WNBA star Brittney Griner was released after a 10-month stint in a Russian prison in December. Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison after carrying less than 1 gram of cannabis oil on Russian soil, where drug possession is punishable by up to two years in hard labor. However, since Griner brought cannabis from the U.S. to Russia, she was tried for smuggling, which carries a five to ten-year sentence. Griner pled guilty to the charge.
Individuals championed her successes at the WNBA stage, her 2x-gold medal accolades, and her influence in the LGBTQ+ community.
While Griner served this sentence, many U.S. individuals roared for her freedom.
Her case generated significant national attention, both positive and negative. Many social media users criticized her decision to attempt to bring cannabis to Russia or simply did not care because she was a so-called irrelevant WNBA player.
Now, Griner is back on American soil. The cost: freeing the “Merchant of Death,” one of the most prolific arms dealers in modern history.
His name? Viktor Bout. Bout is a notorious Russian arms dealer with deep ties to terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Latin America.
Bout capitalized on the fall of the Soviet Union by moving to the UAE to start a “cargo company,” growing this company by using his connections in the former Soviet Union to transport Soviet-era arms to terrorist groups. Bout frequently traveled to Afghanistan, selling arms to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and indiscriminately armed both sides of the conflict
In Israel, Bout frequently visited the terrorist group Hezbollah, a major Shiite political and militant group, with their “main enemy” as Israel.
Hezbollah continues to be a major issue for Israeli stability.
Hezbollah’s “international network is expanding,” as they are “import[ing] more than a million gallons of fuel from Iran via a passage through Syria, violating U.S. sanctions,” Kale Robinson of the Center of Foreign Affairs reports.
Hezbollah bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983, U.S. Marine bases in Beirut, and have targeted nations such as Cyprus and Bulgaria in terrorist bombings.
In 2008, U.S. authorities caught Bout in Thailand. DEA agents acted as members of the FARC, an alt-left terrorist group in Colombia, to meet with Bout for an agreed arms deal.
Bout chased profits without being wary of the consequences– expanding terror conflict and killing thousands.
Bout’s release signals to the rest of the world that the current administration is willing to bend its knee for political scores. In a Fox Interview, Fmr. Sec of State Mike Pompeo argued that “all the bad guys who hold Americans in detention see that if you take a celebrity, the chance of getting one of your bad guys back out of American control is greater.”
This deal sets a precedent where adversarial nations may target high-profile Americans in exchange for favorable deals. Overall, U.S. influence appears weaker after this Bout-Grinner deal. Government personnel, such as the members of the Pentagon, exclaimed their concerns to the Biden administration.