Patterico's Pontifications

12/8/2022

Brittney Griner Swapped for Viktor Bout; Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel Remain Imprisoned in Russia

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:12 pm



[guest post by JVW]

We’ve discussed Brittney Griner a few times over the past few months, so rather than go over that story I just want to give you my gut reaction to the news today that she has been swapped for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence on charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. officials and for aiding terrorist states.

I’m glad she’s home. Her sentence was grossly unjust considering the fact that other Americans have been arrested in Russia on similar charges and either had the charges dropped in return for immediately leaving the country or else been granted clemency after the perfunctory conviction and sent home. While it was fantastically stupid of her to have brought hash oil into Russia, it was a product that she had been legally using in the United States, and perhaps had been prescribed it by her doctor. I do think, however, that her carelessness and stupidity in putting herself in this position should come with consequences, so I would hope that the State Department will revoke her passport, if possible, and make her permanently ineligible for overseas travel. At the very least, her days representing USA Basketball internationally should be long over, though it remains to be seen if she can even return to the WNBA after this past ten months of trauma.

Exchanging an international arms dealer believed to be behind thousands of deaths in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia for a pothead athlete was a ridiculously lopsided trade, sort of like giving away a lobster dinner for a fish stick. But Brittney Griner has all sorts of intersectionality cred going for her, and three major interest groups vital to Democrats and the Biden Administration’s political fortunes lobbied heavily for the Administration to bring Brittney home, turning her into a cause célèbre among our cultural gatekeepers. Her professional basketball league, the WNBA, adopted her as a living martyr by celebrating her throughout this past season, and her family appeared to have a direct line to the White House to keep Brittney in the public eye.

Ironically enough, this full-court press (to mix in a basketball cliché) seems to have had the effect of greatly reducing the prospects for another American prisoner be included in the swap. As late as August, CNN was reporting that U.S. negotiators were working with their Russian counterparts on a deal that would have added Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who worked as a security director for an automotive parts maker which did business in Russia and had been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on charges of spying (Whelan and the U.S. deny the allegations). But it’s not all that difficult to believe that Putin and his henchmen observed the pressure that was being brought to bear on the Biden Administration to rescue the female, black, lesbian basketball player, and they no doubt rightly concluded that she was a valuable enough commodity that they did not have to add Mr. Whelan or Marc Fogel, an American teacher imprisoned since August 2021 on nearly identical charges to Ms. Griner’s, as part of the deal.

In a crazy way, the WNBA, NBA, and all of the civil rights, gay rights, and feminist groups who made Brittney Griner a constant news item probably doomed the short-term chances of getting Mr. Whelan or Mr. Fogel returned to their loved ones. To their credit, the Griner family has spoken out on their sympathy for the Whelan family and vowed to continue to help work for his release, and the Whelan family in return has been very gracious about Brittney Griner being moved to the front of the queue. Curiously enough, not much is heard about Marc Fogel, but that could be because he’s just an ordinary everyday American citizen, not a B-list celebrity drenched in intersectionality or a guy whose life sounds like it might make a great movie starring Tom Cruise. It would be nice if all of those Legions of Woke who pushed for the immediate return of Brittney Griner — spare no cost! deny no demands! — take up for Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel, but somehow I think that the plight of Americans held in Russia is going to take a backseat to our frivolous media going forward. President Biden himself assured us in his press conference today that the Whelan case remains a priority for his Administration, but it would seem that poor Mr. Fogel is the forgotten man, except for maybe by his Congressman.

I’m glad that Brittney Griner is home, but this was a huge diplomatic win for Russia and a quizzical defeat for the U.S. It beggars belief that our negotiators couldn’t have packaged Marc Fogel in with Ms. Griner; no one in Russia likely cared about him or would have passed up the photo opportunity of bringing Viktor Bout home just to keep an American medical marijuana-smoking schoolteacher incarcerated. And now we would appear to be out of high-ranking assets to trade. So great job all around, Brandon. The “professionals” in the Biden Administration better hope that some transgender Latinx pop singer doesn’t get caught in St. Petersburg with an underaged prostitutka or else we’ll probably have to sell out Ukraine to get zir home.

– JVW

95 Responses to “Brittney Griner Swapped for Viktor Bout; Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel Remain Imprisoned in Russia”

  1. tl,dr: I’m glad Brittney Griner was released, but the Biden State Department negotiated like a bunch of suckers at the poker table, largely because woke Democrat politics forced them into a bad deal. Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel are clear victims of this ineptitude.

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  2. I think it’s time to start referring to Fogel and Whelan as “hostages.”

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  3. I think it’s time to start referring to Fogel and Whelan as “hostages.”

    The goddam Biden Administration won’t even designate Fogel as being “unlawfully incarcerated,” a designation they were very quick to grant Brittney Griner.

    Maybe there is something to Marc Fogel’s case that we are unaware of — i.e., maybe he’s guilty as sin and really was sharing his weed with students or whatever other nonsense the Russians alleged — but I can’t shake the sinking feeling that he’s being ignored largely because he is a relative nobody without a huge media and culture lobby advocating for his release. I just can’t wrap my head around why he couldn’t have been included in this deal.

