If you watch enough Hollywood films, you eventually learn that it doesn’t pay to accede to the demands of blackmailers. At least in the movies, it always seems to lead to further demands for money.

Last year, Russia grabbed a US basketball player and (implicitly) held her for ransom. Eventually, the US government relented and traded a Russian arms dealer in exchange for her release.

Some might argue that while it’s unfortunate that we had to deliver a bad guy to the Russians, at least Brittney Griner is now safe and back home. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. The US government also showed the Russians that it would be willing to give in to blackmail. Thus they have now grabbed another American citizen, and will undoubtedly demand new concessions in exchange for his release. We gave up a convicted Russian arms dealer and got nothing in the long run.

You might argue that we could not have anticipated that the Russians would be so devious. Not so. Here’s what I wrote the day after the exchange was announced:

It is tempting to view this prisoner swap as a “humanitarian” gesture, but just the opposite is true.  The fact that Russia’s tactics were successful insures that more people will be used this way in the future.  In the long run, there will be more hostages taken as a result of the US government decision to give in to the Russian demands.

We are now paying the price for the US government’s shortsighted decision-making process.