Viktor Bout's extradition to the United States still receives extensive news coverage in the world. The Russian businessman faces serious terrorism-related charges, including criminal conspiracy to kill US nationals and officials, the acquisition and sale of ABM missiles and arms shipments to FARC rebels in Colombia. If found guilty, Bout can face a prison term from 25 years to lifetime imprisonment.
Russia is extremely concerned about the extradition of the Russian businessman to the United States. However, US officials hope that the scandal with the Merchant of Death will not affect the US-Russian relations. US Assistant Secretary of State, Philip Gordon, stated at a news conference in Washington that the US administration was in a process of building strong relations with the Russian Federation. The reset of relations, the official said, stipulates practical cooperation between the countries even though they may disagree on some issues.
Philip Crowley, State Department spokesman, shares a similar opinion:
"We have a broad and deep relationship with Russia. It is guided by our mutual national interests. Those national interests overlap. We understand that on a number of issues, we agree to disagree sometimes. We have tensions that crop up periodically and we work to manage those. I don't expect that this will have any impact on our relationship with Russia," he said.
What about Russia? For the time being, Russian officials only say that the Russian Federation will provide all necessary help to Viktor Bout. Nothing has been said about any possible countermeasures. Spokesmen for Russia's Liberal and Democratic Party said, for example, that Russia should terminate diplomatic relations with Thailand, after it had delivered Bout to the United States.
Pravda.Ru interviewed Russian prominent officials and public figures to find out their opinion about the future of the US-Russian relations in light of Viktor Bout's delivery to the States.
Alexander Hintenstein, a member of United Russia ruling party:
"Such a large scandal will obviously affect the relations between the United States and Russia. However, I do not think that the ties will worsen considerably. The Americans have previously arrested a much more important persona - Pavel Borodin - the secretary of the Unified State of Russia and Belarus. A Cold War did not happen, so I believe that Bout's arrest will not stop the "reset" process either.
"As for the suggestion to punish Thailand, Russia can not just ignore the fact that this country has violated all norms of the international law. Terminating diplomatic ties is too much, although it could definitely frighten the Thai administration, because the nation's treasury receives colossal income from Russian tourists.
"I'd also like to say that Russia will never be able to receive Bout. It has taken the Americans too much time and effort to have him, and they will never hand him over to Russia," the official said.
Konstantin Zatulin, State Duma deputy, United Russia:
"It goes without saying that Bout is a very controversial figure. However, his past activities can not justify his arrest and delivery to a foreign state. This is a humiliating situation. It will not lead to an exchange of nuclear strikes, of course, but the relations will get worse."
Alexander Dugin, a scientist of politics:
"The kidnapping - there is no better word to describe the situation - is an important sign. It has shown that the "reset" of relations between the United States and Russia is nothing but fiction. The scandal has not worsened the ties between the two countries. It has resumed their natural course. Russia and the USA are enemies, if not in the whole world, then in the Eurasian space. Our geopolitical interests are absolutely different.
"With the "reset" button, Russia hoped to win some time and get rid of the USA's pressure. Obama in his turn wanted to set Russia against Belarus and Iran. One may say that he has succeeded, but it seemed that it was not enough to satisfy the Republicans. For them, Bout is a great opportunity to demonstrate the failure of Obama's politics towards Russia. Bout is a man who knows too much. Apparently, officials of the Russian administration approved his activities on the arms market. The Republicans may use him as a hostage, obtain all the information they need from him and then unveil the "whole truth" about Russia to the world.
"As for Thailand, it is a weak state, which is incapable of showing any resistance to the United States. One should take a look at the events that happen in Russia, rather than in Thailand. It seems sometimes that Russia acts exactly like Thailand as it agrees to make concessions for the US administration. We have the pro-American lobby in the Kremlin today, and it was that lobby that buried both Bout and our intelligence officers.
"We do not have any chance to get Bout. However, Russia can gain profit from the situation. The proponents of the "reset button" have proved to be utterly inconsistent. If we do not sweep up the pro-American lobby, other Russian citizens may repeat Bout's fate."
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