Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Viktor Bout is Apparently Worth Quite a Lot to the Russians
Well, from my sources in Thailand and elsewhere it seems that Viktor Bout, weapons merchant extraordinaire, is worth quite a bit to the Russians.

Bout, in prison in Thailand awaiting extradition to the United States, may not make it back, despite having a long history of providing weapons to terrorists, criminals and some of the world's most vicious thugs, such as Charles Taylor, Laurent Kabila, the Taliban, the FARC and hosts of others.

The reason he may not make it back is that the Russians are far more afraid of his standing trial than was originally anticipated. After several diplomatic efforts to get Bout out of prison and back to Russia, the Russian government, or at least its military establishment, has decided to let some money and hardware do the talking.

My sources tell me the Russian ambassador in Thailand has met several times with the Thai prime minister, and has offered sweet heart deals on weapons systems, including fighter jets, in exchange for Bout.

In addition, the Russians are offering sweet heart gas and oil deals to sweeten the pot, which is a significant offer given the current market price of these fuels.

The question is, why would Bout be so valuable to the Russians, and what is it that they fear he could or would say in a court?

The most obvious answer is that he is deeply in bed and protected by the Russian military establishment and its intelligence services.

A look at the weapons he offered to provide (taken together with the weapons he did, in fact, provide in the past) shows how confident he was getting access to the upper reaches of the Russian arsenal, something impossible to do without official protection.

In the Russian underworld, such connections are called krisha, a roof that shelters those with ties to powerful officials and criminal bosses.

states that Bout offered: 700-800 surface-to-air missiles; 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles; millions of rounds of ammunition; anti-personnel land mines and C-4 explosives; night vision equipment; "ultralight" aircraft that could be outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles; and unmanned aerial vehicles that have a range of 200-300 kilometers.

Now, one can certainly see a salesman blowing smoke to make a sale, but the price for promising and not delivering in his business is usually an unpleasant death. Bout won his fame in his business for delivering what he said he would deliver, when and where he said he would deliver it.

So, whoever his krisha is, they are worried enough to offer the equivalent of millions of dollars in bribes to keep Bout from standing trial. Clearly they are worried about more than just a little bad publicity. They are afraid he will bring the entire house down if he ever turns.

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