecting with a Mig-25 Belenko betrayed the Soviet Union; is he therefore a traitor to "Mother Russia?"

Post a comment below to offer your answers to these questions. After two weeks, we’ll post the author’s own POV on the answers.

Learn more about Miguel Vargas-Caba and Bear: Flight to Liberty. View images of the TU-95 Bear aircraft or see a video about the airplane.


  1. I suppose that by definition, Belenko is a traitor. An abstract question that I would ask of Mr. Belenko is; given the opportunity, would you defect from the U.S.? Regardless of what label is put on him,he is a human being. He was an opportunist, he had an advantage not many other Russians had and he had access to something that he knew the west wanted and were willing to pay for. He used it for personal gain and a new life. This story is similar to Lt. Kim of North Korea who defected with a Mig during the Korean War, is he a traitor? By definition, yes? Have either of these men behaved other than honorably since their defection? Did America benefit from the action of these two men and their membership in our society?
    Viktor Belenko, as with Mr. Kim, believed, but wasn’t quite sure of what he was getting himself into, if he succeeded. He was absolutely certain, however, of what lay in store should he fail. Whatever the lable, it took an exceptional amount of courage.

    • I met him about a decade ago. He was visiting my dearest friend who is an author. They discussed a book.
      I found him to be very humble. He was truly grateful of all that this country had given him.
      He expressed a love for his mother and his leaving her behind was a constant sorrow to him.
      Survival was one reason he joined the military in Russia.
      He knew they were well fed and clothed. Food was something his mother and he had done without.
      I think he is a good man.
      Frankie/ central Texas

      • Frankie, if you happen to know his current mailing address or email address I would be grateful. I am doing a book about the Japanese response to the MiG landing. My email address is . Thank you, Robert

      • I agree with you, Frankie. I met him and discussed life in the USSR, his family, defection, life in the Soviet military and the MiG and while Dad was in SoCal. I found him to be sincere and loyal to the USA.

    • VIKTOR BELENKO IS A HERO. I know him personally! I met Vik through my Dad in 1980 in Long Beach, CA. Dad got him on at Northrop as a consultant in the late 1970s. I know his story through his own account of what happened… and WHY it happened. His is a good person and anyone who doesn’t know him doesn’t know the truth about this fine American. The USA is a safer place for Vik. He started a new life in America after his defection in 1976. His information on the Russian air force and planes and military strategy was a
      treasure-trove of information for the USA. Man, can he drink the whiskey! Viktor Belenko is a true American… more than I can say about Barrack Obama! I am proud to say that Viktor Belenko is my friend. ~ Al Thompson – Torrance, CA.

      • Al, if you happen to know his current mailing address or email address I would be grateful. I am doing a book about the Japanese response to the MiG landing. I am friends with the Japanese pilot, one of four in the 2, two-seaters. He later became a two-star. We would like to visit him next year (2019) if possible. My email address is . Thank you, Robert

      • My husband @ that time took his briefing to all the Air Force base around the world. The 4477th Squadton was a direct beneficiary of Victors defection. This squadron trained air to air in dissimilar fighters ie floggers etc against our own pilots in the desert of Tonapah!

    • truth has many faces.everybody can give their own opinion.
      for me, Viktor is a good american citizen.

    • I know Victor & he is a very real person good hearted & funny. He taught be how to make stuffed mushrooms. He & his wife were guests in my home as was Victor often. He saw the difference in what the Siviets were stating & truth. Although I know both the Mikitary & CIA were cautious about his true intentions. They would watch us, whenever he visited. I was in DC out in Alexandria sitting @ a resturants counter when I heard someone say across the counter, “ I know you” well come to find out he was DIA & had seen my photos from surveillance of Victor when he visited.

      • Dear Gigi,
        I know one of the Japanese pilots who unsuccessfully tried to engage Viktor, as well as two of the Japanese foreign ministry officials handling his case, including his interpreter. I would like to interview Viktor for a book on his defection and USA-Japan relations at the time. Could you send me ( his mailing address and/or email address? Thank you.

