WASHINGTON – Immediately after a judge in Moscow issued Brittney Griner Thursday’s nine-year prison sentence, the calls grew louder for President Biden to find a way to bring her home, even as critics argue that the Moscow prisoner swap offer rewarded Russian hostages.
The result has been a painful difficulty for the Biden administration as it tries to maintain a hardline stance against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over the war in Ukraine.
“There is nothing good here,” said Andrea Schneider, an expert in international conflict resolution at Cardozo Law School. “No matter what Biden does, he’s going to be criticized – that we’ve given too much or that we haven’t worked hard enough.”
Kremlin officials say negotiations over an exchange cannot proceed before her trial is complete, but even with a final verdict and verdict, a deal may not be soon. happen.
“I think the fact that Putin didn’t say yes right away means that he considered the American offer and said, ‘Well, that was their first offer. I could get a lot more than that,” said Jared Genser, a human rights lawyer representing Americans held by foreign governments.
Biden administration proposes dealings with Mrs. Griner and Paul N. Whelana former marine was convicted in Moscow of espionage in 2020, for notorious charges Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year federal prison sentence for selling weapons to a Colombian rebel group that the United States then considered a terrorist organization.
Mr. Biden found himself pressed from both sides.
On one side are the supporters of Mrs. Griner. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, has publicly demanded that Biden cut the deal with Putin as soon as possible. Those pleas were echoed by Father Al Sharpton, Democratic activist groups, television pundits, professional athletes and social media celebrities.
But there are also criticisms from the other side of Mr. Biden – and accusations that Mr. Biden has molded to blackmail Mr. Putin, a man he calls a war criminal.
“This is why authoritarian regimes – like Venezuela, Iran, China, Russia – take Americans hostage, because they know they will get something for it,” said Representative Mike. Waltz, Republican of Florida, told Newsmax last week. “They know eventually some government will pay. And this just puts the target in the backs of every American out there. “
Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, echoed the criticism in a Fox News interview last week, saying that releasing Mr Bout would “likely lead to more” Americans being arrested in the country. outside.
And former President Donald J. Trump, who is likely to run for re-election in 2024, rescinded the proposed deal on crude terms. He said that Mr Bout was “absolutely one of the worst people in the world, and he will be set free because a potentially corrupt person has come to Russia loaded with drugs”. (Russian officials who detained Ms. Griner at an airport in the Moscow region in mid-February found less than a gram of cannabis vape oil in her bag.)