Sergei Lavrov says many risible things, even for a diplomat, but he has topped himself in the Bout matter:
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will bring up the Viktor Bout case with counterpart Hillary Clinton during his visit to Washington, which starts Wednesday.
“For sure, Bout is a topic that is regularly addressed in our contacts with the Americans,” Lavrov said Friday while answering reporters’ questions.
“Bout was presented to the judge and jury like a person who was already a criminal,” Lavrov said. “It was described in a way that made it seem like a done deal, and that, of course, influenced the trial.”
Uhm, that’s kinda the way it works, Sergei. The prosecution makes an allegation that the accused is a criminal. They make that presentation to the judge and jury. They typically do so in forceful, often lurid, terms. They would like to make it seem like a done deal, but here in the US, the burden is on the prosecutor to make that allegation stick. The defense has every opportunity to show that the prosecution has not met its burden.
I wonder what the alternative is in Sergei’s alternative universe? Is it something like: the “prosecutor” says: “We’re really sorry to have to do this to such a nice guy, but . . . ”
I am not a big Hillary fan, but she is the one half-way sensible person in this administration. I sincerely hope she doesn’t let diplomatic niceties stand in the way of responding to Lavrov’s raising the issue with a good horse laugh, followed by a belittling lecture (from a Yale Law School grad) on the way that criminal justice works.
But Lavrov was not alone in his inanities:
The case of Bout creates a negative background for the Russian-American relationship, said Alexei Pushkov, head of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee.
“The relationship-improvement ball is in the United States’ court,” Pushkov said, RIA-Novosti reported.
Unfortunately, many in the administration probably take that view, and are looking to salvage something from the reset. But Bout is a bridge too far, and certainly the Russians know this.
Which raises the question (which has come up in the comments): why are the Russians so bent on moving heaven and earth to get Bout out of American clutches?
The Occam’s Razor answer is clear: Bout is a Russian intelligence operative, or was, and knows a great deal that Putin and the FSB and the siloviki generally would prefer to remain secret.
A word to the wise. Anyone involved in a business even remotely associated with the US military or intelligence should be quite careful when traveling to Russia, and might want to reconsider his or her trip. It is pretty clear that Russia will be willing to do some extraordinary things to secure Bout’s release. Lavrov’s appeal will go nowhere, and plan B a la Russe is a trade: being a bargaining chip is a bitch, so beware.