  2. The stigma of traitorous activity really only has meaning depending on the side with which you place your own allegiance. The Russians no doubt cursed Belenko’s name (although they tried to keep up a front that he had lost his way, and some did turn him into a hero for a time), but to America he had become a “friend” and advisor, working in the Military Academy for several years. Having been given a life which probably suited him quite well, he would have no reason to defect back to Russia, or any other country.
    A classic example of the mixed nature of the concept of treachery would be the character of Benedict Arnold during our own American Rebellion. He was a traitor to the British Crown when he fought for the rebellion, greatly aiding in the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga. He then went back to the British side and became a traitor to the Colonial cause. The British never really took him seriously, but how could they when he had so gallantly worked in favor of Colonial independence, besides the fact that he was not a very likeable fellow. However, they did give him a command and he ravaged Virginia for a time.
    I believe the feature of Russian pilots defecting from their government is a statement of the unsatisfying system that they are forced to endure. Belenko writes, “It has always been a hard task in Russia to find tasty tinned goods. But in the USA I bought different tinned foods every day, and they were all very good. Once I bought a tin where was written Dinner and fried its content with potatoes, onions and garlic – it was delicious. Next morning my friends told me that I had eaten tinned chicken for cats. But it was delicious!” I don’t remember any point in history where the West Berliners were excited to jump the wall and enter the luxury of Eastern Germany. Belenko was exposing his dislike for Russian government, and risking death in the process, to gain for himself what he felt would be far better, and which turned out to be just that. The Russian ambassador in Japan, upon meeting with Belenko, informed him that they “knew he had lost his way and was forced to land on the island” (and with only seconds of fuel remaining in his MIG), but Belenko would not play the game, and the ambassador ensured him they would find him, no matter where he tried to hide.
    The concept of treachery really only has meaning depending on the side upon which you stand. Indeed our entire national character is founded upon such “treacherous” circumstances. After all, was General George Washington a traitor, or a hero?

    • Just yesterday I was reading on the web of a staged “debate” between British barristers and American lawyers, on the legality of the American Revolution against the Crown of George III. It was an interesting opportunity to hold a “friendly match” between legal experts from both sides, with arguments that certainly held merit. As for Viktor Belenko I’d say that his personality as an adventurer came to the fore – he’d had the adventure of being a MiG pilot – now he wanted the adventure of living in the West. Reading Barron’s interesting book, Belenko did not come across as a political animal at all.

  3. Hero

    He was being true to higher principles of honesty. He figured out
    that he and millions of Russians was being lied to and enslaved.
    He began to hate the system that strips personal initiative and
    individual and group exceptionalism. He hated Slavery. (The
    Russian mafia ruled the place and still does.)

    His defection caused a strategic re-alignment within the Soviet
    Union that cost them billions. By the 1980’s the United States was
    able to negotiate against the Soviet Union from a position of
    strength. Eventually the Soviet Union collapsed.

    By his act of defection and gift of the Mig 25, Viktor Belinko was
    ultimately and in part instrumental in freeing many of his
    countrymen and ending The Cold War.

    Living conditions in Russia have not turned better for the masses
    today, but the old Soviet Bloc countries, Estonia, Latvia,
    Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Ukrane, Georgia, and Eastern
    Europe — are all much better off without the Soviet Union being
    able to completely dominate them. Totalitarian Communism
    suffered a great blow when the USSR failed.

    Unfortunately, America has become more comfortable with
    Socialism and Communism. It appears America is beginning by
    incrementalizm to adopt policies that also strip personal initiative
    and individual and group exceptionalism. I believe the next four
    to eight years will be very telling. Will America become
    Communist? If so, it will be ONE PARTY and will eventually
    become Totalitarian.

    For the sake and hope of all humanity all Americans and
    soveriegn people should root out the false principals and
    propaganda s of Socialism and Communism, find the best in our
    system and help the whole world to do the same.

