The Biden administration is coming under heavy fire for its prisoner exchange of WNBA star Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. While critics are happy Griner is on her way home, they are not pleased a man called the merchant of death is free.
Bout was originally arrested in 2008, and extradited to the U.S. in 2010, the same time former DEA Chief of Operations Michael Braun described him as, “one of the most dangerous men on the face of the earth.”
In 2011 Bout was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Bout agreed to sell a Columbian terrorist group surface to air missiles, 30,000 AK-47s, tens of millions of rounds of ammunition, C4, and lightweight planes outfitted with grenade launchers.
According to Politico, senior officials at the Pentagon are concerned Bout will go back to doing the same type of work he’s done in the past.
“This is not a deal, this is not a swap, this is a surrender. Terrorists and rogue states all around the world will take note of this and it endangers other Americans in the future that can be grabbed and used as bargaining chips,” former National Security Advisor John Bolton said on CBS.
Bolton said Former President Donald Trump declined the chance to swap Bout for ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is still detained in Russia.
The Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said releasing Bout back into the world is a “deeply disturbing decision.”
“The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griners of the world and people like Viktor Bout,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
The White House addressed the concern and said they will continue to hold nations accountable who wrongfully detain Americans through sanctions and visa ban requirements.
“I think any nation that would come away from this trade thinking, ‘oh well there’s a license, I can just go do this’ would be making a dangerous presumption,” John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council said in an interview with PBS. “At the same time we need to think about the signal it sends to the American people that if you do everything right and if you still get wrongfully detained in a country, your government’s not going to forget you. And we might be having to make some difficult decisions.”
But while America was ultimately the country to give Bout back to Russia, as former CIA case officer Jack Rice explained to Straight Arrow News, getting him into custody was a worldwide effort that took years.
“The intelligence communities, not just the Americans, but the Brits, the Germans, the French, and others, were all involved. In this case, everybody was trying to nail this guy down,” Rice said.
Griner arrived back on U.S. soil Friday morning, Bout arrived in Moscow Thursday.