It is a “deeply disturbing” decision to release Russian arms deal Viktor Bout, Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said in a statement on Thursday, although he praised the news of former WNBA pothead Brittney Griner coming back to America as part of the Biden administration’s controversial prisoner swap for Viktor “Merchant of Death” Bout.
“To be clear, Ms. Griner should have been released immediately and unconditionally a long time ago. Putin has known that all along. 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 continued:
The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griner’s 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 do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention.
Menendez also highlighted the plight of retired Marine Paul Whelan, who remains imprisoned in Russia on spying charges. “My heart also goes out to the families of other American citizens in Russian prisons and labor camps, including Paul Whelan,” Menendez said.