The Curious Case of Viktor Bout
Bout’s extradition case has more curves, twists and turns than Penelope Cruz naked
After spending over two and a half years in Thai prisons, Viktor Bout’s fate is being decided this Monday, October 4, 2010. It has certainly been a difficult and uncomfortable balancing act for Thailand thus far. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted about a month ago in Russia Today as saying that, “Thailand is a third party in the case of Viktor Bout, the U.S. and Russia should resolve this issue.”
New developments, twist and turns and allegations to Bout’s ties to political leaders and intelligence agencies continue to develop. This has turned into an extremely important, high profile and high priority case for not only the U.S and Russia but also for Thailand as well. The outcome of Viktor Bout’s extradition case could have a major and long lasting impact on political, economic as well as trade relations between the three countries. There has been warnings and threats from Russian politicians that diplomatic relations between Russia and the U.S. could suffer if Bout is indeed extradited.
Just three months ago President Obama took Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to his favorite ‘burger joint’ in Arlington, Virgina for a lunch meting. More importantly Russian President Medvedev recently signed the
nuclear non-proliferation New START treaty in Washington, D.C. Ties between the U.S. and Russia have been ‘reset’ and have become much more open and friendlier. Many feel that Bout’s extradition to the U.S. could sour these new friendlier ties between the two countries.
Vladimir Kozin, Russian deputy director of the ministry’s information and press department, wrote in an opinion article in the Moscow Times at the end of August, warning that “the ballyhoo created by Washington over him [Mr Bout] may inevitably affect Russian-US relations to the detriment of the US effort to “reset them”. In an effort to try and keep things balanced and counter criticisms from Russian diplomats, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stressed that the case was not politically motivated.
At the end of August, as reported by the Bangkok Post, Prime Minister Abhisit was asked about concerns that ties between Thailand and Russia or between Thailand and the US could turn sour over the Bout case. Mr Abhisit said “the Foreign Ministry would explain the case to both countries and improve understanding. He admitted that this might take time.”
Abhisit expressed his concerns about the outcome of this case last Thursday in the Moscow Times. When the Prime Minister was asked whether he was concerned about the outcome, he replied,
“Definitely.” He then added, “a decision for one side means the other party is bound to be dissatisfied, but we have to try to follow the rules and spend time making them understand and minimizing the impact.”
There have been numerous rumors and allegations floating around that Russia tried to bribe Thailand with cheap oil and fighter jets and the U.S. allegedly matched the arms offer and used political pressure to assure Bout’s extradition. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted in The Nation in late August as saying, “Thailand is a major ally of the U.S. in Southeast Asia but also wants to maintain good relations with Russia for political and economic interests.”
Experts say Bout allegedly has knowledge of Russia’s military and intelligence operations and Moscow does not want him to go on trial in the United States. However, Daniel Estulin investigative journalist and author of SHADOW MASTERS, has said that Bout being directly involved in Russian intelligence agencies is simply not true.
Bout also denied having any classified information regarding the Russian state and its leaders, saying he had worked neither with Russian companies nor state agencies. Bout was quoted in Russia Today as stating, “I don’t know any secrets of the Russian state or its leaders… I have never even worked with Russian companies and state agencies.”
This is Chess not Checkers
Until recently Thailand appeared to want to stay at arms length and separate itself from the decision, to be neutral and let the U.S. and Russia settle the case amongst themselves. However, as the extradition court date nears, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, according to the Associated Press, said this past Thursday that “he will have the final say in the politically sensitive extradition of alleged Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout to the United States, noting that one side is bound to be disappointed.”
Abhisit also stated that, “Washington had expected Bout’s rapid extradition but the case spurred a diplomatic tug-of-war with Moscow that led to long delays. Bout’s next hearing is scheduled for Monday.”
The question of whether or not Viktor Bout will be extradited or not this Monday seems to depend on who you ask. Last week I read an interesting piece on Bout. It was a Fox News articled titled, ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout Will Never Be Extradited to U.S., Expert Says, written by Ed Barnes. A lawyer named Robert Amsterdam, who is deeply involved in both Russian and Thai politics, is the expert that Barnes refers to in the article. Amsterdam is quoted as stating that the extradition, “isn’t going to happen.”
He then refers to this case as “the last great spy battle of the Cold War, which pitted Russians looking to keep Bout’s secrets away from the Americans against the Americans who are seeking to shut down the vast illegal arms network he allegedly created and force him to reveal some of the Kremlin’s darkest secrets.”
John Daly recently wrote an excellent and informative article on Viktor Bout titled, Washington Turf Wars. The following excerpt is taking from his article.
Michael Bagley, operations director for the Washington DC-based Global Intelligence Report, observed, “If the Bout extradition proceeds and he stands trial in the U.S., the implications are enormous. While Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency officials are eager to proceed, for the U.S. the international implications involved in prosecuting Bout have the potential to disrupt relations not only with the Russian Federation, but EU allies embedded in Afghanistan as well, not to mention a number of African nations, where the Pentagon is attempting to improve relations in order to establish its AFRICOM military presence.”
John Daly then explains the complications and ramifications of putting a man like Viktor Bout on trial in a U.S. courtroom. “One can only speculate on the media circus if the DEA and DOJ manage to extradite Bout that will occur in a the Southern District of New York, as his defense lawyers subpoena Pentagon, British, Belgian, French, Iraqi, Afghan, Eastern European and African military officials and politicians to testify under oath about their relations with Bout and his transit companies.”
The Plot Thickens
There is not only a struggle between the U.S. and Russia over Viktor Bout but apparently an internal fight within various U.S. government agencies. Below the surface there is tension and internal wrangling within the U.S. between the D.E.A., the Department of Justice and the CIA. The D.E.A. definitely want Bout badly. They are the agency that set up the sting operation that has Bout currently incarcerated. They also went through great measures to entrap him by ‘any means necessary’ which I explain in greater detail in my previous article titled, The Assassination of Viktor Anatoliyevich Bout.
The Department of Justice and the D.E.A. both want a win and then there is the Obama administration and the recent “reset” policy with the Russian government. Also, earlier this week, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner reiterated Washington’s hope to see Bout on U.S. soil.
According to Amsterdam mentioned earlier in the Fox News article, “The stakes are too big to have him extradited.”
Amsterdam says two elements virtually guarantee that the two-year battle to bring Bout to America will fail. “One is Bout’s close connection to Igor Sechin, the Russian deputy prime minister who is widely regarded as the third most powerful man in the Kremlin, and who is a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, The other is the corruption that is rampant in Thailand.”
In case Bout’s lobbying efforts by Vladimir Kozin of the Russian Foreign Ministry, his long history with Igor Sechin dating back to the 1980′s in Mozambique, the apparent lack of evidence by the U.S. prosecutor’s and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit saying that he is holding the trump card are still not enough, he has appealed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The Voice of Russia stated that, “on Thursday, the businessman’s mother read out his letter to President Dimitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at a press conference in Moscow.” In addition to that, the article mentions, “in a separate address to President Medvedev, Bout’s wife, Alla Bout said that if extradited to the U.S., her husband would face a life term in prison.”
Whatever the outcome this Monday, this case has been anything but simple and boring but rather complex, intriguing and a most curious case indeed.
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