Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok for a hearing last month.
Russian Viktor Bout has been held in a Thai jail since 2008, accused of selling weapons to combatants on at least three continents, sometimes to both sides in the same conflict. Now Bout's being held by American agents on a plane headed for the U.S., where he faces terrorism charges. Douglas Farah of the International Assessment and Strategy Center co-wrote a book about Bout, called Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible. In an article for Foreign Policy, Farah explained Bout, a former Soviet Air Force officer, capitalized on the USSR's collapse by using abandoned planes to ship discarded Soviet weapons around the world.
What made Bout unique was his ability to merge private profiteering with state interests in the new globalized world of unfettered weapons flows. Dubbed the "Merchant of Death," Bout, often under the protection of his Russian superiors in the military intelligence structure, created a one-stop shop for weapons that could be delivered virtually anywhere in the world. His access to former Soviet arsenals, aircraft, and crews would not have been possible without state protection.