"It's nice" to call Viktor Bout, the prisoner exchanged with Russia for WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday, a gun dealer, when in reality, he is a "clear and future danger to the American people" who was arrested for arming al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists to kill American citizens and members of the military, retired Brigadier Gen. Blaine Holt told Newsmax on Friday.
"That's a polite way of phrasing what he was doing," Holt, a former U.S. deputy military representative to NATO, said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America."
Bout remains a "very dangerous" man, but he'll get a "hero's welcome" when he returns to Russia, Holt said.
"He's going to get money to get back into the business that he was in, and now he's got a chip on his shoulder and a whole lot of ideas about how he wants to exact after revenge," said Holt. "He was in a prison where he was honing his skills, so it is not a good combination."
Griner's high-profile release on Thursday came as U.S. Marine veteran and former Michigan police officer Paul Whelan remains in a Russian prison after four years, and Holt said Friday that leaves questions about the amount of leverage the United States has, that it wasn't able to get Whelan back home as well.
Using Griner in the prisoner exchange, Holt added, also sends a message to the "thug states of this world" that if they can seize a high-profile celebrity, they have leverage on the United States, and "we'll see more of this not less."
Holt said he also has questions about the timing of Griner's release, considering that the United States and Russia are starting to look at getting to the negotiating table about off-ramping the Ukraine war.
"So much leverage was left on the table that could have been used from the United States side," said Holt. "Whether it was economic, whether it was [whether] we can give Ukraine much bigger weapons now if you're not going to allow us to have Whelan home as well, and it does not appear that those things were explored."
Whelan's continued captivity also goes back to the "two-year run" the United States has had of projecting weakness on the world stage under President Joe Biden, said Holt.
"Ronald Reagan proved this in a good way," he said. "If you project weakness you will only get worse and more of what you don't want. We go back to the Chinese drumming it in our nose in Alaska, and moving on to the Kabul failures, and this deterrable war. It just keeps going."
Meanwhile, Holt also discussed the House vote Thursday to pass the massive $858 billion defense bill, which includes a provision to drop the military's COVID vaccine mandate, and said ditching the mandate will only help with military recruiting efforts a "tiny bit" and not as proponents expect.
"They missed something," he said. "All of those great service people with all these ribbons and medals on their chests were left behind. They're not giving them their money or their jobs back. They're disgracing them, and we're supposed to say sorry. It's not good enough."
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Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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