  4. Shortly before he defected, Viktor’s wife Ludmila demanded a divorce and planned to take their 4-year-old son Dmitri to live with her parents in Magadan, and Viktor figured that her Party connections would protect the family from what he was about to do. Does anyone know what became of them? Did Dmitri ever get in touch with his father? Did Viktor marry and start another family in the US?

    • Yes. I had a secret clearance and knew Vik very well in the 80’s while at Northrop. He was an overnight house guest. We hired him for a while to pick his brains on Soviet aircraft design. He had married a blond school teacher and later designed and built their home in Montana near Billings. My wife, son, and I were their guests at their high-rise apt. in Long Beach when he was working for about six months at Northrop. Vik made beef stroganoff. Several years later they divorced. We stayed in touch and Vik later visited me as a house guest for several days in Texas in 2004 where we had a party with friends at my house and he got roaring drunk on my expensive scotch. We’ve since lost touch.

      • Did you know Jose?

  5. In response to Mr. Coffin’s request about Viktor Belenko’s wife, Lyudmila, I found an interview made to her by the Russian newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” on 09-26-2006. She today works as manager of a children’s nursery in the Kuban Region of Russia. Neither her nor Dmitry ever got in touch again with Viktor after his defection. He did get married to an American music teacher, with whom he had 2 children, but later the couple divorced.

    • Thanks for the update Miguel. These were the kinds of questions I never asked Vik out of courtesy. He probably was recruited by “The Company” (CIA) after his defection for special services requiring an intimate knowledge of soviet society and the way things worked in the military.

      I know that he took Levchinko (the KGB officer assigned to his case in Japan who also later defected) on an auto tour around the U.S. to get him integrated. I recall seeing Levchinco on several major TV programs for a year or so afterward bit he never mentioned Vic that I know of. That’s an interesting story itself and would take too long to discuss here.

  6. “Komsomolskaya Pravda is the KGB propaganda machine. Only an idiot will believe in its stories/interviews. Belenko’s relatives live in Canada. Only God knows how many wives and children he have had during his life time. New York Times is claiming that he worked for the CIA since 1974. The Russian cosmonavt Igor Volk does support this claim. John Barron wrote “Mig Pilot”. But he did not give any credit to Viktor Belenko regarding to the contribution to this book. Perhaps it is another fiction. But it is John Barron’s book.
    Interview with Victor Belenko is pure fabrication . It has being done to support the sale of Barron’s books. For the legal protection from potential law suits the first name Victor was used with the letter “C”. The real first name Belenko is Viktor with letter “K”. The big question is this, ‘WHY DIDN’T VIKTOR BELENKO WRITE HIS OWN BOOK?”

    • The KGB is long gone. Belenko is selfish.

      • So is everyone in the world, including Mother Theresa.

    • He stated that at the time his command of English wasn’t great. He looked over the finished product and stated that it was good.

    • If you knew Vik you would know that though he can now read and write English pretty well he hasn’t the skills to write a book, even in Russian, his native language. Barron did a good job with what he had to work with.

      Being human, Vik has the same set of human characteristics the rest of us have, vanity being one of them. Like all fighter pilots, he wants to look good. And he’s very competitive, especially where flying is involved. I saw him in action as a guest of the Miramar Naval Reserve pilots where we all had dinner at the Red Onion Restaurant in Costa Mesa, Ca. He challenged the squadron leader to an ariel dual where he would fly an F-5, similar in size and characteristics to a MiG-21. The jokes and commentary were a riot. They were all for it but before the mock combat could happen Reagan, newly elected, issued orders tightening up on govt. regs and the Base Commander had to refuse Belinko’s access to flying one of the “aggressor” F-5’s. Would have been interesting and fun, though.

  7. Does anyone know how to get in touch with Mr. Belenko? I just read John Barron’s book, and realized that Mr. Belenko is about 63 years old now and probably still living.

  8. Actually Mig Pilot was killed in a small plane crash about 10 years ago. He used to attend EAA Oshkosh where he made presentations about soviet military aviation.

    • It was Alexander Zuyev, who defected to Turkey in 1989 with his MiG-29, that was killed in 2001 in a small plane crash in Washington state.

