Prisoner swap not a security risk, Tulane expert says

Prisoner swap not a security risk, Tulane expert says

December 9, 20222 min read

A Tulane University expert on American foreign policy says he’s confident that the prisoner swap involving basketball star Brittney Griner and a notorious Russian arms dealer will not pose a national security risk for the United States.

Responding to a tweet by Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin who called the swap a disaster, Chris Fettweis, a political science professor in the Tulane School of Liberal Arts said, “It takes quite a healthy imagination to believe that this is a ‘disaster’ for U.S. national security. He said that from a national security perspective, the swap is “irrelevant.”

“Griner was a political prisoner. We got her home. It’s a good day, no matter how much some people want to inject some moral ambiguity into it,” Fettweis said.

On Thursday, the U.S. and Russia announced a deal to exchange Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “merchant of death.”

“(Rogin) seemed to think that this ‘merchant of death’ character is going to restart a long-dormant career in ways that will hurt the United States or that now it will be open season on Americans traveling abroad,” Fettweis said. “Both assumptions are, to say the least, a stretch.”

The swap did not include Paul Whelan, who has been incarcerated in Russia since he was convicted of espionage in December 2018. U.S. officials say he is innocent.

“I think the Biden administration is hesitant to trade an actual spy for him, since that would be implying that he (Whelan) is guilty, but eventually they will do it," Fettweis said.

Fettweis is available for media interviews and can be reached at or

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  • Christopher Fettweis
    Christopher Fettweis Associate Professor

    Christopher Fettweis researches international relations and US foreign policy

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