Overseas Trade Offer

Austin Nickell, Writer

On February 17, Brittney Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star, was swapped out for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. ABC News states that the basketball star was taken into custody at a Moscow airport in February in possession of vaping cartridges with hashish oils, which is an illegal substance in Russia. Griner pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Through negotiation between Russia and President Biden, President Biden took actions into his own hands and reached out to Russia to see if there was a possible trade they could make to get Griner back. ABC News reported that the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was traded for Brittney Griner and is now home in Russia. 

From CNN, the man named “The Merchant of Death,” was released from custody on Thursday. “A former Soviet military officer, was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization.” 

CNN also states that, “along with the swap of Griner and Viktor, US President Joe Biden did not include another American that the State Department has declared wrongfully detained, Paul Whelan. Whelan was arrested on alleged espionage charges in 2018 and sentenced to 16 – years in prison in a trial that US officials called unfair. Both families during these times urged the White House to secure their release, but only one was agreed upon, with the release of an American terrorist and a basketball player.” 

People from all over America have a different view and opinion on the situation. Was it of the best interest to release an arms dealer in the middle of a war where Russia needs help, or was it a good option to get back a US citizen? Even though there were two options, Paul Whelan was a former Marine who was head of global security for BorgWarner and was then arrested December 28, 2018, but was also said to be dishonorably discharged for some of the actions he took in Iraq and during his time in BorgWarner. People still talk about the prisoner swap as a bad swap as a Russian arms dealer for a basketball player; or a good trade as we were able to get a respectable prisoner back from Russia.