Friday, February 3, 2023

Analysis | Why Viktor Bout’s return to Russia is so important to Putin

(CNN)– It’s a most unequal trade at the most unlikely of times, but perhaps the current intense pressure is why trading an American basketball star for a Russian arms dealer just happened.

At first glance, Brittany Griner and Victor Bout have been accused of ridiculously different crimes. Griner was sentenced to life in a Russian penal colony for possessing one gram of cannabis oil. Bout is reportedly the most prolific arms dealer in decades, fueling conflicts in Africa and beyond. and notably, a US court convicted him of conspiring to murder Americans.

But circumstances and political pressure from both sides reversed this imbalance. Based on his claims of innocence and his shameless use as a geopolitical pawn on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Griner rose to prominence for Americans, putting the Biden administration at odds with the Kremlin at its worst moment in history. Forced to start a conversation. Russian relations since at least the end of the Cold War.

The immense importance of the bout to Russia has always been the biggest puzzle. How could a man so valuable to Moscow, who spent decades seeking his salvation at any stage, and also be just an innocent, hapless pilot and world merchant, as he claimed? Who is this man who denies everything?

Victor Bout

Victor Bout behind bars in a Bangkok Criminal Court cell on February 16, 2010. (Credit: Nicolas Esfori / AFP via Getty Images)

I interviewed Bout in 2009 after months of talks in Bangkok. He is a talkative, engaging polyglot and can chat animatedly about a list of political figures with whom he has personal relationships on a global scale.

I’ve seen videos of bouts in the Congo and across Africa where he was very close to the conflicts in the region.

Several analysts and a United Nations investigation accuse him of a proliferation of small arms on the continent in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which he denies. He was even accused of being armed with Al Qaeda, which he also denied. There were some things that he was not accused of and some that he did not deny. He became a “Sack Man” of sorts, and the center of a movie called “Lord of War” starring Nicolas Cage.

This is the story of his career: a reputation as the man who came to be known as the “Merchant of Death”. He spent 14 years in prison, and the crime for which he was extradited to the United States was a complex operation by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in which he agreed to supply US agents posing as Colombian terrorists. was deceived to be. With weapons, weapons intended in operation to kill Americans. It is strange that, after all the crime Bout was accused of, the one for which he was imprisoned was a plot, a conspiracy, and not an act.

It is true that he is a pilot and a businessman. He was a military translator with a Soviet past. But there are allegations that he worked for Russian intelligence and became an asset to them in supplying arms around the world to meet Moscow’s geopolitical goals. It has also been suggested that he worked with senior Russian officials who are now close to President Vladimir Putin. This may explain the intensity with which the Americans were looking for him. He was never a nobody.

There had always been a strange mystery surrounding the bout and its surroundings. Yes, he was innocent in everything, he said. But also, yeah, he’s had an interesting life. There is always an eye-popping thing when one knows there is more to the story than what is openly stated.

The biggest wonder now is how this exchange took place during the Russian invasion and brutality on Ukraine. This says two things: Moscow and Washington are able to trade even though Russian bombs kill innocent Ukrainian civilians, and the US provides Ukraine with weapons that are killing Russian soldiers; And that while the shots are fired, the nuclear powers can work on other trickier issues. It is good for all the inhabitants of the planet. It means that cold-blooded few prevail and basic interests take priority.

It also shows some weakness on Putin’s part. At a time when he is ramping up his nuclear rhetoric against the West, he is also agreeing to a high-level diplomatic deal to win back a figure of vast and complex importance to the Russian elite, intelligence community and national pride. Is.

This is a man many ordinary Russians will have heard of, and he certainly holds legendary significance for the Russian elite. He is not someone that Moscow – to paraphrase the ugly slogan of the Russian invasion in which hundreds of dead soldiers are scattered across the battlefield – will “be left behind”.

These are the people with whom Putin now wants to associate himself. The deal may also be more self-serving: Many believe that when Bout served in Africa, he had close ties to members of the Russian elite who are now close to Putin (though Bout denies this). have done). Is that why America spent so much time and money trying to stop him? Did they think I would talk? We can never know.

Yes, it is a victory for Putin, but at the cost of exposing his weakness and his need to please the military elite on whom he depends.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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