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Hard Bargaining Over Viktor Bout

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The saga of the “merchant of death” Victor Bout has taken a stunning new turn.

Last week, a Thai appeals court reversed a lower court judgment and ordered the Russian citizen extradited to the United States. This was clearly in response to heavy pressure placed by the American government on the shoulders of Abhisit’s administration, which is desperate to avoid further international condemnation. Apparently, the United States went so far as to summon the Thai Ambassador to the State Department and read him the riot act, while a group of Congressmen wrote a letter raising questions about Thailand’s “Major Non-NATO Ally” status.

In the midst of a “reset” in US-Russia relations, Bout is connected to one of the most ruthless clans that dominate the Kremlin’s political landscape (see the main blog for more on this clan). It is believed by many that Bout was part of a deal engineered by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to provide support to the FARC rebels in Colombia. The series of arms and energy deals concluded by the two nations in recent years cemented, on the one hand, Chavez’s commitment to Russia’s policy of energy market disruption and, on the other, reaffirmed Russia’s support for Chavez’s campaign to destabilize its neighbors in Latin America.

Continue reading over on Robert Amsterdam Thailand.