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  4. The exchange with a gun-running felon for Ms. Griner was a bad deal, but I’ll reserve most of my condemnation for the dictator who decided to hold American citizens hostage under bogus pretenses.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  5. Biden Ronald Klain and company will seize upon any opportunity to spike the political football, consequences be damned. He they did it with Afghanistan, inflation “reduction”, student loans, and now this.

    norcal (862cdb)

  6. . . . I’ll reserve most of my condemnation for the dictator who decided to hold American citizens hostage under bogus pretenses.

    But certainly you will spare some condemnation for an Administration which prioritizes political pressure from key interests groups in determining whose release they will aggressively seek, right? And I have to say — while once again acknowledging that I am pleased she has been freed — that Brittney Griner, her agent, the WNBA, and everyone else certainly knew what kind of dictator Vladimir Putin was when she agreed to accept employment in his country. If I take a high-paying job in North Korea is anyone going to be shocked if I get into a slight bit a trouble for a very minor violation (or even if I am the victim of phony charges) and find myself with a multi-year sentence in some Pyongyang hell hole?

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  7. Russia has designated Whelan a more serious criminal threat to the Kremlin. While the charges are bogus and Russia knows that, an American female and WMBA player poses far less of a threat. Thus, she was easier to give up. The problem of course is that ratio of threat of Bout and Griner is incredibly lopsided. We got played, certainly, but isn’t one “hostage” freed better than no hostage freed? I think so.

    With that, I am happy that she is home. Hopes that Biden meant it when he said this morning that his administration would not stop negotiating to get Whelan home too.

    Dana (1225fc)

  8. @1/@3. JVW, they are so damn bad at statecraft. Xi and Vlad know it, too. If they were at Appomattox they’d have surrendered the Union to Lee.

    DCSCA (3cc7f5)

  9. We got played, certainly, but isn’t one “hostage” freed better than no hostage freed? I think so.

    An important part of any negotiation is being willing to walk away if you think the terms are unfair. Marc Fogel was arrested and convicted six months before Brittney Griner. The Biden Administration should have insisted that a package deal of Fogel & Griner for Bout be the end result, and should have walked away if Russia demurred. Yes, the Biden Administration would have been under tremendous pressure from left-wing groups over this, and yes, it may be that Putin didn’t care one bit about freeing Bout beyond the diplomatic win and would have been fine with no deal. But what we delivered today was a absolute coup for Putin, while at the same time showing the world that we prioritize celebrity and cultural heft far more than we value justice. I think we’re a laughing stock here.

    (Again, if there is something that the State Department knows about Marc Fogel that we don’t know and it turns out that he is not the innocent that we are led to believe he is, then I will be happy to revise my opinion here. But I greatly doubt this is at play at all.)

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  10. OT, but a pleasant distraction- and still an awesome sight; see yourselves 50 years ago today:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_17#/media/File:The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17.jpg

    Outward bound to Luna, Gene Cernan took this iconic image.

    DCSCA (3cc7f5)

  11. JVW (9b9b2d) — 12/8/2022 @ 3:09 pm

    Dear JVW,

    Stop raining on my parade.

    Sincerely,

    Joey

    norcal (862cdb)

  12. @9. Yep. Softballers playing a hardball game; a ‘Bridge of Spies’ scenario.

    DCSCA (3cc7f5)

  13. @11. “Dear JVW,

    Stop pissing down my back and telling me it’s raining.

    Sincerely,

    Joey”

    FIFY

    DCSCA (3cc7f5)

  14. FIFY

    DCSCA (3cc7f5) — 12/8/2022 @ 3:15 pm

    In what universe does that make any sense? JVW isn’t gaslighting Biden.

    norcal (862cdb)

  15. Curiously enough, not much is heard about Marc Fogel, but that could be because he’s just an ordinary everyday American citizen, not a B-list celebrity drenched in intersectionality or a guy whose life sounds like it might make a great movie starring Tom Cruise.

    This is the first place and the first time I heard of Marc Fogel.

    Now you say that:

    he fact that other Americans have been arrested in Russia on similar charges and either had the charges dropped in return for immediately leaving the country or else been granted clemency after the perfunctory conviction and sent home.

    But perhaps this policy changed after August, 2021. I suppose we haven’t heard of him because he was not classified by the State Department as unjustly imprisoned. The State Department doesn’t like to do that — it took them awhile in the case of Brittney Griner.

    According to the news story you linked to Marc Fogel was caught with 17 grams of medical marijuana for a spine condition. He was sentenced to 14 years in a maximum security prison. The State Department, at the minimum needs to make a boldface travel warning about travel to Russia with marijuana obtained by prescription.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  16. would hope that the State Department will revoke her passport, if possible, and make her permanently ineligible for overseas travel.

    She just needs to consult with the State Department about travel to any foreign country including countries to which her plane might be diverted from to Russia (or some place with similar policies)

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  17. @14. Seems he is- scroll up.

    DCSCA (3cc7f5)

  18. Seems he is- scroll up.

    DCSCA (3cc7f5) — 12/8/2022 @ 3:34 pm

    🤦‍♂️

    Are you accusing JVW of dishonesty, or do you not know the definition of gaslighting?

    norcal (862cdb)

  19. For some time I have thought we should be collecting hostages from nations like Russia and Iran, so that we would have more chips in these bargaining situations. (While, of course, absolutely denying that we had such a policy.)

