Former DEA agent Rob “Zach” Zachariasiewicz has expressed concern about the swap agreement that the Biden administration recently made with Russia to release WNBA player Brittney Griner in exchange for international arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Bout was jailed in the US in 2010 and had been generating headlines in December 2022 when he was swapped for Griner, who had been imprisoned in Russia for a drug charge.
Zachariasiewicz warned that Bout had “provided the fuel for conflicts across the globe” and had played a critical role in the global illicit arms trade by delivering destructive cargo to various parts of the world through his control of a private fleet of military aircraft. He also noted that Bout had declared to persons he believed to be terrorist facilitators that the US was his sworn enemy and had offered them, as part of an extensive arsenal of heavy weapons, hundreds of surface-to-air missiles to be used against US military advisers and the Colombian military.
According to Zachariasiewicz, negotiating for Bout’s release was a “feckless and shortsighted foreign policy” that would only encourage other adversaries to engage in the kidnapping, illegal detention, and ransoming of American citizens throughout the world.
Zachariasiewicz also pointed out that the proposed deal failed to consider the voices of an entire generation of maimed and orphaned inhabitants of war-torn countries throughout the world, especially in Africa.
He argued that a tremendous amount of resources and political capital had been spent on the critical national security investigation into Bout’s actions and that many lives had been placed at risk. Therefore, releasing Bout in exchange for Griner was a dangerous move for the US and the West.
As of writing, the Biden administration has not yet commented on Zachariasiewicz’s warning. Nonetheless, the swap agreement that was approved in December 2022 has generated various reactions from different sectors.
While some hailed the release of Griner as a victory for human rights, others, like Zachariasiewicz, have criticized the deal as a dangerous foreign policy decision. The recent offer of asylum to former President Donald Trump by Bout has further complicated the already contentious relationship between the US and Russia.