From Russia with Love: Merry Christmas

As an early Christmas present, the Biden Administration has given the Russians an opportunity for a propaganda coup: It traded the notorious Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, known as “the merchant of death,” for Brittney Griner, an LGBTQ professional women’s basketball player. 

The question—the unanswerable question—is why did Biden trade Bout for Griner, who once refused to come out of a locker room for the national anthem, instead of for Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been detained by Russia since 2018 and is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage? 

The Biden Administration said that trading Griner for Bout was the only option the Russians offered, but an initial news story cast doubt on the administration’s claim, as did White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. 

At a December 8 White House briefing, Jean-Pierre said: “On a personal note, Brittney is more than an athlete, more than an Olympian. She is an important role model and inspiration to millions of Americans, particularly the LGBTQ+ Americans and women of color.” Jean-Pierre, is in a domestic partnership with CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux. You can’t make this stuff up.

But maybe the Russians can. A friend suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin knew exactly what he was doing: picking at the scab of America’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) nonsense. The hypothesis is that the Russians deliberately found a DEI victim—a black lesbian with a drug habit—whom they would then trade for a notorious arms dealer, enticing the American government to leave the Marine behind. 

And their scab-picking is working. Many Americans are outraged at the administration’s action.

A recent clip from a Russian news broadcast is instructive. The commentary is by Margarita Simonyan, a Russian apparatchik who is editor-in-chief of Russian state-controlled RT (formerly Russia Today) and who is said to be close to Putin. Simonyan says:

Of course, I was very amused, but not surprised that Bout was exchanged for Griner and not Whelan. 

First, I congratulate Bout and his entirely family. . . . But he was not exchanged for the heroic spy, because . . . Whalen is a spy. He was apprehended while receiving information on a flash drive.

He’s a spy—therefore, to them, he is a hero. He is a hero, a decorated Marine covered in medals. He has only one . . . no, two . . . no, three problems! 

His first problem is that he’s white. His second problem is that he’s a man. His third problem, he’s a heterosexual. That is not something that can be forgiven today. It’s just a catastrophe. 

Yes, here Griner beats him in every aspect. American voters were given a choice:    . . . a medal-covered hero who suffered during his service to his fatherland, the United States; or a black lesbian hooked on drugs who suffered for a vape with hashish. And well-known for the sake of PR! . . . 

I think for us it’s [a] piece of good news: . . . that a nation that spits on its heroes to the extent that it considers it significantly more important to free a rightfully charged well-known athlete—she didn’t suffer because she served her motherland but because she couldn’t live 14 hours without hashish—instead of freeing the person imprisoned for two years for serving his motherland.

This says a lot about the state of this society, of these intelligence agencies, and everything related to geopolitical confrontation.

Great propaganda, of course, but like most propaganda, it shades, strains, and tramples on the truth. Whalen was not only not a highly decorated Marine; he received a bad conduct discharge for, among other things, attempted larceny, false statements, and dereliction of duty. He was also a citizen of four countries. 

Nevertheless, he was left behind, and was, as a former thief or attempted thief, an unlikely recruit to the spying business, and was therefore almost certainly unjustly convicted.

The Biden Administration’s choice of swapping Bout for Griner presents Russia with a major public relations opportunity. Imagine if the Russians released Whalen in time for Christmas. The Russians could talk about how they still celebrate Christmas even if some Americans and the godless Biden Administration do not.

That’s balderdash, of course—well, maybe not the bit about the Biden people not liking Christmas (and Christianity)—but there it will be, in black and white. Or flesh and blood: Paul Whalen, Marine, coming home for Christmas. A gift from the Russian people to the American people. In the spirit of giving. Cue the Christmas carols.

How will the Biden Administration welcome Whelan home? Well, they’ll probably send Rachel Levine out to greet him. Levine, who “identifies” as a woman, is an admiral of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the organization’s first oddball of that kind to achieve that rank. 

Think what fun the Russians will have with that. American craziness never stops. And neither will Russian propaganda.

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

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