    For similar reasons, I wouldn’t blame Japan for collecting North Korean hostages in an effort to get their kidnapped people back.

    Jim Miller (f29931)

  20. Dah Simple Child Screeches Again

    Your schtick is sad, plaid, predictable

    EPWJ (650a62)

  21. She was damn stupid taking even a small about of ‘drugs’ into Russia; but it’s water under the bridge[of spies.] A get is a get so it’s good she’s out as far as it goes– but they should have pressed for Whelan as well– but Vlad knows how to play Squinty and his team.

    Having been to Russia myself- back in Soviet days- their ‘customs’ process is nothing to ignore nor violate. It can be rough. Entry involved our Aeroflot plane parked out on a tarmac alone, Russian soldiers boarding the plane and confiscating all Western publications- books and magazines- as well as passports and medical booklets before we even stepped on to Russian soil. Then, in the terminal, a luggage search to enter and a detailed customs form to fill out declaring and listing what we brought in- from every item of clothing to toothpaste to exact cash amounts– in U.S. dollars. And on leaving, filling out another form where they two were compared to see if we’d sold any clothing or jewelry to Russians- [who did try to repeatedly purchase our blue jeans BTW over the time there]. If it didn’t march up, you were screwed. We were not permitted to leave Russia w/any Russian money– and they searched all luggage again and everything in it. One of the fellas with us gave them some lip for rifling through his baggage and three officials grabbed him, rough him up a little, removed his overcoat and ripped out the lining then thoroughly went through every item in his suitcase– and checked the suitcase lining itself as we watched. Was right out of the movies… it held us up clearing customs for nearly an hour and we weren’t certain they’d let him go w/us. But finally, they did- and he was visibly shaken by the search. It’s likely less stringent now than in Soviet times, but still a pretty stiff set up to go through. She should have known better- or at least been better ‘coached’ on what to and not to have on her person.

    DCSCA (3cc7f5)

  22. It beggars belief that our negotiators couldn’t have packaged Marc Fogel in with Ms. Griner;

    MbS was the chief negotiator, along with the head of the United Arab Emirates.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brittney-griner-viktor-bout-russia-swap-mbs-statement-bateen-b2241664.html

    So Biden’s claim that he was not offered Paul Whelan must be taken with a grain of salt.

    MbS was in contact both with Russia and the United States and so there would have been a lot of “pre-negotiation.” Russia, of course wanted to maximize its leverage and we never knew what was their true bottom line — but Russia probably knew ours because the Biden Administration told Mohammed bin Salman.

    Except they dispute the Saudi claim:

    https://www.yahoo.com/now/white-house-counters-saudi-claim-195516726.html

    White House counters Saudi claim on Brittney Griner negotiations, says talks were between US, Russia

    …But when pressed on comments made by a U.S. security official on background earlier Thursday who thanked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for their role in her return, Jean-Pierre doubled down.

    “The only countries that negotiated this deal were the United States and Russia,” she said, adding that “there was no mediation involved” by either Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

    I suppose it depends on the meaning of the word “negotiated”

    All that what Karine Jean-Pierre said means is that the United States and Russia were in direct contact. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were involved but it was not like Kissinger mediating in 1975 between Egypt and Israel, or more recently, the negotiations between the United States and Iran where Russia was the interlocuter.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  23. Marc Fogel was not included because he was not on the list of hostages the State Department kept.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  24. By the way MbS is scheduled to meet Xi Jinping soon.

    UPDATE: He already did.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/08/world/middleeast/china-saudi-arabia-agreement.html

    China and Saudi Arabia Sign Strategic Partnership as Xi Visits Kingdom
    ….Mr. Xi held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 37, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, in the first of a series of summits planned for the Chinese president’s three-day visit. After his bilateral meetings with Saudi officials, Mr. Xi is expected to attend twin summits with leaders from other Gulf, Arab and African countries, including Egypt, Djibouti and Iraq. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, is also expected to join.

    The Axis of Evil version II. There are maybe several different groupings. All have an interest in the survival of dictatorships, and the prevention of revolution.

    North Korea remains an unofficial member of the China/Saudi group, and since Russia and Iran are considered more full enemies of the United States right now, the strategic partnership of China and Russia is kind of dormant now. A rumor has spread that the United States limited the kind of weapons sent to Ukraine in exchange for China not selling arms to Russia, but this probably makes independent decisions look like an agreement.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  25. DCSCA (3cc7f5) — 12/8/2022 @ 3:59 pm

    Uhh no

    Aeroflot flights were not open to westerners mostly. SAS, British Air, Lufthansa. Russia soldiers dont unload airplanes.

    Basically you just described a passage from a russian spy novel. Almost word for word.

    Of course you’ve been everywhere, its amazing when called out for your BS =- like every other fabulist online then comes the personal experience…

    Too predictable, too sad

    EPWJ (650a62)

  26. Biden bemt over backward because Greiner is a D list cause celeb in good standing with the anti-American left.

    If she was an outspoken, pro-American tgat stood for the anthem, she’d be left to rot like our Marine.

