Worst trade ever? Saudis broker Biden swap of Russia’s ‘Merchant of Death’ for anti-U.S. WNBA player

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, December 8, 2022

In what many observers are calling the worst trade in history, Team Biden has swapped notorious Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” for an America-hating WNBA star in Brittney Griner who just happens to check all the right boxes.

Joe Biden signed the commutation order cutting short Bout’s 25-year federal prison sentence.

Brittney Griner, left, and Viktor Bout

One commenter summarized the controversial exchange for Bout:

“It took nearly 10 years for the U.S. to apprehend Viktor Bout, and close to 3 more years to convict him for terrorism and arms trafficking. Allegedly, thousands of civilians in multiple African countries were injured and killed by weapons supplied by Bout. Fair trade for Griner?”

In making the deal, Team Biden also left U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan to languish in a Russian prison. Whelan has been in Russian custody for nearly four years, far longer than Griner was held. He was convicted on espionage charges that the U.S. has called false.

The Daily Mail is calling the Griner-Bout swap a “deal soaked in blood” after the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Russia confirmed that Griner’s release for Bout came via Saudi/UAE mediation efforts led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Just 48 hours before the exchange, Team Biden dropped a lawsuit holding MBS responsible for the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In the Kremlin the announcement was reportedly seen as a “New Year’s gift” to bring home Bout, a former KGB officer who sold arms to human rights abusers in Africa and was linked to deals with the Taliban and Al Qaida.

The 32-year-old Griner was flown from Moscow to Abu Dhabi on a private jet on Thursday morning and walked across the tarmac to her plane past “Merchant of Death” Bout. Griner was facing nine years in a Russian penal colony, where she was expected to toil in sweatshop conditions while sewing for 12 hours or more per day.

The news was met with anger by supporters of Whelan, who remains in Russian prison. Republicans condemned leaving Whelan behind as “unconscionable” and said the White House was focused on “celebrities” over veterans detained by Putin.

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, noting that Bout had been convicted of conspiring to kill American law enforcement, said: “This is a gift to Vladimir Putin, and it endangers American lives. Leaving Paul Whelan behind for this is unconscionable.”

Florida Republican Rep. Mike Waltz said: “Where is U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly held by Russia for far longer? Celebrities over veterans?”

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