      • True

  9. Viktor Belenko betrayed his Russian homeland in order to be true to a higher standard, that of the human spirit living within him. Yes, he was most definitely a traitor to Soviet Russia. However, given their awful humanitarian record and abysmal economic mismanagement, as well as the near slavery-like conditions, alcoholism, and intellectual dishonesty forced upon its citizens, one would have to be woefully uninformed to say he did the wrong thing. Betraying such a corrupt system was an act of selflessness and courage, born out of desperation as well as persecution. The persecution was not specific to him. He existed in a state of widespread and anonymous persecution, where everyone was the victim and the perpetrator. Escape was both a necessity and a miracle.

    Lieutenant Belenko did not choose to be born in Russia in order to betray it. He did not enlist in the Soviet Air Force so that he would eventually have something to trade in his eventual defection. At each stage in his life, he desired only to better himself, to avoid the pettiness and parasitism which surrounded him. He was a great man in a place which did not permit greatness. Before he could betray his country, it betrayed him. It betrayed him and millions more like him.

    It is chauvinism of the worst sort to expect an honorable man to say black is white, that misery is happiness, or that slavery is freedom, simply out of some misguided idea that he must support the government that happens to rule the land of his birth. The concepts of freedom, bravery, and honor are above national identity. Lieutenant Belenko, uninformed as he was, found his way to the right place for such ideals to blossom. As flawed as it is, the constitutional republic of America is the best system ever devised to give the most possible freedom to the highest possible number of its citizens. He was drawn to it as iron filings are to a magnet. To refuse that pull would have been the real betrayal.

    • Wow Mark, that was a great comment.

    • As for the USA becoming more “soshlust” somebody has been getting his brain washed by Faux News too long. Both political parties are crammed with millionaires, Congress and the White House are in the pocket of Wall Street, the Fed has completely debased the dollar and used up all credibility – and yet some yahoo still talks about “Obama the Socialist?” How about Bernanke? Is he a fifth-columnist for Beria? Why have none of the banksters gone to jail??

      Anyway what I came to note was that it was revealed the more than a few Germans still regard the von Stauffenberg-led assassination attempt against Hilter in 1944 as treason, with the logic that “They were soldiers who had sworn their fealty to the Fuehrer and they should have obeyed him”. I’m talking mostly about the elderly generation, of course.

      Ditto for the war crimes committed by Americans during the Vietnam War. “But what about the Viet Cong?” As though that would justify the carpet bombing, napalm, agent Orange etc.

      And of course the real awkward problem with the judgment at Nuremberg is that it leaves the door open for NATO soldiers (including the “do-no-evil Americans”) to refuse to obey an order which could constitute a “crime against humanity”.

      Guantanamo, anyone?

  10. Belenko was not married in Russia. He had a woman with a boy.
    Writer Barron wrote ‘Mig Pilot’ and he ‘converted’ that woman into Belenko’s wife. It was done for the emotional appeal for potential readers. Some of Belenko’s relatives moved to Canada.
    One time he was involved in BD-10 Jet test program. After 1996 he vanished from the aviation community. Perhaps he was killed during test flights.

    • Belenko was married to a 100% and the child was his. He is selfish. Children should not be thrown.

  11. Actually Belenko was the CIA agent. He was recruited in 1974 in Moscow . The British MI6 did assist CIA with his recruitment. They provided a woman agent who met Belenko at bar in Moscow.

  12. Greg – Bull. You write English with Russian accent.

  13. But one thing I’ll never understand. Why he left his family? For me, family is the most important thing in life! can not be selfish to an extent. After all, there were cases such as for example in Cuba. When the pilot returned to their families. Because of this, for me a traitor Belenko. Cause he left his family. This is not a male thing.

    • In the book “MiG Pilot,” it explained that his wife, Lyudmilla, came from a very different, more affluent background and was miserable living in a very barren military base in the middle of nowhere, and the poor condition of family housing didn’t help morale. They grew apart, and she finally demanded a divorce. She asked to take Viktor Jr. with her back to western Russia to live with her family. She also did not want him coming back to see his son. That pretty much sealed his decision to escape from the USSR; he had no one to come home to.

