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Suspected International Arms Dealer in New York Jail

By: CBS
By: CBS

The Russian man known as "The Merchant of Death" is now in a New York jail facing life in prison. Suspected international arms dealer, Viktor Bout, was extradited from Thailand Tuesday despite strong protests from Russia.

Accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout makes his first court appearance in New York Wednesday. He faces four counts of terrorism, including conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals.

“Victor Bout, sometimes called the merchant of death, was the premiere arms merchant, fueling conflicts around the world for almost two decades, willing to do business with anyone willing to pay his price,” said Juan Zarate, CBS News National Security Consultant.

Bout was extradited from Thailand on Tuesday, despite strong protests from Russia's Foreign Ministry. The Russians have been claiming he's a legitimate businessman since he was arrested in Bangkok two years ago.

U.S. relations with Russia have been steadily improving, but now there's concern this tug of war over Bout could jeopardize cooperation on arms control, nuclear weapons and the war in Afghanistan.

“We agree to disagree sometimes,” said State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley. “We have tensions that crop up periodically. And we work to, to manage those. I don't expect that this will have any impact on our, on our relationship with Russia."

Analysts say the U.S. is willing to risk some turbulence with Russia in order to make sure the most notorious arms merchant in the world stays out of commission.

“I don’t think the Obama administration, the Justice Department, the prosecutors in New York are willing to negotiate away what could be considered one of the most high profile international criminal trials of the century,” said Zarate.

Bout faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the terrorism charges.

The U.S.-Russian relationship could be tested this weekend when President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are scheduled to meet in Portugal.


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