    NJRob (a5ae47)

  27. The question is why did Putin want to get back Viktor Bout (pronounced Boot) back?

    The reason probably was he wanted him to continue not to talk.

    https://www.newser.com/story/328909/release-may-be-a-reward-for-viktor-bout-keeping-his-cool.html

    …At CNN, Nick Paton Walsh articulates one long-running question: “How can one man be so valuable to Moscow they spend decades seeking his release at whatever level they can, and also be just an innocent and unfortunate global pilot and tradesman, as he has claimed?” Analysts have assumed it had to do with who and what Bout knows, but the US government hasn’t been sure either.

    Asked in July why the Kremlin is so concerned with Bout’s return, CIA Director William Burns answered, “That’s a good question, because Viktor Bout’s a creep.” His work is infamous. Britain’s Parliament called the arms dealer the world’s “leading merchant of death.” Years in a cell since his arrest in 2008 apparently didn’t drive Bout to give anything up, and his freedom might be his reward from his country.

    The U.S., of course, never offered him the opportunity to stay in the United States if released from jail but instead planned to deport him to Russia so Bout had no motive to co-operate.

    Well, maybe that made him a valuable piece to exchange one day, and maybe there was nothing much of value for him to tell — but he could educate U.S. people, about Russia and how it works and the background of individuals both in Russia and in other countries.

    He’s not likely to do anything similar to what he did before now since Russia is now buying weapons and not selling them.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  28. I would hope that the State Department will revoke her passport, if possible, and make her permanently ineligible for overseas travel.

    If the US won’t revoke Edward Snowden’s US passport or citizenship after becoming a Russian citizen and swearing allegiance to the Russian Federation (a far more deserving circumstance for revocation), they won’t do it to anyone else. Besides, a passport can be revoked only under certain circumstances, and not at the government’s whim.

    The US still has a number of Russian hackers in prison available for trade.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  29. Viktor Bout…was serving a 25-year sentence on charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. officials and for aiding terrorist states.

    They got him in a sting operation.

    FBI agents pretended to be members of the FARC from Columbia and said they wanted to shoot down an airplane that contained both U.S. and Columbian officials.

    The FBI often “sweetens” the sting — makes it a worse crime.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  30. Rip

    What Russian hackers, note there are dozens if not hundreds of Americans in Prison in Russia, and there are dozens if not hundreds of Russians in Western Prisons. There are over fifty thousand Americans living and working in Russia a few years ago.

    EPWJ (650a62)

  31. The release of Paul Whelan was a somewhat high priority on the part of the State Department since the U.S. doesn’t like U.S. citizens falsely accused of being spies.

    If he had been a real spy, they would never have let him do anything serious without him having diplomatic immunity (State Department cover – with limited State Department work.)

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  32. FBI agents pretended to be members of the FARC from Columbia and said they wanted to shoot down an airplane that contained both U.S. and Columbian officials.

    The FBI often “sweetens” the sting — makes it a worse crime.

    They needed to involve harm to U.S. citizens in order for the U.S. to have jurisdiction.

    Low-level apparatchiks going after low-hanging fruit, on both sides. We’ve lost nothing by releasing Bout after he served fourteen years. What’s he good for? We got the better deal by getting Brittney back.

    nk (bb1548)

  33. note there are dozens if not hundreds of Americans in Prison in Russia

    That may be, but according to the State Department, there are only 40-50 Americans “wrongfully detained” worldwide, while the James Foley Foundation identifies 60. Since the media has only fixated on Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel, I guess the other “dozens if not hundreds” are out of luck.

    There are rumors that Bout is affiliated with the GRU.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  34. If the US won’t revoke Edward Snowden’s US passport or citizenship

    As I recall, his passport was revoked while he was still on the run. But he can get a U.S. travel document to return to America for trial.

    U.S. citizenship of natural-born U.S. citizens can only be surrendered voluntarily, and that’s the way, a-ha a-ha, I like it.

    nk (bb1548)

  35. Democracies, where pressure from an informed electorate matters, are always at a disadvantage in this type of negotiation. It’s why Israel has traded convicted murderers for corpses.

    lurker (cd7cd4)

  36. As I recall, his passport was revoked while he was still on the run. But he can get a U.S. travel document to return to America for trial.

    You are correct, but I prefer he comes back in a pine box.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  37. Evidence indicates Biden prioritized WNBA’s Griner over Marine Paul Whelan, despite claiming otherwise.

    Stealth edited report & commentary from Whelan’s fam & attorney indicates Moscow offered a 1 to 1 for Whelan as an option, too. Biden picked Griner.“

    https://twitter.com/jordanschachtel/status/1600941144082247680?s=46&t=XosVrCUFsrV2DeDzwgoOzg

    There are conservatives who voted for this.

    Obudman (bbeea6)

  38. JVW (9b9b2d) — 12/8/2022 @ 2:47 pm

    Yes, I agree. The sad part is that Whelan and Fogel didn’t have LeBron and the NBA and the progressive community clamoring as hard for them as for Griner. So yes, Biden pandered and then he struck a bad deal.
    Nevertheless, the real blame lies with the guy who is holding American citizens hostage in order to lever the return of bona fide criminals like Bout.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  39. Good thread by Chris Krebs, starting with this…

    There’s a subplot in today’s RU/US exchange. Any time you do a deal with the Russians you have to think beyond the headlines. Diplomacy is messy and a bunch of other factors get woven in for more strategic, yet unrelated objectives.

