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Biden blinked and Whelan lost

Biden blinked and Whelan lost

I have been involved in hundreds of tough negotiations – school contracts, political debates, legislation business deals.  I will admit that I have never been involved in a hostage exchange, but the principles are the same.

Generally, one side makes their final offer – or so they say.  That can mean a temporary impasse.  That is when you stare across the table and use every other means to pressure the other side to give in.  It is all a matter of who blinks first.

The Biden administration is saying that they made the deal because it was the only option Putin would accept.  Of course, that is not known.  Had the United States held out longer – and applied external pressures – perhaps Putin would have blinked – and hostage Paul Whelan would have been on his way home with basketball star Brittney Griner.

It would not be the first time the recalcitrant party folded.  And it is my opinion Putin would have folded – if the pressures were against him. International public opinion was running against him – and intensifying due to the Ukraine War.  His health appears to be deteriorating to the point of a public fall and defecation incident.  Viktor Bout was in an important leader in Putin’s international terrorist activities – and a personal friend.  He wanted him back very badly.

But Putin is a tough negotiator.  He knows how to stare down the opposition.  I have no doubt that based on experience, Putin believed that Biden would eventually fold – take half measure over a total win.  If that was Putin’s mindset, he was correct.

If I were Biden, I would not have given in to Putin’s deal. I would have at least insisted that Whelan be part of the deal.  In reality, that is a very small concession on Putin’s part.  Whelan’s value as a future bargaining chip is not that high – and there does not appear to be anything on the American table that Putin wants at this time.

The legitimate celebration over Griner’s release is offset by the tragic realization that Whelan is nowhere near getting home – and maybe never will, at least alive.

Biden promises that they will continue to make every effort to secure Whelan’s release, but even Whelan must know that the talk is cheap.  At this point, Biden has no leverage in any negotiations for Whelan’s release.  He used it all to secure Griner’s release.

Whelan’s moment of opportunity was now.  Remember, Whelan was already left behind once before when Trevor Reed was traded for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a major international drug dealer.   As usual, Russia is getting back a dangerous criminal terrorist for an American citizen detained on a trumped-up charge. 

Instead of hanging tough, Biden caved for some good press at the expense of a former military man who has languished in a Russian prison for four years – and has been passed over on two Biden prisoner exchanges.

And besides this particular deal, there is the question as to whether these prisoner swaps only encourage the taking of more hostages as a strategy.  Based on the increasing number of times we have been negotiating trades with adversaries, the argument is compelling.  Even such hardcore left senator as Chris Coons, of Delaware has criticized the Griner exchange for that very reason.

The Biden administration continues to make deals for hostages that look great in the news of the day – and benefits him politically — but we too often fail to connect the dots to the next person who gets grabbed as a bargaining chip based on the current policy.   Just because they do not yet have a name and a face does not mean that they are not – or will not be — victims of the swap-at-any-cost policy.

Apart from the larger policy issue, I believe very strongly that had Biden played hardball, we would have had both Griner and Whelan at home today.  Time was not on Putin’s side.  Biden’s perceived weakness may have been.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Theodore

    Putin ia a master chess player and probably pretty darn good a poker. Biden can’t play checkers and probably cheats at old maid.

  2. Darren

    Negotiation is not necessarily confrontation. Biden and his people appear to be a fail at both.
    I have said in the past, the president in charge of running the country needs to understand weaknesses and
    how the game of poker is played.
    Trump would have never let a one sided deal fly. But then again I have to wonder what personal favor is going to
    be taking place for Biden and his family. If this is the case, more than just Griner’s release is happening. More than likely
    this will not be a financial favor as the country is wising up. It will probably be a silence of information Russia holds that can further
    sink the Biden Boat. One has to ask, does one become president because he make dumb decisions? I still wonder what he received for the
    horrible Afghanistan with drawl. We left 84 billion behind by accident! Really.

