Russia’s barbaric autocrat, Vladimir Putin, is about to achieve another diplomatic victory over the United States.
Joe Biden has reportedly agreed to release from US prison the biggest illegal international arms dealer, Viktor Bout, and return him to the Russians in exchange for the freedom of WNBA player Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
Putin’s Bargaining Chips
The readiness of the Biden administration to exchange Bout for a basketball player and an ex-Marine has been reported by several outlets.
It has not been officially confirmed by the US government, but senior Biden administration officials, such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security spokesman John Kirby, made comments hinting the reports are correct.
WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February, shortly before Putin started the war against Ukraine, on drug trafficking charges.
There have been suspicions that Russians took her into custody only to use her as a bargaining chip to extort concessions from the United States; they seemingly have succeeded in that.
Griner, earlier this month, pleaded guilty to the charges, seemingly with hopes to be released in a prisoner exchange. She made headlines back in 2020 by protesting against the American flag.
Whelan, a former member of the US Marine Corps, is serving a 16-year-long sentence for spying charges and has been in Russian custody since 2018.
In April this year, the Biden administration freed another former US Marine, Trevor Reed, from a Russian prison by exchanging him for a Russian pilot specializing in the smuggling of vast quantities of illicit drugs.
I obviously want Griner and Whelan free, but this is a questionable and difficult decision by the Biden Administration. Viktor Bout, AKA "Merchant of Death," should never see the light of day or exit a U.S. prison. https://t.co/qMbQaNSqHE
— Matthew Lownes (@LownesMatthew) July 27, 2022
Sources tell @ABC News that the U.S. is offering Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for WNBA superstar Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, both of whom are held in Russia. https://t.co/Twa69CWlHE
— ABC News (@ABC) July 27, 2022
The Biden administration has offered to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, per @CNN
Griner has been detained for 160 days. pic.twitter.com/iGcpT8P07v
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 27, 2022
Putin’s Reward: Top Arms Smuggler Amid Sanctions
In exchange for Griner and Whelan, Putin is going to have back Viktor Bout, also known as the Merchant of Death.
This is a man so notorious that he even inspired the 2005 Hollywood film “Lord of War,” where a version of him was played by Nicolas Cage.
The arms smuggler is presently serving a 25-year sentence for arms trafficking in a US prison in Illinois.
Bout managed to sell abroad entire military-grade Soviet Era arsenals featuring thousands of small arms, more than 700 Soviet surface-to-air-missile missiles, planes armed with grenade launchers, and advanced military helicopters.
His list of clients is quite long and features extremely dangerous individuals and entities, such as the Taliban Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan, Colombian Communist rebels FARC, late dictator of Libya Muammar Gaddafi.
They also include a number of dictatorships and violent guerrilla movements in African countries such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Viktor Bout can be of great use to the Putin regime, considering how the Russians are now running low on various types of arms, due to the war in Ukraine.
They have been seeking ways to pull out or buy back weapons and ammunition from different countries and non-state actors around the world.
US says 'substantial offer' on the table for Russia to release detainees Griner, Whelan – @EURACTIV https://t.co/TM3bdczx7S Apparently a swap with arms trader Viktor Bout is in progress
— Georgi Gotev & EURACTIV.bg (@GeorgiGotev) July 28, 2022