    …and ending with this…

    So, hey, help a POTUS out, don’t go to Russia and put yourself in the middle of these games.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  40. Obudman,

    If that’s accurate, Biden and his ilk should hang.

    NJRob (20b5e4)

  41. [Paul Whelan] enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1994.[7] He took military leave from Kelly Services to serve with the Marine Corps Reserve from 2003 to 2008, including service in Iraq. He held the rank of staff sergeant with Marine Air Control Group 38 working as an administrative clerk and administrative chief, and he was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.[8] After a court-martial conviction in January 2008 on multiple counts “related to larceny”, he was sentenced to 60 days restriction, reduction to pay grade E-4, and a bad conduct discharge.[9][10] The specific charges against him included “attempted larceny, three specifications of dereliction of duty, making a false official statement, wrongfully using another’s social security number, and ten specifications of making and uttering checks without having sufficient funds in his account for payment.”[11]

    Guys! Don’t! Just don’t!

    nk (bb1548)

  42. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    v.
    PAUL N. WHELAN
    STAFF SERGEANT (E-6), U.S. MARINE CORPS

    It was a special court-martial, not general, so he was spared a Dishonorable Discharge. Nonetheless, he is not entitled to veteran status and benefits, and he is treated as a felon for purposes of firearms ownership.

    nk (bb1548)

  43. @25. Too predictable, too sad…

    And too, too funny; Uhhhhh yes, lamb chop– ignorance is bliss so you must be one happy bloke:

    Aeroflot -Gatwick to Leningrad- then overnight rail to Moscow. And yes, Russian soldiers boarded the aircraft on the tarmac, away from the terminal and collected all passports, medical cards and all Western media- books and magazines brought along from Britain for in-flight perusal. [You don’t read too well, do you, old man.] Then on to a coach and bused to the terminal for customs processing.

    You really should get out of your basement some time– get those glasses fixed under Obamacare… and see the world that’s passed you by.

    DCSCA (39d0dd)

  44. He’s a fabulist, fabulist and a boor…

    Walter Middy you are

    I especially liked your comment about Rouble’s

    Oh the places we go….

    Tell us more about your years at Nasa….

    EPWJ (650a62)

  45. We got played, certainly, but isn’t one “hostage” freed better than no hostage freed? I think so.
    With that, I am happy that she is home. Hopes that Biden meant it when he said this morning that his administration would not stop negotiating to get Whelan home too.
    Dana (1225fc) — 12/8/2022 @ 2:51 pm

    Funny how Ukraine isn’t supposed to give up anything in exchange for peace with Russia, but it’s great that we gave up plenty to get Griner.

    We got played, by Biden.

    JF (27fbbb)

  46. @44. ROFLMAOPIP. You’ve been boxed up and FedExed to Brandon Falls enough for one night.

    DCSCA (f9b207)

  47. Funny how Ukraine isn’t supposed to give up anything in exchange for peace with Russia, but it’s great that we gave up plenty to get Griner.

    We got played, by Biden.

    Like his ol’record player at 33 1/3… lest you forget:

    “If I’m President, Putin’s Days of Tyranny and Trying to Intimidate U.S. and Eastern Europe are Over… Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be President. He doesn’t want me to be our nominee. If you’re wondering why — it’s because I’m the only person in this field who’s ever gone toe-to-toe with him.” – Squinty McStumblebum, 2019

    DCSCA (f9b207)

  48. What’s “plenty” about Bout? What good is he to America? Let the Russians feed him, clothe him, and shelter him instead of us.

    nk (bb1548)

  49. yeah, the day taiwans invaded you’ll have been there too…

    so predictable, so sad

    EPWJ (650a62)

  50. Funny how Ukraine isn’t supposed to give up anything in exchange for peace with Russia, but it’s great that we gave up plenty to get Griner.

    We got played, by Biden.

    I just can’t.

    Dana (1225fc)

  51. @49. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz8RjPAD2Jk

    Oh- and be sure you wash the Roll before retiring to your basement, old man.

    DCSCA (f9b207)

  52. Guys! Don’t! Just don’t!

    nk, I’ll see your Paul Whelan larceny conviction and raise you a Brittney Griner domestic violence conviction. Not to mention her history of on-court fights and assaults.

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  53. It’s not the larceny, it’s the bad conduct discharge from the Marines. He’s not entitled to the status of a Marine veteran.

    nk (bb1548)

  54. Do not take drugs to other countries. Do not take drugs to other countries. DO NOT TAKE DRUGS TO OTHER COUNTRIES!

    @EPWJ@25 My mom visited the USSR in the late 80s with a good will tour of diplomatic and officer’s wives. They did take Aeroflot (which my mother said was terrifying for air safety reasons) and was kind of like a cattle car experience. The custom’s wasn’t as bad by then because it was all glasnost, but they were treated very seriously and also cautioned about selling things to the locals and all their money was accounted for. Nobody cared at that point if you had an extra pair of jeans or hose or lipstick that you left for the maid or the tour guide, or some extra cheap earrings or pins for trading. The tour guide kept a pretty close eye on them, though they did get a little extra leeway because it was a good will trip and they were often accosted on bridges and such in the tourist area by men offering to sell them caviar or trade pins. My mom came back with a number of communist era pins and some coinage as well as various tourist items and she left 4 or 5 lipsticks several pair of hose and 2 pair jeans behind in hotel rooms or with their various guides.

