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Brittany Griner is being freed. All the US had to do in return is free one of the most notorious merchants of death the world has known in Victor Bout. So we swapped a professional athlete, who was set up for a bogus cannabis charge, for a man who engineered the deaths of untold numbers, and is immensely valuable to the new Soviet empire expansion.

If nothing else, Griner’s story illustrates the urgent need for the US to reform its own cannabis laws at the federal level, so we can have the capital to counsel less civilized nations on this issue. Soviet penalties are insanely harsh, US penalties are still governed by the 1940’s “Reefer Madness” hysteria, promoted by the Republican Party. Let’s tag it for what it is, and recognize Vladimir Putin’s goal since the fall of the USSR has been to restore the Soviet Union. The gross invasion of Ukraine is his most dramatic step towards that goal. He has reinstituted many of the horrors of the USSR in a new stew of Commie-Fascism. OK, I made that up, but that’s what it is: An alphabet soup, of carefully selected elements from both repressive ideologies, for maximum totalitarianism.

A dark historical parallel is how the American “high ground” was compromised during WWII by its own dark history of racism and Jim Crow laws, which Hitler studied and used as a model to create the Holocaust. Roosevelt said, “Hey you can’t do that,” to which Hitler said, “Hey I’m just following your model, which I carefully studied in prison.”

A better historical example is how President Dwight Eisenhower ordered American, British and French troops to pull back from the Suez invasion in 1956, so his high ground could not be compromised in telling the Soviets to pull back from Hungary. (“How can I tell the Soviets to withdraw while we’re invading another country abetted by our allies?”)

Bout is one of the most destructive arms dealers of the 21st Century, and enriched himself furnishing weapons for wars in Asia, Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola), Central America and the Middle East. He appears to have pilfered Soviet stockpiles of old weapons in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova and other republics soon after the dissolution of the USSR, and distributed them to enrich himself. Sometimes he armed both sides of the same conflict, qualifying him as an “Ultimate Mercenary.” At various times he held five passports and used a variety of name iterations. The Nicolas Cage film Lord of War was allegedly modeled after Bout.

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Russia has been trying to extract him from the Western justice system since he was arrested in Thailand in 2008 in an American DEA sting. They viewed Griner as an “in your face” retort because Bout was caught in an American drug sting. Hence, another prompt for the US to change its draconian Federal cannabis laws.

We’re talking cannabis, not bombs! But to the Soviets, one thing is as good or bad as another if they want to manipulate a situation, extract a valuable operative or torture one individual. The antiquated American cannabis laws made us vulnerable to such a deal with the devil.

Bout had served 10 years of a 25-year term, while Griner was detained in February in the nightmare of the Soviet “justice” system, and sentenced to 9 and a half years. Bout is their grand prize because of his value to the Soviet intelligence agency, GRU through his own vast network of global thugs, some well-placed in unstable countries. This is the same GRU alleged to have interfered with American elections with disinformation and social media bot campaigns. The Soviets protected and enabled the expansion of his death network, and he rewarded them by keeping quiet for 10 years to his American captors. Now he is being rewarded, and held as an example of rewards for loyalty.

The prisoner swap was brokered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which had brazenly abetted and hosted Bout’s vast network, in the province of Sharjah. How ironic they are one of Israel’s new allies through the corrupt Abraham Accords. So the UAE was uniquely positioned to help with this by virtue of their own corrupt network and agenda. They profited from Bout by facilitating some of his illicit arms deals.

While Griner is being freed, former American Marine Paul Whelan remains imprisoned on espionage charges, which may be no more credible that Griner’s cannabis charge. His situation illustrates the risk of visiting the new USSR even on a social visit, as he was there for a wedding. It appears he may have been framed when someone placed a sensitive flash drive in his possession, which contained state secrets. Whelan was the corporate security director at BorgWarner at the time of his arrest, and said that Russia uses its justice system as a political tool.

One thing is certain, no American or Western woman will ever again want to play pro basketball in the Soviet Union, no matter how good the money. No American or Western scholar or private contractor should ever want to risk time in the Soviet gulag for profit or a bold career move. Putin’s new Soviet Russia has alienated itself from the global community; they have undermined their own sports leagues, academic institutions and private corporations. Indeed, even attending a wedding there can bring a gulag nightmare.