Was the Griner Trade a Diplomatic Victory or a Concession to Russia?
WNBA Star Brittney Griner, held in Russian custody since February, is free following a prisoner exchange with the United States. The trade for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is receiving split coverage, with outlets disagreeing on whether it was a diplomatic victory or a concession to Russia.
For Context: Griner was taken into custody in February at a Russian airport after police said they found cannabis oil in her luggage. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.
Diplomatic Victory: Former diplomat Tara D. Sonenshine praised the Biden Administration and called the exchange “a huge moment for Griner and for America at a time when public confidence in government is low.” An article in NBC News outlined recent tension between the U.S. and Russia, and argued that the exchange was "a notably positive sign as Russia and the West enter what many see as a new Cold War.”
Concession: Coverage from the right has been far more critical of the Biden Administration and the prisoner exchange, framing it as a concession to Russia and potentially dangerous move amid Russia's war on Ukraine. Much is being written about Bout, who was serving a 25-year prison sentence for “conspiring to kill Americans, distributing anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding designated terrorist organizations,” according to the Washington Examiner. Many outlets also focused on how another Russian prisoner, Paul Whelan, a U.S. veteran who was imprisoned for espionage in 2020, was not included in the deal.
Featured Coverage of this Story
From the RightA look at Viktor Bout, the ‘Merchant of Death,’ Biden freed in exchange for Griner
WNBA star Brittney Griner is now free, but her liberation came at the cost of unleashing a notorious Russian arms dealer named Viktor Bout, who had been penned up in a federal penitentiary in Illinois.
An allegedly ruthless and shrewd weapons merchant, Bout's ferociousness in the black market arena across Eastern Europe into Africa and the Middle East earned him monikers such as the "Merchant of Death" and "Sanctions Buster" and purportedly inspired the Nicolas Cage film Lord of War.
"After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable...
From the LeftBrittney Griner prisoner swap a rare diplomatic success between U.S. and Russia as war rages in Ukraine
The exchange of WNBA star Brittney Griner and arms dealer Viktor Bout was a rare moment of successful diplomacy between Moscow and Washington as relations between the two countries deteriorate over the war in Ukraine.
For many, the trade will evoke memories of Soviet-era spy swaps — a more positive reminder of that era than the nuclear standoff that President Joe Biden recently said left the world facing its most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Analysts said the fact that the Biden administration and the Kremlin were still...
From the CenterBrittney Griner’s release and the strategic value of good diplomacy
Miracles happen. But so does good diplomacy.
The release of WNBA star Brittney Griner is a huge moment for Griner and for America at a time when public confidence in government is low.
Griner was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, charged with possessing vape cannisters with cannabis oil. She faced years of difficult imprisonment in Russia, having recently been moved to a labor detention camp with harsh conditions.
President Biden and his team deserve credit for negotiating a deal for the release of Griner in exchange for Russia arms...