by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, slammed President Joe Biden Thursday for releasing notorious terrorist Viktor Bout in exchange for Brittney Griner.
Griner, who has a criminal record in the U.S. stemming from a domestic violence incident several years ago, was arrested in Russia back in February on drug charges, charges to which she pled guilty.
In exchange for Griner, Biden released Bout, a Russian weapons trafficker who was convicted on terrorism charges back in 2011 for trying to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the purpose of shooting down U.S. Military helicopters.
“This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans,” Menendez said in a statement. “The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griners of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death.’ Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision.”
“We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try to do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention,” he continued.
Menendez’s statement mentioned U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, who was not rescued by the Biden administration from his jail cell in Russia.
“My heart also goes out to the families of other American citizens in Russian prisons and labor camps, including Paul Whelan,” the statement concluded.