    Nic (896fdf)

  55. Nic

    Don’t, you are remembering very specific facts from ALMOST 40 years ago, on a trip you didn’t go on. Last time we met “your” mother here she was a card carrying founder circle of the John Birch society.. just stop. Krashevenost had been going on in the uSSR SINCE the late 70’s and trade was opened in 1986 to western goods and private business was allowed which by 1987 ended the USSR, not Reagan, but freedom ended the uSSR.

    EPWJ (650a62)

  56. Couldn’t they just inject Bout with some polonium or ricin before the let him go?

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  57. But certainly you will spare some condemnation for an Administration which prioritizes political pressure from key interests groups

    I think I’ll blame the media that kept Griner’s every bad moment on the front page. Biden is just the front man for a politburo after all.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  58. Hopes that Biden meant it when he said this morning that his administration would not stop negotiating to get Whelan home too.

    Yes, but who will they trade? John Walker is dead.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  59. If the US won’t revoke Edward Snowden’s US passport or citizenship after becoming a Russian citizen and swearing allegiance to the Russian Federation

    This is, of course, literally treason.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  60. I got a trade the two americans for not giving ukraine cruse missles that can hit moscow!

    asset (35ada4)

  61. 60

    Drunk?

    EPWJ (650a62)

  62. I got a trade the two americans for not giving ukraine cruse missles that can hit moscow!

    Then give them anyway.

    Or how about trading them Trump?

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  63. Couldn’t they just inject Bout with some polonium or ricin before the let him go?

    I thought about that, too, but there’s nothing to stop Putin from doing the same to an American hostage before releasing him/her.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  64. Who is Bout?

    EPWJ (650a62)

  65. This is, of course, literally treason.

    Kevin M (1ea396) — 12/9/2022 @ 12:08 am

    We’ve had versions of this conversation before. Then it was about Trump, but the answer is the same: It’s not “of course literally treason.” Colloquially sure. But literally, as in the crime of Treason defined in Art. III of the Constitution and interpreted by Art. III courts? No. It’s not. If you want to know why, focus on the meaning of “enemy” in the definition. Spoiler alert: Russia isn’t one. Again, colloquially, yeah. Russia wants us to fail and suffer, and they do everything in their power short of firing missiles at us to make it happen. But the missile-firing, kinetic warfare part is key to being an Article III-Treason enemy. Proxy wars don’t count. And since Russia isn’t an Article III-Treason-enemy, giving it aid and comfort can’t make one an Article III traitor.

    lurker (cd7cd4)

  66. Russian government officials lie effortlessly and prodigiously. But, risking heresy, what if Paul Whelan was knowingly spying? Again, it’s hard to accept on face value any Russian “facts” and the notion that sensitive information was being passed on a “flash drive”…in this digital age…is largely unbelievable. The best guess is that his frequent visits to Russia made him “visible” and a target for this extortion sting. Couple in his background in law enforcement, the Marines, and corporate security, and he was ripe for the taking.

    Still, that background and his frequency of visits is a little conspicuous. Why poke the bear? This isn’t like visiting London or Berlin. It is a hostile corrupt authoritarian regime with an abysmal record on human rights. Why make this a regular vacation spot? I get that friendships develop and St Petersburg is amazing, but there is genuine risk….risk that beggars the question, why? Now, I don’t want to fall trap to blaming the victim. It’s easy to do with Griner too who obviously got a little too comfortable at an inopportune time. We should only wish for the best and comfort the family. But just like Americans hiking through Iran, maybe the hard lesson is that Russia should be avoided until it liberalizes…..

    AJ_Liberty (6a18fd)

  67. Couldn’t they just inject Bout with some polonium or ricin before the let him go?

    Kevin M (1ea396) — 12/9/2022 @ 12:00 am

    Only if you want them to do the same to Americans in future prisoner swaps.

    Now, if the US was a country that still had its scrotum attached, he’d have already been put in front of a firing squad years ago and this all would have been moot.

    Factory Working Orphan (bce27d)

  68. When Viktor Bout was captured, there was a reasonable chance that he would talk — and given his contacts, it was almost certain that he could tell us a lot, especially about GRU. But after more than 10 years in solitary, it may have seemed unlikely that he would break any time soon.

    But that silence could be the point. The arms trafficker refused to cooperate with U.S. authorities, even as he sat for over a decade, isolated and alone, in a cell thousands of miles from his home in Moscow. That silence could be rewarded.

    “He kept his cool in prison, never exposed anything to the Americans, as far as I can tell,” said Russian journalist Andrei Soldatov.

    (Just possibly, of course, he could have passed the word to “Czar” Putin that he would not be able to hold out much longer.)

    Jim Miller (f29931)

  69. The question I have about Whelan is what efforts Canada, Ireland and the UK are making to get their citizen back. Why is this all on us?