  14. What shall I say about a man like Viktor Belenko ? I don’ t know but I know one thing: I don’ t call him a traitor but I even don’ t call him a hero. In my eyes he just did what he had to do – fighting for a better life! Many People in this world do not have any possibilities to change anything in their lives but he had and he did it! Yes maybe it wasn’t the right way doing it like this but I think everyone in this world deserves a chance for a better life.

  15. The Germans who tried to kill Hitler during WWII are now heroes in Germany. Victor Belenko was a man who decided to fight against the Soviet regime, which was as criminal as was the Nazi regime. By all accounts, Victor Belenko was a freedom fighter and a hero.

    • History is always written by the victors

  16. Of course, defection of V.B. with his Foxbat was a great prize for US military. But for Soviet people it wasn’t only the act of defection. Due to his defection thousands of people had to tighten their belts. The big brother started working at full to prevent any defections in future. Strict limits were imposed on air force in some of their supplies (i.e. fuel). So basically he’s a traitor in his homeland and hero in the country he defected in.

  17. I read Belenko’s story many years ago, and it never occured to me to question his essential courage and honest motivation. The term “traitor” is inappropriate for a man escaping a totalitarian state, and only a complete moral relativist would make such a suggestion. Whatever Belenko’s personal moral flaws or confused premises, he is a hero and true. Mark Holt, (9 above) said it well. Bravo Belenko.

  18. he is a traitor

    • WRONG! He is a fine American… as fine a human being as you.

  19. I was serving in the military’s intelligence sector when Viktor defected and had the opportunity to hear him at one of his presentations. He’s a genuinely good person with desires to make things better for himself and for his country. I have not heard much about him since those early days after his defection. I have read Karen Reedstrom’s interview with Viktor Belenko in the November 1996 issue of Full Context. It was illuminating and consistent with all I learned about him.

    • What you say fits with what I know about him. He was my overnight house guest in Calif. in the ’80’s and Texas in 2004. He drinks like a fish. He and John Barron had a falling out and Vik wanted me to write a sequel about his life in the US. He was wanting to get too political and I declined. Vik is a good man.

    • Agree. I know him personally. A great American.

  20. Viktor was a traitor to Russia. BUT he is not a traitor to the one that counts, himself. In that he is a Hero. When you do something that you think is right and just, without regards to the sacrfices that have to be made, that is a hero. I, personally, have great respect and admiration for the man. He left his country without knowing what he was getting into. He could have been shot by the Americans or Japanese when he flew to Japan. But he did it anyways. That is a real hero. As for the Russians that have been posting on this subject; GET OVER IT! HE LEFT YOUR COUNTRY FOR HIS REASONS, SO DEAL WITH IT! I have been to Russia in the last 6 years (not to Moscow, but the Eastern part) and i would not want to live there either.

    • Agree!

  21. Balenko definitely a traitor! He was an elite member of the Soviet Armed Forces and received the best the system had to offer; a free advanced education, social status and the prestige of an officer with whatever privileges that entailed. It wasn’t enough for him.
    He turned his back on his country, his family, his squadron mates, who he drugged to keep them from pursuing him.
    He shot the young soldier assigned to guard his aircraft, a kid just doing his duty. Really slimeball behavior.
    He performed a service for the U.S. in delivering the aircraft. He was paid and protected. He did a job for us, but he shouldn’t be honored. He is a lowlife mercenary.
    If he had done that in the U.S. Air Force, i would hope he would have been shot out of the air, or executed on capture.

    • Drugged his unit? Shot a soldier? Go to to your mother Russia. You believe the lies that they said. When he left he did not have to drug anyone. 90% of the time his unit was drunk on the alcohol that was used in the aircraft. As for the shooting part, they did not guard the aircraft (still do not). And besides, he was scheduled to fly that day. Shooting the soldier would have alerted the base to the fact tht he was going to take the jet. Civilian scum! I was in the military and know that a shot fired alerts THE WHOLE BASE. Do not write something on boards like this unless you have a brain.

