Not looking good for Britney Griner
Basketball star Britney Griner remains locked up in a Russian prison – and will remain there unless President Biden can work a deal with Russian President Putin. There is a problem.
In almost all these cases, there is national unity behind the effort to free an American being held in one of these ruthless autocratic nations. But the Griner case has become controversial for many legitimate reasons.
Some wonder why her case has been the top news story for months? There has been an effort to include Paul Whelan in any deal involving prisoner exchanges. But why has Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, been languishing in a Russian prison for the past four years on a trumped-up charge of spying without much media attention – or frequent statements by Biden?
There is every reason to believe that the charges against Whelan were concocted simply to hold an American as a bargaining chip – even though no one in Washington seems to have been bargaining in his case.
Griner appears to have actually violated Russian law – and pled guilty. I understand it is a rather Draconian law – and the sentencing was outrageous by western or any standards. But she would not be a good bargaining chip if she had been sentenced to 30 days.
The second issue has to do with the nature of the various proposed swaps. America gets back two citizens who have not committed any major crimes in exchange for one (or more) of the most heinous political hitmen in the world, arms trafficker Viktor Bout. Based on the exchange, Whelan goes back to some job in America, Griner returns to the basketball court — and Russia has Bout going back to killing Putin’s enemies across the globe.
Then there has been Griner’s opinions about America – the country she wants to go to extraordinary lengths to save her. She has been among the more outstanding and outrageous critics of America. She has protested against the flag, the National Anthem and anything that represents the American culture.
She has promised never to stand for the National Anthem at future basketball games. Unless Biden gets her freed, she will not have to worry about keeping her promise.
Finally, there is Biden, himself – and how he will handle the situation. He has his Secretary of State Blinken working on a swap – and he has said a lot of powerful words about the wrongness of Griner’s incarceration and his determination to get her back, and occasional references to Whelan.
Unfortunately, we cannot know what that means. It seems that there are two potential options – but both are based on Biden’s iconic weakness in the face of international threats. He could just fail to follow through on his tough talk. We saw that in his promise to get the 100,000 Afghans out of the country who helped the United States. More than 95,000 of them are still there – hiding in fear or already dead.
On the other hand, Biden would fold and give Putin everything he demands – handing the Madman of Moscow another win. We are still seeing that side of Biden being played out in Ukraine with his too little/too late Ukraine policy.
If I were Griner, I would worry a lot. Right now, the pressure is on Biden to take her issue off his ‘to do” list. Her only chance is that Biden caves and make a bad deal for the United States – like he is determined to do with Iran.
I hope we do get her and Whelan out asap – and others locked away in prisons in unfriendly nations. Despite Griner’s unwarranted and offensive protests against America, she is still an American citizen with all the rights that go along with that. That should be a top priority.
I would only hope that if her release is secured in the near future, she would come home with a new respect — and even affection — for the nation that cared enough to save her from nine years of unbelievable and unjustified suffering.
So, there ‘tis.