Protecting Russia’s National Interests

Jackson Diehl on Russia’s reaction to Thailand’s extradition of Viktor Bout:

“Extreme unjustice,” fumed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Said the Foreign Ministry: “There is no doubt that the illegal extradition of V.A. Bout came as a consequence of unprecedented political pressure” from the United States.

You’d think that the Obama administration had kidnapped a national hero. (…)

Imagine Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton righteously denouncing the “injustice” of the arrest by a democratic country of a U.S. mafia kingpin or drug trafficker. Most countries stick to “quiet diplomacy” when trying to rescue their rogues — when they try at all. Yet Putin’s regime seems to have no scruple about publicly campaigning for Bout. (…)

To be sure, the “merchant of death” may have embarrassing information about the U.S. government. His companies reportedly were hired as subcontractors by the Pentagon to deliver weapons to Iraq in 2003 and 2004. But it is the U.S. government, after all, that is prosecuting Bout — presumably it is ready to deal with his revelations. For Russia, on the other hand, Bout’s trial could offer a rare example of the application of the rule of law to one of the country’s state-sponsored outlaws. Let’s hope it’s a precedent.