This week, thankfully, an American is back home after being imprisoned and exploited in Vladimir Putin’s brutalist Russia.
Well, one of them, at least.
Brittney Griner, American professional basketball player, was arrested in Russia nearly 300 days ago after a marijuana oil vape pen was found in her luggage. In typical fashion, the Kremlin turned the arrest in to a hostage situation, with bald-faced tit-for-tat negotiations about how to free Griner from her 9 year labor camp sentence.
In order to bring Brittney home, the White House made a rather profound deal, allowing Russia to repatriate, (and essentially free), the so-called “Merchant of Death”.
This, unsurprisingly, has the Pentagon a tad bit alarmed.
Some Pentagon officials are concerned that convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was released on Thursday in a prisoner swap for American basketball star Brittney Griner, could return to illegally trafficking weapons, potentially fueling conflicts across the world.
While officials in the Pentagon applauded Griner’s release, some are worried about the impact of Bout’s return, particularly in Africa. Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization.
The worry runs deep at the DOD.
“I think there is a concern that [he] would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past,” said one senior Defense Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.
With Bout back in Russia, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stressed that “our national security interest is not going to change.”
Americans expressed their opinions about the swap online this week, with many suggesting that Russia may have gotten away with one here.