- Although he had arrived in the Emirates not knowing much about Arab culture, he had a cosmopolitan ability to adapt to new circumstances.
- Bout, who had the brash confidence of the autodidact, didn’t have a source of weapons, but he knew that he could find one.
- “Viktor is a fast learner and he is very easy with the contacts,” Mirchev told me. “He could reach the right people at any time.”
- Schneidman, who once termed Bout “the personification of evil,” told me that Bout was “directly undermining our efforts to bring peace.” At the same time that Bout was delivering weapons to Savimbi’s forces, Schneidman said, he was also flying arms to the Angolan government. I asked Bout whether Savimbi knew about his mixed allegiance. Of course, Bout said. Didn’t Savimbi mind? “If I didn’t do it, someone else would,” Bout said.
- Officials in Washington began to see Bout as the quintessential figure of transnational crime. He was distinguished not by cruelty or ruthlessness but by cunning amorality. “If he wasn’t doing arms and all the vile stuff, he would be a damn good businessman,” Andreas Morgner, a sanctions expert at the Treasury Department, said.
- Bout told me, “My job was to bring shipments from Bulgaria to Zaire, and then to Togo. . . . I did it. I understood my limits.” He added, “How, after that, someone else wants to squeeze it? That’s not my business.” In this view, he and Mirchev were not doing anything wrong; they were simply filling gaps in the global economy.
- “Why should I be afraid?” he said. “In my life, I did not do anything that I should be concerned about.” Bout began leaving a trail of inconsistent statements. He either refused to address difficult matters—“It’s not a question to discuss what we transported”—or lied outright.
There are plenty of other small indications. It's a pretty interesting article, particularly reading people's reactions about how Bout would both ship in weapons to revolutionaries and peacekeepers, for instance:
- Soon after the raid, [U.S.] Department of Defense officials entered the names of the companies under sanctions into their databases. They made a surprising discovery: some of Bout’s companies were now delivering tents and frozen food to troops in Iraq. His planes had flown dozens of times in and out of Baghdad, according to flight records, and Bout was profiting from it. The Pentagon eventually voided the relevant contracts, but, by then, the war in Iraq had helped Viktor Bout get back on his feet.
I guess not everyone fits into nice, neat bad/good boxes.