      • U are Correct he was on a regular flying mission that day he put the plane into a nose dive called mayday Mayday then pulled up 50 yards off the water and then put the power up all way to Japan to make it look like he had crashed so they would look in the ocean for him

      • Relax, Dan is merely confusing Viktor’s story with Alex Zuyev’s… And I’m sure Dan has all the documentation to back his story but I, for one, think he’s full of bullsh**. I applaud someone who betters themselves, despite growing up under a system like Vik describes. His primary goal was to be free, of secondary importance was aiding the west with his plane…that makes him more of a hero than a traitor. Don’t believe me? Put yourself in his shoes…I bet you change your mind real quick!

    • You’re more full of $hit than a Xmas turkey. I’ve lost touch with Vik but at one time we were good friends. He’s been my overnight house guest in both Calif in the 80’s and Texas in 2004. The MiG was his gift to the US when he discovered the USSR had been lying to him all his life. He’s a damn good man and a hot pilot. He’s still pi$$ed that we gave the MiG back. He and Chuck Yeager became good friends and they’d occasionally backpack into the boonies on hunting trips. Don’t write about things you know nothing about.

    • Seriously, what’s wrong with you?

    • The actions you describe are those done by Alex Zuyev who defected in a MiG-29 to Turkey many years after the Belenko defection. And yes, Zuyev was much more of a low life than Belenko.

    • VIKTOR BELENKO IS A HERO. I know him personally! I met Vik through my Dad in 1980 in Long Beach, CA. Dad got him on at Northrop as a consultant in the late 1970s. I know his story through his own account of what happened… and WHY it happened. His is a good person and anyone who doesn’t know him doesn’t know the truth about this fine American. The USA is a safer place for Vik. He started a new life in America after his defection in 1976. His information on the Russian air force and planes and military strategy was a treasure-trove of information for the USA. Man, can he drink the whiskey! Viktor Belenko is a true American… more than I can say about Barrack Obama! I am proud to say that Viktor Belenko is my friend. ~ Al Thompson – Torrance, CA.

    • Vik chose the USA over the USSR… that is being ‘American’ to me!

    • And just where did you get your information? Many on this site know/knew Vik personally and in depth. You obviously speak from an armchair and don’t know what you’re talking about. Vik has his faults, as we all do, but treachery isn’t one of them. He is also very kind and loyal to his friends. For example, he has taken care of an old pilot friend and his family who lost his legs in an air crash by sending monthly cash and making sure they’re cared for.

  22. I cannot answer for Belenko, so I will give him the benefit of a doubt.

    Having said that, as someone who knew Lt. No Kum-Sok–American name Kenneth Rowe, who defected with the MiG-15 from North Korea–personally, I can say that Mr. Higgins doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about.

    Mr. Rowe was/is a most honorable human being: a kind gentleman and a great professor. As someone who had him for a class during my days at Embry-Riddle, I can say that he was genuinely respected by everyone around him, including students and even his colleagues, some of whom who were hardened military veterans of the wars in Vietnam and Korea.

    What Rowe and his family experienced in North Korea would make Belenko’s account of Soviet life appear opulent. His escape from North Korea was nothing short of ballsy.

    As for the hero or traitor question, Lt. No Kum-Sok was and is a hero all the way. He exemplifies the very spirit that makes America a great country.

    • I fully agree. Thanks for the info.

  23. I am now in my 80’s and for five years in the early 80’s was head of the Advanced Fighters Crew Station Development Dept. of Northrop Aircraft, Hawthorne, Ca. With the help of another person who had connections I recruited Viktor so we could learn more about hiw Soviet aircraft were designed. For a while he was a Northrop employee. My wife, son, and I were guests at the Long Beach high-rise apartment where Vik and his blond ex-schoolteacher wife was staying. Vik made lasagna. Prior to that he had stayed overnight at my home in Huntington Beach.

