The US’ enduring national security interests were irreparably damaged by this deal, which makes it even more of a strategic success for Russia than most folks realize.
The latest Russian-US prisoner swap that saw businessman Viktor Bout exchanged for basketball player Brittney Griner was a self-inflicted embarrassment for the Biden Administration. Instead of securing the release of convicted spy Paul Whelan, which would have helped restore confidence in America’s intelligence assets that their patron will always fight for their interests if they’re ever caught red-handed breaking the law like he was, it preferred cutting a deal over the release of a minor sports celebrity.
CNN cited unnamed sources close to the negotiations to report that Russia wasn’t interested in trading Whelan for Bout, with only Griner’s release supposedly being proposed on its side. Objectively speaking, that should have been a non-starter since someone of Bout’s repute is incomparably much more important than a female basketball player whom few had ever heard of prior to her arrest earlier this year for trafficking cannabis cartridges into Russia.
Be that as it indisputably is, the very fact that Russia made such a bold offer, refused to consider giving up Whelan (whether separately or together with Griner) in exchange for Bout, and ultimately clinched this completely lopsided deal speaks to how well it understands the Biden Administration’s priorities. Russian strategists knew that the President cared more pandering to minorities than securing the release of a convicted spy, hence why they clung to their ridiculous proposal and got what they wanted.
This insight should alarm all Americans since it means that Moscow can masterfully manipulate what’s supposed to be the most powerful man in the world. They got Biden to give up Bout, their highest profile imprisoned compatriot abroad, in exchange for a minor sports celebrity while getting to keep a convicted US spy. Those who are popping the champagne celebrating Griner’s release are obviously ignorant of the fact that this swap is nothing but a pyrrhic victory for their country.
The Biden Administration should have refused to agree to any deal that didn’t involve Whelan since keeping him imprisoned in Russia while freeing a basketball player sends the worst message possible to the rest of its assets all across the world. Instead of being confident that America will always fight for their interests if they’re ever caught red-handed breaking the law, they all now know that it’ll agree to lopsided deals that pander to ethnic and sexual minorities for short-term political self-serving reasons.
The US’ enduring national security interests were therefore irreparably damaged by this deal, which thus makes it even more of a strategic success for Russia than most folks realize. Not only did it exchange a minor sports celebrity for its most high-profile imprisoned compatriot abroad while getting to keep a convicted US spy, but the second-mentioned outcome resulted in Russia smashing the global reputation of America’s intelligence community and dealing a death blow to its assets’ confidence in it.