    • Joseph S. Bruder

      Darren, you seem to forget that Trump negotiated the Afghanstan withdrawal. He got NOTHING for it. Just said, we’re leaving on a certain date, and please don’t shoot at us on the way out. Didn’t start moving people out, didn’t move equipment out, no help for Afghanis working for the government, nothing. Dropped it in Biden’s lap with 2 months to go. Biden did manage to get out 125K people, and all of the Americans that didn’t choose to stay behind. Given Trump’s obvious fuck-up, Biden did pretty well.

      • frank stetson

        Actually, Trump released 5,000 Taliban warriors we held prisoner. In return, he got a promise that they would be good.

        I wonder how many were involved in the attacks against the Biden withdrawal?

        And then he talked about inviting the Taliban terrorist leaders to Camp David for a pow wow…..

        How many Whelan’s can you get for 5,000 Taliban?

      • larry Horist

        Joseph S Bruder … Some one once said that a half truth is a lie. You are a perfect example of that. Trump cut a conditional deal with the Taliban — of which I was critical at the time. Trump later delayed implementation of the deal because the Taliban were not keeping their part of the deal. When Biden took office, he was under no obligation to accept Trump’s deal. He had a clean slate. It was Biden’s — and only Biden’s — decision to pull out of Afghanistan when and how he did. He did it against the advice of many of his own people in the Defense Department, State Department and even in the White House. What resulted from that disastrous surrender is all on Biden. It was his plan — and his plan alone. You half claim is a misrepresentation of the facts … a lie.

  3. Tom

    I agree Larry. I have stated on one of your other blogs that many will die because of this exchange. As you said, we cannot put a name on them right at the moment, but it will certainly happen, and they will be nabbed and maybe die. Because of Bout’s trade, many will also die, and some of them may be Americans.

    Russia knew that Biden was under pressure from black activists, LGBTQ activists, and feminists to exchange Griner by any means necessary, and national security be damned. So Biden obliged them. Russian state television knew exactly what buttons to push to mock Biden and the United States.

    A Russian program moderator referred to Whelan as a “spy,” saying that Whelan is a hero to Americans. However, the moderator specified three things against Whelan regarding the U.S. winning his release.

    “His first problem is that he is white,” the moderator said..

    The moderator then said, “His second problem is he is a man.

    and then continued to say, His third problem: He is a heterosexual.

    “This is not something that can be forgiven today. It’s just a catastrophe. Yes, here Griner beats him in every aspect.”

    It was all a bone thrown to the LGBT community so Biden could show them true commitment at any cost. And we will just have to wait and see what that cost will actually be. This is the reason I was against the deal. IT had nothing to do with anti-LGBT sentiment, my decision was purely based on what we know of Bout, and what will come of his freedom.

    If anyone wants to know more about Bout, just listen to his first interview on Russian state tv here: “”

  4. armando salinas

    The President is actually doing ok in foreign policy, we got to capture a couple russian spies, we do
    have a list,believe.,and exchange them,the Russians are getting iAmerican civilians,and using as exchange.
    Got to outsmart them now,for later exchanges,we get got by surprise,not good when dealing with dictators.

  5. frank stetson

    Again, there was no Whelan versus Griner, only Griner was on the table and no amount of negotiation, team Biden or our local armchair generals, would change that.

    Your arguments against Griner can be made, but an one-or-the-other is comparing apples n oranges — he was not on the table.

    BUT — if he was, he is a dishonorably discharged Marine who served in Iraq as an administrative aide before the boot for stealing $10k from his fellow marines. She is one of the best b-ballers in the world, if not one of the best in history. She is guilty of having a taste of pot-oil, he was found with a hard drive with sensitive info given to him by a Russian male friend in a swanky hotel — strange. Both could have been set up, both should have known better. It’s Russia. IMO, hard choice.

    Time will tell if the returned gun runner will start up again or retire. If he starts up, he is stuck forever in Russia, open travel will be out, secret travel very risky. Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t microchipped, we have had 14 years to slip him that mickey. But only time will tell, Tom’s conjecture of a fait accompli is just that, he does not know. But if he does, this will have been a catastrophic failure that should preclude Joe from even running. I have to think they vetted that outcome. I pray they did.

