Headlines flooding the web announcing WNBA star Brittney Griner is free from a Russian prison in exchange for Russian Arms dealer Viktor Bout. As photos of Griner’s wife in the White House with Biden speaking to Griner on the phone surfaced, the one thing that became clear was Paul Whelan would not be a part of the prisoner swap between Russia and the U.S.
First, it is good that Griner gets to come home to her family. Griner has been in Russian police custody on drug charges since February of this year. Before going home, she will spend time at a hospital undergoing a medical evaluation. Griner’s wife has vowed that she and Griner will now work to help bring home American prisoners in other countries. It’s a happy ending for the WNBA star and her family, but about Paul Whelan?
Whelan is a former United States Marine arrested in 2018 while in Russia for a friend’s wedding. Whelan is accused of being a spy, which both he and the U.S. government deny. Whelan and his family have expressed their disappointment after learning he would not be a part of the prisoner swap. This is the second time Whelan has been passed up. According to CNN, Whelan told them he was disappointed the Biden administration did not do enough to secure his freedom. He also knew Russia considered him more of a threat as a “spy.”
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was serving a 25-year prison sentence for plotting to kill Americans and U.S. officials and supplying weapons to a terrorist organization. The White House somehow agreed to release a notoriously dangerous man who is a severe threat to the U.S. for a WNBA player arrested for a small amount of drugs. Trading a terrorist for an alleged spy and a drug smuggler seems to have been the more logical agreement. What bargaining chips to get Whelan home does the U.S. have left now? What will Bout do now with his freedom? While the White House acknowledges Bout being free is both frustrating and concerning, they have yet to explain a real plan to secure Whelan’s freedom.
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Griner belonged in prison.
In today’s social media driven world one has to be careful even opposing what appears to be a really bad deal. It doesn’t take much for one’s opposition to the deal to get twisted and referred to as hate for Mrs Griner. I wish we could have logical debates about these kind of things without fear of becoming “labeled”. That said, I don’t trust this administration telling us that it was Griner or nothing. I believe it was stated during negotiations for Whelan, before Griner’s arrest, that the US simply didn’t want to give Bout up in exchange for Whelan. What changed that suddenly we would give Bout up for Griner, but not previously for Whelan. Something seems missing from this story?