In a move of international intrigue and contraband, the country exchanged an American jailed in Russia for minor drug possession with one of the world’s most feared arms traffickers.
This daring bargain brought concern from global security experts over creating dangerous precedents between nations.
Joe Biden’s recent exchange of WNBA star Brittney Griner for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout is a much deeper move than just its financial implications.
The Biden Administration demonstrated its humanitarian values when successfully resolving the problematic situation with Russia. In stark contrast, Putin’s recent attack on Ukrainians speaks of his disregard for fundamental human rights and dignity.
It expresses just how pervasive the difference between their moralities is – further evident through this current crisis in Ukraine.
Biden struck a major diplomatic success with the release of Harlem Globetrotter Jamaal Murray; all did not share this joyous victory yet.
Paul Whelan’s continued imprisonment in Russia provoked Republican politicians to accuse Biden of giving preferential treatment and prioritizing celebrity over an ex-marine who desperately needed his help.
Biden’s recent prisoner swap with US adversaries results from a long series of diplomatic actions.
The Obama administration, Trump White House and now Biden presidency have all taken steps to exchange prisoners in an effort to ease tensions between Washington and its rivals abroad – including obtaining freedom for Trevor Reed, a former United States marine held captive by Russia.
The risk of more American citizens becoming targets for detainment by rogue nations or groups has significantly heightened as Washington offers huge incentives for such activities.
Additionally, this could trigger an alarming cycle in which increasingly vulnerable Americans abroad become victims of kidnapping.
At a time of increasing challenges facing Putin domestically, the return of Bout was a crucial boon. It showed those working for Russia’s security services that the Kremlin would never forget their loyalty – and it was an undeniable PR victory too.
Putin faces a rapidly deteriorating situation in Ukraine, and his intelligence services play an essential role in keeping him entrenched.
But Biden’s recent approach to the issue also showed signs of potential diplomacy – just three days ago, he declined to exclude negotiations with Putin from being on the table should a Ukrainian agreement be reached. So the war-torn region may yet have new opportunities for peace ahead of it.
Defying the odds, he showed that odds remain possible to achieve rapprochement with Russia despite a fierce internal conflict between them during an era characterized by bleak and tense relations.
This period marked one of the most hostile phases since Cuba’s Missile Crisis – making his success even more impressive.
Risks & Solutions
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates played significant roles in this deal, working together to facilitate an exchange. They also did their part for global diplomatic affairs by ensuring that U.S citizens detained abroad returned home safely from Ukraine earlier on in 2020.
With strong diplomatic ties to Russia and the United States, this kingdom strives for greater international prominence.
Could it use its strategic position as a leverage point in resolving Ukraine’s complicated political crisis? Time will tell if it can succeed in brokering peace.
With recent ties between the US and Russia improving, President Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia earlier this year and show his approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a friendly fist bump may take on another meaning.
When dealing with adversaries as morally unscrupulous as Putin, striking a balance between America’s interests and diplomatic responsibility can be difficult.
However, it is up to the President of the United States to weigh these competing forces in pursuit of our national objectives while ensuring citizen protection at home.
When it comes to complicated situations, there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. With the best intentions and thoughtful discernment, finding an answer that works for everyone can be tricky – if possible.
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Under Diplomatic Pressure
With a perplexing diplomatic situation on his hands, Biden faces the challenge of finding an effective solution to free Paul Whelan from imprisonment in Russia.
Only weeks ago, it seemed as if this long-awaited reunion between him and Griner could become a reality – only for their hopes to be dashed yet again with Griner’s release while Whelan is left behind bars.
“This is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly,” Whelan said in an interview with CNN’s State Department producer Jennifer Hansler.
“I would hope that (Biden) and his administration would do everything they could to get me home, regardless of the price they might have to pay at this point.”
Despite US efforts to negotiate Whelan’s release, the Russian government has shown no sign of granting freedom – leaving Biden’s plans to bring him home in limbo.
US officials revealed that Russia rejected their proposal of a one-for-two prisoner exchange and was unwilling to consider other alternatives.
Kirby Sentiment on Diplomatic Actions
John Kirby highlighted the stark difference in Russia’s treatment of Whelan, who faces espionage charges despite US claims to the contrary, compared with Griner.
According to CNN’s National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, this suggests a divergence between what is being said and what is actually felt by Moscow.
Whelan’s imprisonment brings new complexity to the situation, raising questions about whether Russia will use him as leverage in its attempt to negotiate with Germany for the release of an ex-colonel from their intelligence services.
The country sentenced the convicted officer last year on charges related to homicide.
In August, CNN uncovered that Russia had initiated a swap offering freedom to 2 American citizens – in exchange for one of their own: Vadim Krasikov.
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