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Congressman Who Served in Special Forces Warns What Griner Swap Will Mean for Americans Going Forward

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Former U.S. Army Special Forces officer GOP Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida warned Thursday that the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for international arms dealer Russian Viktor Bout will make Americans less safe going forward.

“In the short term I’m always pleased when we get an American home that’s being unjustly held, and I’m happy for the Griner family. But in the long term, appeasing terrorists, appeasing dictatorships, never works in the interests of the United States,” said Waltz, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“The whole reason regimes like Russia, North Korea, Iran, the Taliban and others participate in hostage diplomacy is in the end, we always cave, we always make a concession and…they always win, and we lose,” he added.

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In February, Griner was detained at a Moscow airport after Russian customs officials said they found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage, ESPN reported.

In July, the U.S. reportedly offered to trade Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” for Griner and American Paul Whelan, a Marine Corps veteran, who has been held in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

In August, Griner was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced Griner’s release in a one-for-one trade for Bout who was serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. for financing terrorism.

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He addressed his administration’s failure to secure Whelan’s release saying, “This was not a choice of which American to bring home.”

“Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up,” he further stated.

Waltz said that his heart breaks for the Whelan family.

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“What was his crime? Not being a celebrity? Not checking enough boxes for Hollywood?” the congressman asked.

“The fact that we left a U.S. Marine behind and made this choice, and I don’t buy the Biden administration and President Biden saying we didn’t have a choice,” Waltz continued.

“When do we start dictating the choices to Putin and the Iranian regime and the Taliban, rather than letting them dictate what we do and who we give over?”

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