President Joe Biden has extended an official offer to Vladimir Putin to trade a Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death” for an American WNBA star and a Marine veteran.
The offer from the White House would see the United States hand over Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25 year prison sentence in the United States. In return we would receive basketball player Brittney Griner who was caught with a marijuana pen while playing basketball in Russia, and Paul Whelan, who was sentenced in June 2020 for spying for the Unites States while in the country.
According to a report from the DailyMail, Bout, “the former Soviet officer, 55, illegally sold 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and planes fitted with grenade launches and counted the Taliban, Muammar Gaddafi and Liberian dictator Charles Taylor as his clients.”
When approached by reporters about the historic prisoner swap, the Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, John Kirby, refused to give too much information.
“It’s not going to help us get them home if we’re negotiating in public with you all,” Kirby told reporters.
He also refused to get into details about the deal or even whether or not Russia had been involved in it in the first place.
“We believe that this is a serious proposal and we want the Russians to take it seriously as well,” said Kirby.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also danced around the issue while confirming that he was due to discuss the two US prisoners in an upcoming meeting with Russia’s foreign minister.
“In the coming days I expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since the war began. I plan to raise an issue that’s a top priority for us; the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner who’ve been wrongfully detained,” he said.
Families of the two imprisoned Americans have been ramping up public pressure to get their loved ones home in recent months as the world becomes progressively more standoffish with Russia over their invasion of Ukraine.
Do you think Russia heard about the offer at the same time as the general public or do you believe they have been involved for awhile? What else do you think was offered aside from the prisoners?