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  70. That’s all very interesting about Bout, Jim, but what’s his career point average?

    nk (595fd2)

  71. If the US had refused the deal, what would happen next? Oh, sure, there would have been an outcry that the US should “do something” to “force” Putin to offer a better deal, but then what?

    John B Boddie (18ca17)

  72. #70 nk – Good question. Since he is a successful illegal arms dealer, I assume Bout averaged millions per year, but, for some reason, the newspapers haven’t been printing his box scores.

    On the other hand, I would also assume that his working career could last longer than that of a basketball player — assuming a reasonable amount of caution.

    Jim Miller (f29931)

  73. Funny how Ukraine isn’t supposed to give up anything in exchange for peace with Russia……

    Why should the country that was invaded give up anything?

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  74. Hopes that Biden meant it when he said this morning that his administration would not stop negotiating to get Whelan home too.

    Yes, but who will they trade? John Walker is dead.

    Kevin M (1ea396) — 12/9/2022 @ 12:05 am

    Aldrich Ames, Harold James Nicholson, and Robert Hanssen are available.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  75. Russian government officials lie effortlessly and prodigiously.

    So do America’s. See The Pentagon Papers for details… then fast forward to the life and times of Squinty McStumblebum.

    DCSCA (4a844b)

  76. Aldrich Ames, Harold James Nicholson, and Robert Hanssen are available.

    Why would Putin want any Soviet-era spies? What possible value could they have to him?

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  77. Why would Putin want any Soviet-era spies? What possible value could they have to him?

    Hanssen and Ames spied for Russia, too. Nicholson never spied for the Soviets, having started in 1992. But the real point is to encourage future spies by showing that Russia might bail them out if caught, and this extends to spies for the former regime.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  78. Aldrich Ames should have hanged for what he did. He exposed minimum of 10 agents, who were then executed by the Soviets, and he did much more besides.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  79. @76. Yeah- and throw in some saltines, a mint edition of the’Trump’ board game, a Betamax w/a tape of Gorky Park, a few ‘Reggie’ bars– and a 1987 Christmas copy of Playboy. He knows how easily their ‘loyalties’ can be bought off, too. 😉

    DCSCA (4a844b)

  80. John Bolton says an offer to exchange Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan was turned down by President Trump, a decision with which he concurred.

    https://nypost.com/2022/12/08/trump-turned-down-viktor-bout-for-paul-whelan-prisoner-swap-john-bolton

    Bolton recalled in an interview with CBS that he was in the midst of his 17-month tenure at the White House when Whelan was detained on concocted espionage charges in December 2018.

    “The possibility of a Bout-for-Whelan trade existed back then,” said Bolton, 74, “and it wasn’t made, for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout.”

    Whelan was sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years in prison. US officials claimed Thursday that the Biden administration tried to secure the release of both Whelan and Griner, but Moscow refused to budge — insisting on a one-for-one swap of Griner for Bout.

    But if course Moscow would first make its most favorable offer

    Paul Whelan seems to not have been confined in as harsh conditions as Brittney Griner. He was even able to give an interview yesterday and said he had had his bags packed.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  81. I heard Bout only had 6yrs left on his sentence. That cuts his trade value. I dislike the precedent of rewarding, in effect, hostage taking, but at least we got something before releasing him.

    AJ_Liberty (5f05c3)

  82. Putin may have engineered the death of a Soviet era spy. But I can’t remember more.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  83. There was an important exchange with Ukraine that Putin did:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/22/world/europe/russia-ukraine-medvedchuk-released.html

    Viktor Medvedchuk, the most prominent captive released by Ukraine in a prisoner swap with Russia, is a close friend of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia who had acted as the Kremlin’s primary agent of influence in Ukraine for years.

    Mr. Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian politician and oligarch, was handed over alongside Russian pilots and senior military officials, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday, in exchange for more than 200 Ukrainian fighters including commanders of the Azov Battalion, who have been celebrated as heroes in Ukraine for their last-stand defense of Mariupol. It was the largest prisoner swap in the seven-month war.

    Russian officials had previously disavowed any claims to Mr. Medvedchuk, despite his long-known ties to Mr. Putin, who is the godfather of Mr. Medvedchuk’s daughter. A Kremlin spokesman in May had dismissed the idea of exchanging Mr. Medvedchuk for Ukrainian fighters, saying that he “has nothing to do with Russia,” according to Russian state media…..

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  84. 71. John B Boddie (18ca17) — 12/9/2022 @ 7:28 am

    If the US had refused the deal, what would happen next?

    Putin might have offered a better one.

    The only thing we know si that he had previously rejected a 1 for 2 and 2 for 2 swap and did not allow the U.S> to pick who was the 1.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  85. Rip Murdock (d2a2a8) — 12/8/2022 @ 4:56 pm

    Since the media has only fixated on Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel, I guess the other “dozens if not hundreds” are out of luck.

    I haven’t heard Marc Fogel mentioned anywhere but this site.

    If you search, you can find a few mentions. here was even a Washington Post story – and Newsweek.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  86. The LA Times is upset at the remaining prisoners. No, not the ones in Russia, but at Guantanamo.

    To hear the Times Coluimnist tell it, we had no reason for holding any of them.

