Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told Newsmax on Thursday that President Joe Biden "has upped the ante for what it takes to get someone out of Russia."
Lankford appeared on "National Report" following news that Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The exchange deal did not include Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been held prisoner in Russia for nearly four years.
"Literally, what Biden just did was equated an international arms dealer, leading to the death of who knows how many people, Russian, that we released for someone that was being held in Russia for a small marijuana charge," Lankford told co-host Emma Rechenberg.
"I don't know what Biden's going to have to release to Russia to try to get the release of a United States Marine that is still being held in custody completely as a political prisoner as well.
"That's the challenge now, that Biden has upped the ante for what it takes to get someone out of Russia."
Lankford said he was happy that Griner was coming home, but again questioned the cost.
"Always good to be able to see an American that's been unjustly detained coming home," he told Rechenberg. "The problem with this is the Biden administration swapped someone known as 'the merchant of death' that was a Russian citizen, that was a Russian arms dealer, that our intelligence and our Homeland Security personnel and federal law enforcement had worked for years to be able to arrest because he's led to the death of so many people around the world ... that's the person that was swapped in this."
Lankford added that the swap undoubtedly will be portrayed as a victory by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I would assume Putin would bring him [Bout] in, would do a big press conference with him, then would reconnect him with some oligarchs and start doing arms dealing all over the world again," Lankford said. "I assume this would be some big celebration in Russia for reclaiming this person.
"In addition to that, Russia can say we turned over a basketball star but the Marine [Whelan] that's been unjustly detained in Russia since 2018 they continue to be able to hold. So, we have a United States Marine that retired still in custody in Russia that was not part of this deal, and we turned over this massive, global arms dealer to them.
"That was one of the top people that we've been pursuing for a very long time."
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