US believes Bout's release poses 'manageable' risks: Kirby
White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby says a US national security assessment deems the potential risks linked to Bout's release as "manageable".
The United States knows the possible risks to the country's national security in the event that Russian businessman Viktor Bout chooses to get back into his former line of work, but the US deems them "manageable," White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby said on Sunday.
On Thursday, the US and Russia exchanged US basketball player Brittney Griner and Russian businessman Viktor Bout in a one-for-one prisoner swap. Bout was serving a 25-year sentence in the US over alleged arms dealing charges.
The exchange took place in the UAE at Abu Dhabi airport, a US official said.
The landmark swap has been categorically slammed by many as the worst trade in history, not only because Bout's charges were considered more offensive than Griner, but also because another US prisoner, former Marine Paul Whelan, was considered more worthy than Griner of being released.
"Mr. Bout has choices to make, and if he chooses to get back into that line of work then we're going to do everything we can to hold them properly accountable as we have in the past," Kirby told Fox News.
Washington did a national security assessment of the potential risks linked to Bout's release and concluded that they were "manageable", according to the White House official.
Media outlets reported that pressure is looming over US President Joe Biden from his own administration as a result of the prisoner swap.
The White House denied last Thursday that Saudi Arabia had any involvement with the release of Griner, contradicting a joint statement issued earlier by the president of the UAE and the Saudi Crown Prince that they led mediation efforts to secure Griner's release.
"The only countries that negotiated this deal were the US and Russia," White House Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about Saudi Arabia's role. "There was no mediation involved."
While UAE/Saudi Arabia issued a joint statement aggrandizing their “mediation” role in the release of Brittney Griner, @POTUS and @SecBlinken thanked UAE only for its limited role in assisting in the “transfer”. pic.twitter.com/MXb1dVkRW7— Khalid Aljabri, MD د.خالد الجبري (@JabriMD) December 8, 2022
Griner, who played for Russian side Yekaterinburg during the WNBA off-season, was arrested on February 17 in Moscow after cannabis-infused vape cartridges were found in her luggage.
Since Cannabis oil is illegal in Russia, Griner was convicted of drug possession and trafficking. She was sentenced on August 4 to nine years behind bars and a fine of 1 million rubles ($16,576) after she pleaded guilty to the charges.
The most painful part of the exchange is the fact that the US failed to release Whelan that is sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for spying charges in 2020, according to sources.
Moscow has refused earlier American 1-for-2 exchange propositions to swap both Whelan and Grinner for Bout, however, suggested that for such a deal to go through, Vadim Krasikov, that is accused of killing former Chechen fighter Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, should be released from German prisoners.
Berlin hinted to Washington that Krasikov's release would be "a non-starter," a US official told WashPo.