    Since about as soon as Guantánamo Bay was first used to hold people deemed “enemy combatants,” its existence has always been contrary to the principles we espouse abroad. Imagine continuing to criticize human rights violations by other nations when the entire world knows we’ve been holding prisoners for nearly 20 years without a trial or even charges…

    The unpleasant fact is that while the U.S. is somewhat helpless when it comes to Whelan, we are not helpless about the fates of the prisoners we are responsible for at Guantánamo. No one should be held for years without charges and a trial. It’s a pesky little “detail” that should matter, especially in a country in love with the word “freedom.”…

    There may be a price to closing the prison, but what is it really costing us each day we keep it open? Griner’s return home not only offers us cause for celebration but also an opportunity to address the conspicuous skeleton in our own closet.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  87. @EPWJ@55 35 years ago. And she missed my birthday. Also the mom you remember as the Birch society mom isn’t mine, it’s norcal’s, the Berlin wall didn’t fall until 1989 and the USSR didn’t collapse until 1992. I’m sorry that your memory of significant events in your life in the late 80s isn’t clear, but mine is.

    Nic (896fdf)

  88. This swap reminds me of a few days ago when LA DA Gascon get personally involved in the arrest made in the attempted theft of celebrity John Legend’s Porsche, while everyone else in LA County watches the illegal resident thief that stole their car get charged with a down scaled misdemeanor so they won’t get deported.

    Biden gets personally involved with a Russian drug crime sentence and trades WNBA player Brittney Griner for a death merchant -in my view- because of her celebrity, her sexual orientation, and her race. She checks 4 Democrat identity politics boxes or else they’d let her sit.

    There are said to be 65 US citizen “wrongfully detained” abroad. Griner was not one of them. There are plenty of things that are legal in the US, but not in other countries. For example, I know better than to bring a gun into Mexico even though it is perfectly legal here.
    The comparison would be to ask if there was not any other run of the mill lawfully convicted American nobodies in Russian prison to bundle into the release?

    steveg (78080b)

  89. and the USSR didn’t collapse until 1992. No, December 25, 1991, something the author of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” forgot. On the other hand, Yeltsin turned over power to Putin exactly at the end
    of 1999.

    Sammy Finkelman (96b037)

  90. Viktor Bout sold weapons to everyone. On every side. And he was a celebrity in his own right. A movie was made about him.

    It is not inconceivable that a lot of people besides the Russians (Hollywood not excluded) were lobbying for Bout’s release and that Brittney Griner was a godsend. A McGuffin not only sufficient to let Biden get away with releasing Bout, but to earn him praise for doing it.

    nk (fc479b)

  91. It would also explain why Brittney got labeled “wrongfully detained” by the State Department while Marc Fogel hasn’t.

    nk (fc479b)

  92. Trump is always going to bleat on about how he would have got a better deal on everything, everywhere, up to his conversation with St. Peter before outplacement. But Biden should have gotten more for the deal.

    Labeling Brittney “wrongfully detained” really dumbed that phrase down considering possession of hashish oil, even “accidentally”, is still a federal crime in the US.

    Bout got the tongue bath treatment from Russian propaganda TV upon return and even though he used to work for almost all sides, I’m guessing the intelligence agencies sourcing ammunition for Ukraine’s Soviet era equipment are not counting on Bout to work with them and probably see him as a possible competitor in that space.
    A few weeks back, people familiar with the Ukraine conflict were wondering about the source of a sudden delivery of tens of thousands of 152mm artillery shells. Ukraine was running short and over the years, Russia had been suspected of sabotage, blowing up large stockpiles of 152mm in eastern and southern Europe. I believe the current thinking is that the French convinced an African nation to sell them, but regardless, the international arms dealers are in a great business position right now.

    steveg (78080b)

  93. steveg (78080b) — 12/11/2022 @ 6:45 pm

    Labeling Brittney “wrongfully detained” really dumbed that phrase down considering possession of hashish oil, even “accidentally”, is still a federal crime in the US.

    Yes, I wonder how that happened. She did, after all, have the marijuana oil – or was she contending that she didn’t?

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  94. Russia was interested in getting back someone even worse, or a worse precedent, than Viktor Bout: A man convicted of killing a Chechen rebel in 2019 (more recently) in Germany.

    (Actually the man he killed was a Georgian, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, working for the Chechen rebels – he once commanded forces against Russia)

    Some in the U.S. government thought that Putin wasn’t serious about this offer, nevertheless the United States asked Germany and then asked Germany if there was something it wanted that it could trade that man for.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/09/us/politics/brittney-griner-prisoner-swap.html

    Month after month, as American diplomats pushed for the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan from Russian prisons, they received the same, infuriating answer: If you want both prisoners, we want Vadim Krasikov as part of the deal.

    Mr. Krasikov is an assassin who murdered a Chechen fighter in a park in Berlin in broad daylight in 2019, a brazen killing that the German authorities say was committed at the behest of Russia’s intelligence services. Convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Germany, Mr. Krasikov was not in U.S. custody to be traded to Russia…

    … American officials felt out their German counterparts to see if they might agree and were hardly surprised when Berlin refused to release what they considered a cold killer. Trying to be creative, the Americans even explored some sort of three-way deal that would give the Germans something in return, but that did not go anywhere, either.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1966 secs.