    More recently, about five years ago, he spent a few days at my house in Texas, where I am retired. He, a lady friend of mine, and I ate fried rattlesnake and he drank up most of my expensive scotch. The purpose of his visit was to induce me to write a sequel to Mig-Pilot because he and Barron had had a falling out. I declined because he wanted to put in a lot of political stuff that people weren’t interested in. I did finish two chapters about his training and how he weas almost killed by Chechen men who caught him romancing a Chechen girl. Fortunately for Vik, when they took her for the women to inspect her virginity, she was still a virgin, so they let him go with a warning. Otherwise he would have been knifed.

    Vik defected when he found that his government hadbeen lying to him and everyone else about the USA and how bad life was compared to the USSR. The Soviet pilots were permitted to read a top secret periodical about American aircraft, which he found out later was nothing more than Aviation Week, which we can buy on the newsstand. I could go on and on, but there’s too much more to write about, so I’ll cut to the chase.

    When I first interviewed Vik in the Flamingo lounge on Hawthorne Blvd. I told him my first thought was that he might be a double agent, but after seeing how intelligent he was knew he wasn’t stupid enough to not see the advantages we have in America, and want to return to the USSR.

    In my book, Vik is neither traitor or hero. He was just getting back at a government that had fed him and his squadronmates nothing but packs of lies. If anything, vic is a hero for being true to hikself in a world of contradictions. Vik was alive and well when he left my house around 2005. I hope he’s doing OK and would like to see him again. An air of mystery is in the nature of Russians.

  24. Thank you Allen for your comment.
    One of my question. I’m reading the mig-pilot and what troubles so far as my mind is how he was able to leave USSR without Dimitri. As a father, and as many of here, I cannot understand how his thirst for freedom can suffice to leave Russia.

    JF – France

    • He was not really close to his wife and son. They were elite Muscovites and Vik told me she was constantly harping and bitching about having to live outside of Moscow at a poorly constructed air base. He knew that with her connections they would be OK. He just knew that he wanted out of an oppressive system that had been lying to its people to keep them under control.

      • Man, are you trying to brainwash people? What’s going’ on with you?

  25. Viktor Belenko was the CIA agent.
    The KGB is the looser!
    All stories about his Russian wives and children were fabricated.

    • You obviously haven’t read anything about Viktor or know anything about him. BTW, it was “wife” (singular), not “wives.” His second wife was a blond American schoolteacher. They are now divorced.

    • Lena, are you a Russian spy? Are YOU KGB? Obviously, you don’t know the truth about him. It’s all confirmed and reported from numerous sources. Please, educate yourself, or, if you are who you lead us to believe you are, go back to Russia and help bring the USSR back to life.

  26. I met viktor at a naval base in Texas during one of his presentations, namely chase field, beeville texas. I ask him a couple of questions and shook hands with him. He was a non imposing regular looking guy, somewhat lite complected with freckels, redish hair. He seemed earnest in his intentions, to give as much assistance as possible to a free society, that enables its people to attain the most of their potential. He somewhat elaborated on his first impressions of this country when he was taken to a typical shopping mall. He said he thought it was a big show and asked why black people were allowed to walk around freely, as in his country he was taught they were all slaves. He said the soviet union had show places like the mall that weren’t real, and he wanted to know why they had gone to so much trouble on his behalf. Of course after awhile he realized this was typical in America, not a show. I shall never forget the experience, to acrually be in the presence of a man of extrodinary experience.

  27. Interesting to read all the comments and updates that have been added over the years.

    Vik spoke to many groups and always said that a fighter pilot usually makes a poor husband due to personality traits common to fighter pilots. There are, of course, quite a few exceptions.

    I know Vik to be a man of integrity and compassion. After settlement in the US he kept in touch with some of his old squadron mates via an assumed name. One of his old friends lost both legs in an accident. Vik helped take care of his needs financially. He didn’t have to do that.

