On the same day that Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema left the Democrats, another member of President Joe Biden’s party is expressing dismay and disappointment about his decision to trade a convicted arms trafficker for WNBA player Brittney Griner.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is slamming Biden for the trade, going so far as to use the three words “deeply disturbing decision” to describe the trade that gift-wrapped Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death,” to Russia.
Menendez is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The senior Democrat warned that the trade could set a precedent encouraging the taking of Americans as hostages, according to the Washington Examiner.
“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 warned.
The Democrat rejected the premise that Griner and Bout were equivalent.
“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.’“
Menendez’s statement also mentioned the plight of Paul Whelan, an American Marine Corps veteran who remains jailed in Russia, according to the Daily Wire.
Whelan has been jailed in Russia for years — whereas Griner was arrested earlier this year.
“My heart also goes out to the families of other American citizens in Russian prisons and labor camps, including Paul Whelan,” Menendez said.
Bout — an international arms dealer who was convicted of arming a terrorist organization — was ten years into a 25-year federal prison sentence.
Menendez pointed to the trade as a watershed moment in preventing further hostage-style arrests of Americans abroad in the future.
“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,” the senator warned.
Griner had traveled to Russia to play in a women’s basketball league one week before the country’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Time.
The trade amounts to the latest in a series of botched foreign policy maneuvers on the part of Biden — dating back to the ugly withdrawal from Afghanistan, a mishap that many geopolitical analysts believe emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.
Another senator is warning that he expects Bout will soon find employment working for Putin.
“It’s not like he’s going to retire to the Black Sea and peacefully live out his golden years in a quiet retirement. Putin wanted him out for a reason,” Sen. Tom Cotton said of Bout’s release in a Thursday interview.
Biden admitted that releasing Bout amounted to a “very painful” decision, but defended securing the freedom of the basketball player, according to Politico.
That same Politico report claims that American officials had earlier determined that securing both Whelan and Griner in return for the arms trafficker would be a fair trade.
Sen. Menendez clearly does not agree with that sentiment.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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