The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Not Since ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ Has Anyone Made a Worse Trade Than This

Posted on | December 9, 2022 | 1 Comment

Arms dealer Viktor Bout (left); basketball player Brittney Griner (right)

A textbook example of what bargaining from a position of weakness looks like: The U.S. released an infamous terrorist arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death” for a lesbian dopehead basketball player.

One need not be biased against lesbians or marijuana users — “Why, some of my best friends . . .” — to see what’s wrong with this deal. Nor is it necessary, in criticizing the Biden administration’s fecklessness, to forget that Vladimir Putin is a bad guy, and that the prosecution and imprisonment of Brittney Griner was essentially about hostage-taking.

Even if you are deeply sympathetic to cannabis consumers and lesbians, and deeply hostile to Putin’s regime, still one must recognize this: In negotiating with authoritarians, a democracy is always at a disadvantage, because the antagonist is essentially immune to public opinion.

Sure, Putin is a tyrant and, sure, nine years in prison is a conspicuously harsh sentence for cannabis possession, but there are other Americans serving prison sentences in foreign countries for crimes that might have gotten them only probation in U.S. cities with slap-on-the-wrist prosecutors like George Gascón and Larry Krasner.

Russia’s prosecution of Griner was obviously part of a propaganda strategy, at a time when Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made him an international pariah, and the bottom line is, it worked.

Because Brittney Griner “checked all the boxes” — gay, female, minority — and is something of a celebrity in the world of sports (never mind that almost nobody watches women’s basketball) the Russians knew very well that her prosecution would make her a valuable symbol and thereby expose Biden to enormous interest-group pressure.

The Russians had long wanted to get Viktor Bout released:

On 2 November 2011, Bout was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to the minimum 25 years’ imprisonment because the crime was due to [a U.S.] operation. . . .
On 18 November 2010, shortly after Bout’s extradition to the United States, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s aide Sergei Prikhodko said that Russia had “nothing to hide” in Bout’s criminal case stating, “it is in our interest that the investigation … be brought to completion, and [Bout] should answer all the questions the American justice system has.
On 18 January 2013, Russian government officials announced that “judges, investigators, justice ministry officials and special services agents who were involved in Russian citizens Viktor Bout’s and Konstantin Yaroshenko’s legal prosecution and sentencing to long terms of imprisonment” would be added to a list of U.S. officials who will be denied Russian entry visas in response to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, under which certain Russian officials are ineligible to enter the U.S.
It is thought that Bout was of help to Russia’s intelligence agencies, and he is alleged to have connections to ranking Russian officials, including former deputy prime minister Igor Sechin.

So, Bout wasn’t just an arms dealer, he was a GRU “asset,” and in order to spring him from U.S. prison, the Russians needed something to offer in exchange — this was a motive for hostage-taking, which may explain why, in 2018, tourist Paul Whelan found himself arrested, charged with being a spy in what was obviously a set-up arranged by the FBS (successor agency to the KGB) and sentenced to 16 years. The blunt-force crudeness of the “spying” case against Whelan might have been justified in Russian minds by the fact that Viktor Bout’s arrest was the result of a U.S. “sting” operation: “You set up our guy, we set up your guy.” Except, of course, there is zero reason to believe Whelan was “our guy” at all, whereas Bout’s connections to the GRU were plainly apparent.

As a pawn to exchange for Viktor Bout, Paul Whelan may have been useful with Donald Trump in the White House, but when the Biden administration took over, the Russians seem to have calculated that a Democrat wouldn’t trade a terrorist arms dealer for a mere middle-aged white guy, and thus the arrest of Brittney Griner.

The Biden administration bought it, hook, line and sinker.

“[Brittney Griner] represents the best America — the best about America — just across the board, everything about her.”
Joe Biden

She is a symbol, you see? And because Democrats are controlled by this kind of symbolism, they played right into Putin’s hands, trading the family cow for some magic beans, as it were.



One Response to “Not Since ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ Has Anyone Made a Worse Trade Than This”

  1. Weekend News/Politics/Opinions Linkfest - The DaleyGator
    December 9th, 2022 @ 8:34 pm

    […] The Other McCain notes that Team Biden is like the Minnesota Vikings where trades are concerned […]