Friday, December 09, 2022

What is the global karmic balance of the Griner prisoner swap

Prisoner swaps are funny things. There have been many instances of individual prisoners swapped for multiple prisoners from "the other side", and I've always scratched my head to understand how these deals are arrived at. Does someone do a kind of balance sheet to balance off the value of the one and the many? How would such an analysis even work in practice?

So, now we have American basketball star Brittney Griner swapped for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout. Fair swap? On one side, a 32-year old, 6ft 9in, professional sportswoman who just happened to be found with some cannabis oil in her luggage, accidentally she claims, a trumped-up sham charge if ever there was one (oh, and she is black, openly gay and outspoken, which probably factors in heavily to Russia's decision-making). And on the other side, one of the world's most prolific arms dealers, known in some circles as "the Merchant of Death", serving a 25-year sentence in the USA for trafficking millions of dollars worth of lethal weaponry. 

What is the net global karma from that particular swap? Much as you feel sorry for Ms. Griner, it's hard to square up the relative "values" of the two individuals. American government figures maintain that they had no choice, that it was the only deal on the table. But still, it smarts a little.

Russian President Putin says he is open to further prisoners swaps in the future. On these terms, I imagine he probably is.

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