EXCLUSIVE: Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus said while a prisoner swap is not “unreasonable” in order to bring Americans back home, it is not ideal for the United States to “reward” Russia by returning a dangerous Russian arms dealer with the “blood of many people on his hands.”
President Biden announced Thursday that WNBA star Brittney Griner had been released from Russian custody roughly 10 months after being arrested for bringing vape cartridges containing hashish oil through a Moscow airport. She was turned over in exchange for the release of convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death.”
During an interview with Fox News Digital at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C., Petraeus said it is an “understandable imperative” for countries to engage in prisoner swaps in order to safely deliver their citizens home. However, he also recognized that Bout’s bloody history complicates the matter, calling him a “very reprehensible individual.”
“I don’t think that this is at all unreasonable. You know, every country wants to get back its citizens. Ukraine and Russia are doing this again,” explained Petraeus.
“You hate, in a sense, to reward what Russia does, in certain cases, if you’re talking about the case of the female professional basketball player. One hates to reward Russia for doing something like that.”
“But on the other hand, I think it’s an understandable imperative to get our citizens home, and sometimes that requires us to take actions that, you know, we’d rather not take, because, again, the individual ready to go back is a very, very reprehensible individual with the blood of many people on his hands,” the general continued.
“But that’s the reality of the world, and we have done this, both administrations have done this repeatedly over the years and I suspect that will continue.”
Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine veteran, was not involved in the exchange. Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in 2018 for espionage charges.
“After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along,” Biden said Thursday at the White House.
The prisoner swap comes as the war started by Russia against Ukraine is approaching its one-year mark.
Petraeus told Fox News Digital that he thinks the Russians are losing the war, but it doesn’t mean the conflict will end in the near-term.
“The Russians are losing this war. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to come to an end any time soon. It’s impossible to predict whether it will be once, or a year, or years before a really crucial calculation is reached in the Kremlin, which is that this war is unsustainable for Russia,” he said.
“I think that right now Vladimir Putin still thinks that the Russians can will suffer under the Ukrainians and the Americans, just the way the Russians have suffered the Nazis and World War II and Napoleon’s army a couple of centuries prior.”
“And we have to convince them that that is not the case,” he said.