    BTW, Vic wasn’t Soviet Air Force. He was Army. The MiG-25 Foxbat was an Army interceptor designed to counter the B-70, which we didn’t produce because of its huge radar image. By that time we were into stealth. Fully armed and heavy with rockets and fuel the wings would come off at hard maneuvers of over 2 G’s. It was designed for a high speed straight line dash intercept over great distances. It had twin Tumansky engines originally designed for transport planes. Also, there was no titanium or even stainless. Tubes were used instead of transistors in the avionics because they were powerful, rugged, and an ignorant Mongol could be trained to use a tube tester in less than an hour. Medical alcohol was used in the hydraulics. It was a masterpiece of design to get a specific high performance intercept on the cheap.

    We learned a lot from Vik’s gift. He betrayed the USSR only when he learned they had been betraying him for years.

    • I met Vik through you. Thank you. He is a fine human being and a good friend to us… and America.

  28. HERO TO AMERICA –> The ONLY country that counts!

    I have known “Vic” (Viktor Belenko) since the late1970s/early-1980s. Met him through my Father around 1979-1980. We had many fun, pleasant and enlightening conversations about life, family, politics and aircraft.

    I found Viktor (Vic) to be a great person, polite with a sense of humor and very intelligent. He has become a great American patriot. Loved his stories about life in the Soviet Union, the Soviet Air Force and other related subjects. Vic has become an American patriot who is as loyal (or more) as many home-grown Americans.

    Anyone who says otherwise does not know Mr. Viktor Belenko personally as I, and merely thinks or says what the liberal-bias media wants them to think about this great man.

    I am proud to call Mr. Viktor Belenko “Friend”.

    ~ Al Thompson III (Los Angeles, CA area)

  29. Vik, your comments about the USSR and the USA are extremely interesting and highly entertaining because you give your own honest impressions and summeries. You tell the simple truth from your own experiences and unusual life. We who work for peaceful solutions to the stupid cold war today are grateful for your personal story and explainations to the contradicting living conditions of our two countries. I am impressed by your recent attempts to solve our differences. Try hard to get enemies talking together discussing instead of shouting, shooting, bombing.

  30. Vik, your comments….

    Regards, John Arnold Lohne, Gothenburg, Sweden

  31. Viktor Belenko is a traitor. Remember “nobody likes a traitor, even when the traitor is on your side.” Did the British appreciate Benedict Arnold when he joined the ranks? No. I simply don’t understand why the Soviet Union didn’t spend much effort to hunt Belenko down and execute him, or why the US didn’t deny Belenko asylum. If the US hates traitors, why would they allow one to live on its territory? I acknowledge that the Soviet regime was far from paradise. But that isn’t an excuse to commit an act of treason. Remember those who lost their lives trying to overthrow the czar so the Soviet Union could be born. I am American, but I can still respect those who valiantly fought against the alleged tyranny of the czar in the hopes of a new nation. The Soviet Union did not turn out to be what it was meant to be, but lets not forget those who gave their lives, their hopes, and their hearts and soul just to build the nation they envisioned. Viktor Belenko took all of that and threw it out the window. He attacked the Soviet Union’s weakness during its weakest times. He stomped on the hard work that so many had died fighting for. And Viktor Belenko didn’t have to defect from the Soviet Union. He could have simply just immigrated undercover to the US and never looked back. But no, he simply had to fly his MiG 25 to Japan and didn’t even try to stop whoever examined his plane, abandoning his friends, family, and the citizens who were starving behind. And to add insult to injury, he even brought the pilot’s manual, which probably contained the technological secrets of his plane so that the US could destroy the only defense of the Soviet Union at that time. Even if Belenko admired the US, it is a fact that he was born in the Soviet Union, making him a Soviet citizen, and making it totally unacceptable for him to defect to his nation’s enemy carrying secrets that could potentially compromise his own countries defense and security.

    • Oh, and top of that, as a Russian, he was obligated to protect the citizens of his own country. He was there last line of defense. Yet this guy, this Soviet Benedict Arnold, ABANDONED HIS OWN PEOPLE!! Take that into account, people