Brittney Griner Freed, But at a Terrible Price

Dr. Munr Kazmir
5 min readDec 8, 2022

Griner was exchanged for one of the world’s most infamous arms dealers: Russia’s “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout.

Minnesota Lynx vs Phoenix Mercury at Target Center in Minneapolis, MN on July 14 2019; the Lynx won the game 75–62. (Photo: Lorie Shaull)

Brittney Griner spent Thanksgiving in a Russian penal colony.

For Griner, who was detained in Moscow on a drug charge one week before Russia invaded Ukraine, the outlook had perhaps never looked darker. There was one tiny ray of hope, however.

“We haven’t found common ground yet, but, undoubtedly, Viktor Bout is among those being discussed, and obviously we are hoping for a positive result,” Putin’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies in mid-November. “The Americans are showing certain activity and we are working on this through appropriate channels.”

The U.S. quickly tamped down such talk.

“We are not going to comment on the specifics of any proposals other than to say that we have made a substantial offer that the Russian Federation has consistently failed to negotiate in good faith,” said U.S. officials in a terse response. “The U.S. Government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russian government.”

“The Russian government’s failure to seriously negotiate on these issues in the established channel, or any other channel for that matter, runs counter to its public statements,” the statement concluded.

But Russia, it seemed, was telling the truth.

Brittney Griner released by Russia in 1-for-1 prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout,” reported CBS News yesterday.

“CBS News was first to report the swap, which took place in the United Arab Emirates, citing a U.S. official,” CBS continued. “The exchange agreement negotiated with Moscow in recent weeks was given final approval by Mr. Biden within just the last week, according to sources familiar with the deal.”

Griner’s detention had long been a black eye for the Biden Administration. Not only was Brittney…