    • larry Horist

      FRank Stetson … You are making the same mistake Biden did. You seem to think that only Biden can determine what is on the negotiating table. Biden threw away the option by caving to Putin on the issue. Why couldn’t Biden say to Putin, “You do not get Bout until we get Griner, Whelan and many the other guy.” In every negotiation the sides say that will not accept something … until they accept it. Biden is a lousy negotiator because he looks for what he perceives to be the best short-run political benefit to himself. And as far as Bout retiring….LOL ..LOL. Are you mentioning that as a realistic option? Putin does not need him to go into retirement. And from what he said in his press conference, there is no chance that Bout will not be participating in Putin-sponsored aggression and terrorism.

      • frank stetson

        “You seem to think that only Biden can determine what is on the negotiating table.” Yeah, I do, because logically it is. We are not in the room, don’t even have second hand accounts…….

        That said, you are probably right and I pray you are wrong, but there are a lot of suppositions and guesses in there.

        On the other hand, I may not be wrong and Biden did strike the best deal, versus no deal, but I may be too trusting of a guy who just is pandering for 2024 votes and a gay black basketball star trumps a dishonorably discharged piece of wonder bread.

        For both of us, time will tell.

        And if you are right, that should be a career ender (like he has one at his age) for his 2024 run, if he is stupid enough to try. Which would make my error in judgement even worse since the pandering would be the only reason.

        So, I hope you are wrong, but wouldn’t bet against this one after seeing what looks like obvious “I’m a runnin in 2024” smoke signals coming from the White House. (what is it about that place that make people die to stay there? I mean Trump said it was a dump and then they had to use a crow bar to pry him out of there….a lot of us voted Biden with the vision of one term being a positive…..)

      • Joseph S. Bruder

        Don’t forget that Trump had the opportunity to get Whelan home, and turned it down. Maybe the reason that the option of trading Whelan for Bout was not offered because Trump already turned it down (and is now publicly boasting about it!)

        You’re awfully quick to blame Biden, when in fact, his administration has managed to somebody out of a Russian prison. I see it as a win for the Biden Administration. Are you upset because a black gay female basketball player got out before the white ex-soldier? Well, then blame Trump, he could have brought Whelan home and chose not to.

        I heard an interview the other night with the top US negotiator. He says there are 75 other US citizens unlawfully detained in foreign prisons, and they are negotiating every case. I’m sure, being the master negotiator you are, that you would have gotten them all out by now… After all, what’s an international hostage negotiation compared to negotiating a school board budget? Call them up and volunteer your immense talents.

        • larry Horist

          Joseph S Bruder ….. You and Frank are stuck on whataboutism. Every response is about Trump. Have you guys no ability to objectively and independently discuss the issue at hand — which is about Biden’s actions. You rhetorical question implying that I am judging the situation based on personal prejudices is a cheap shot … sophomoric … and wrong. It is just another form of straw man argument — creating a false premise. Another form of prevarication – which you engage in regularly. And your cheap shot about my experiencing in negotiating school labor contracts (not budgets) is rich since it is obvious you have virtually no experience in professional negotiations — with the possible exception of negotiating purchases as your local flea market. If you knew anything, you would know that negotiating labor contracts for major urban school systems is no trip to the circus. I would like to believe that were I involved in the negotiations, there may have been a better result. Winning at the bargaining table is a lot more demanding that caving. But you get better results. Face it … Biden is no negotiator. And since you want to go back to Trump on every issue — you cannot deny the fact that he got NATO members to increase their financial commitments (something every other President called for, but never accomplished) and he negotiated the unprecedented Abraham Accords. He got North Korea to stop missile resting and return the remains of MIAs (again something previous presidents demanded and failed to achieve). So, tell me some of your liberal lies about those facts.

          • larry Horist

            Joseph S.Bruder … Ooops. I forget. Trump negotiation with Mexico resulted in an agreement to retain migrants in Mexico and then there was the new Mex/Canada trade agreement to replace NAFTA. You again fail to give a full picture. You choses to misrepresent rather than inform.

  6. Dillip patnaik

    Biden is a racist. For staying in power, he discriminates the whites. Because of him and Pelosi, the country is divided and suffering. China is going to takeover Taiwan in Biden’s watch. America needs a strong personality leadership like the one before Joe.