Headline RoundupDecember 8th, 2022

Was the Griner Trade a Diplomatic Victory or a Concession to Russia?

AllSides Summary

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.

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