Prisoner Swap Proposed

Russia is prepared to discuss a prisoner swap with Washington. The White House has proposed a deal with Russia for the release of US Olympic basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner and US Marine Paul Whelan. CBS News states that there is no official confirmation that Washington would exchange Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout for Griner and Whelan. Bout has earned the nickname the “Merchant of Death” for his role in supplying weapons to both sides of bloody conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone. In 2011 Bout was convicted in federal court for conspiring to commit acts of terrorism against the US.

Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony for “possessing and smuggling narcotics.” In February Griner was detained in Moscow after she was found carrying vape cartridges with cannabis oil.

“I want the court to understand that it was an honest mistake that I made while rushing, under stress, trying to recover from post-Covid and just trying to get back to my team,” Griner claimed before the ruling. It is clear that Russia is using Griner as a tool to release Russian prisoners like Viktor Bout. The US should do everything they can to bring Griner home, but not at the cost of releasing Bout. This move could make the US vulnerable to future incidents where Americans are wrongfully detained to be used as bargaining chips in future prisoner swaps. Former FBI hostage negotiator, Rob Saale stated that a Griner/Bout prisoner swap would send a message to other countries that “if you want something from the U.S. government you just take some Americans and trump up some charges.” (USA Today) Griner has been detained in Russia for over 6 months now. 

Viktor Bout convicted in 2011 for conspiring to commit terrorism against the US (Provided by Getty) (Nicolas Asfouri)