The Biden administration’s decision to release Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for WNBA player Brittney Griner has been met with swift backlash from Republican lawmakers. Dubbed the “Merchant of Death” due to his arms dealing business, Bout was sentenced to 25 years in a U.S. prison for conspiring to kill Americans, conspiracy to deliver anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News that the move was a “big win for Putin” and criticized the administration for not securing the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in coordination with the swap. “It’s not an equal exchange,” McCarthy said.
Bout has claimed that he is not of “any particular value to the Russian government” and that his case got caught up in geopolitics. However, a senior defense official acknowledged that “there is a concern that [Bout] would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past.”
The move by the Biden administration has been met with widespread criticism and has cast doubt on the president’s foreign policy decisions.
As Republicans continue to slam the administration for its handling of the situation, it remains to be seen what the consequences will be for both Bout and Griner.