Biden administration encourages hostage-taking by trading ‘Merchant of Death’ for Brittney Griner

Biden administration encourages hostage-taking by trading ‘Merchant of Death’ for Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner before here release in prisoner exchange

The Biden administration is encouraging foreign countries to take Americans hostage, or give them long sentences, by trading a convicted Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death” for Brittney Griner, a WNBA player who was given a harsh 9-year sentence by a Russian court for illegally possessing drugs in Russia. The Biden administration could have traded the arms dealer for U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who served his country, and was convicted of spying — probably a trumped up charge — by Russia, and has been imprisoned for four years. Instead, it traded the arms dealer for Griner, who appears to be guilty of the offense for which she was convicted.

This appears to be a very bad choice by the Biden administration, to leave an American servicemember trapped in Russia while bribing Russia to release an actual offender. If Whelan is innocent, as is likely the case, his release should have been a higher priority than Griner’s because of his innocence. Even if he were guilty of spying for the U.S., that would only show that he was working for the U.S., and that the U.S. should have made his release a priority as a way of rewarding his loyalty. Either way, Griner was the wrong person to get released in exchange for the “Merchant of Death.”

As CBS notes, “Notably, the Griner-for-Bout exchange leaves retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan imprisoned in Russia. Whelan has been in Russian custody for nearly four years. He was convicted on espionage charges that the U.S. has called false.”

The Biden administration has released a Russian arms dealer who may have caused the death of many people, known as The Merchant of Death, in exchange for a single guilty person who violated another county’s laws. He was serving a 25-year sentence, far longer than Griner’s.

Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was held for months in Russian prisons on drug charges, was released Thursday in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a U.S. official. The one-for-one exchange agreement negotiated with Moscow in recent weeks was given final approval by President Biden within just the last week, according to sources familiar with the deal. The swap took place on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates. …

To secure Griner’s release, the president ordered Bout to be freed and returned to Russia. Mr. Biden signed the commutation order cutting short Bout’s 25-year federal prison sentence.

As Ed Morrisey notes at Hot Air, the arms dealer Biden released is a very bad man who fueled conflicts that killed hundreds of thousands of people:

Bout helped stoke conflicts around the world, from Afghanistan to Colombia, which is where he crossed the line with the US. Bout supplied arms to FARC at a time when they targeted Americans (among others), but Bout had been rumored to be dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda as well. It’s not difficult to imagine where Putin would like Bout to apply his talents now that he’s freed — the “annexed” areas of Ukraine — but we can probably bet that Bout will spread his wings a bit farther afield once staked and connected again. And that will likely put American lives at risk in places like Syria, Iraq, various African countries, and so on.

Trading Bout for Griner rather than Whelan makes little sense, notes Morrisey:

This makes little sense….The US insists that Whelan wasn’t a spy, but even if he wasn’t an intel asset, he’s still a former Marine. That should count for something in terms of priority along with the length of his incarceration in Russia. If this is the only deal on the table, then this looks like a poor choice.

A possible explanation for the disparate treatment of Griner and Paul Whelan is that Griner is a black lesbian, and Whelan is a straight white male, and thus is less fashionable among woke White House staffers. Many progressives on Twitter celebrated Griner’s release because she is a “gay, black woman,” including teachers union head Randi Weingarten.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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