Russia’s Prisoner Swap May Be About Preventing Leaks

( )- The prisoner swap between Russia and the United States could reveal that the authoritarian country is worried about possible leaks of Moscow secrets, experts say, according to Newsweek. The U.S. released Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death” in exchange for basketball player Brittney Griner last week prompting many to criticize the swap as unfair.

Bout was reportedly in an Illinois prison serving 25 years for conspiracy to kill American citizens and sending millions of dollars in weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, such as missiles that were to be used for shooting down American military helicopters.

Bout was also described by the Department of Justice as a prolific arms dealer who arranged the trafficking of military-grade weapons in Liberia to Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

Russia called the imprisonment “unlawful” and his 2012 sentencing “baseless and biased.”

By contrast, Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February for possessing “vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage.”

Nikolas Gvosdev, a national security professor at the U.S. Naval War College told the outlet that now that Russia has Bout back in their possession, they want to prevent their operatives from being detained abroad in fear that they could reveal information that the Kremlin would prefer to keep to themselves.

Security experts say that arrests are mimicking Cold War era patterns, adding that they are “no longer driven by law enforcement concerns.”

“If you have ‘one of ours’ we need to seize ‘one of yours’ to set up the trade,” Gvosdev said.

William Reno, a political science professor at Northwestern University, said that the recent exchange sets a bad precedent for Russia and other governments to exploit the United States. He suggested that unless there is something more to the exchange, they will be encouraged to detain more American citizens to petition for the release of their criminals.

Gvosdev also pointed out that the exchange left behind former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years on espionage charges which he and his family say are baseless. Gvosdev suggests that Russia did not trade him because they are anticipating another one of their operatives being arrested in the future and want to be prepared.