News, Government

Second Guessing President Biden on Brittney Griner

The prisoner exchange merits a closer look

John Dean
Dean’s List
Published in
3 min readDec 10, 2022

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Photo by Susan Lesch via Wikimedia

It is great that WNBA star Brittney Griner is no longer in a Russian prison. She was unjustly arrested on a drug charge, subject to a sham trial, and subjected to inhumane conditions while in captivity. Recently she has been held at an infamous Russian penal colony in Mordovia, 210 miles outside Moscow. It was painful to think of her, or of any other innocent person, being subjected to abuse.

I am glad President Biden sought the release of Griner and succeeded. But forgive me, the deal raises a lot of questions, especially because she was exchanged for a Russian nicknamed “The Merchant of Death” and “The Sanctions Buster.” Viktor Bout was convicted of trying to sell weapons for use in killing Americans.

A second question involves why the administration succeeded in securing Griner’s release but not other Americans, held longer than Griner, facing similar abuse. Why were the Russians willing to part with Griner but not Paul Whelan, an ex-Marine subject to 16 years of hard labor on a charge of spying?

It is unclear whether Whelan was a spy. If he was, that may explain Russia’s reluctance to grant his release in exchange for Griner. But it also raises the…

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John Dean
Dean’s List

Writing on politics, photography, nature, the environment, dogs, and, occasionally, humor. Editor of Dean’s List.