Britney Griner’s verdict renews pressure on President Biden

WASHINGTON – Immediately after the ruling by the Moscow court Britney Grinernine-year jail term on Thursday, calls got louder for President Biden find a way to bring her home.

“We call on President Biden and the United States government to redouble their efforts to do what is necessary and possible,” Rev. This is stated in a statement by Al Sharpton.

US officials and analysts have come to terms with Ms. Griner, a basketball star who plays for the Russian team during the WNBA offseason. But the cold reality of her drug possession conviction came as a shock and renewed calls for Mr. Wilson. Biden to secure her release — even as critics resented that the prisoner swap offer with Moscow rewarded the taking of Russian hostages.

As a result, the Biden administration has found itself in a quandary as it attempts to take a hard line on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his war in Ukraine.

“There is nothing good here,” said Andrea Schneider, an expert on international conflict resolution at Cardozo Law School. “Whatever Biden does, he will be criticized either for giving too much or not working hard enough.”

Kremlin officials have said that any potential deal cannot be struck until after her trial is completed, sparking a glimmer of hope that the verdict could open the door to a swap. But analysts called it unlikely anytime soon.

“I don’t think this will be resolved quickly,” said Jared Genser, a human rights lawyer who represents Americans detained by foreign governments. “I think the fact that Putin didn’t say yes right away means he looked at the US proposal and said, ‘Well, this is their first proposal.’ I can get more.”

This US proposal, first presented to Russia in June, provided for the release of Mrs. Griner and Paul N. Whelana former marine who was arrested in Moscow and convicted of espionage in 2020.

The Biden administration offered to trade two Americans for the notorious Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, who is on his way to a 25-year federal prison sentence for offering to sell weapons to a Colombian rebel group that the United States then considered a terrorist organization.

The proposal has already changed US diplomacy towards Russia, which was frozen at the highest level after Putin’s Mr. Trump in February. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The July 29 telephone conversation between Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei V. Lavrov was their first conversation since the start of the war. But it seems that the Kremlin was not touched. The White House says Russia made an unspecified “bad faith” counteroffer that the United States does not take seriously.

On Friday, Mr. Lavrov told reporters that the two countries would continue to discuss the matter through established channels. He repeated the Kremlin’s insistence that the United States not discuss the talks publicly, although Russian media began linking Mr. Delo Bout to Mr. Griner early this summer.

But the pressure is one-sided. While Mr. Putin has long sought the release of Bout, perhaps out of loyalty to a man with close ties to the Russian security service, Mr. Putin’s continued imprisonment for the arms dealer is costing him dearly. Not enough Putin. In other words, time is in Putin’s good graces.

mr. Biden, on the other hand, finds himself squeezed from both sides.

On the one hand, Mrs. Griner supporters. Her wife, Cherell Griner, has come out publicly with calls for Mr. Biden to make a deal with Mr. Putin for as much son as possible. These calls were supported by Mr. Sharpton, Democratic activist groups, television pundits, professional athletes and social media celebrities. (Mr Sharpton on Thursday also called for Mr Whelan’s release.)

“How could she feel like America had her back?” NBA superstar LeBron James said in mid-July. “I would have thought, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?’

This was before Mr. Biden’s proposal to release Mr. Booth went public. Officials said they had unveiled a proposal, confirmed last week by a person briefed on the talks, to increase pressure on Russia. But the revelation may also have reflected a desire to show Ms. Greener supporters that Mr. Biden has not been sitting idly by.

“We think it’s important for the American people to know how hard President Biden is working to bring Britney Greener and Paul Whelan home,” said White House National Security spokesman John F. Kirby. said at the time. “We think it’s important for their families to know how hard we’re working on this.”

After Ms Griner was sentenced on Thursday. Biden reaffirmed his commitment to “use every possible avenue to get Britney and Paul Whelan home safe and sound as soon as possible.”

The White House has not said how Mr. Biden can achieve this goal, however. “I don’t think it would be helpful for Brittany or Paul if we were more public about where we are in the negotiations and what the president may or may not want to do,” he said. Kirby said.

But almost any additional offering is sure to heighten criticism from Mr. Biden’s other flank — and accuse Mr. Biden of leaning towards extortion from Mr. Putin, whom he called a war criminal.

“That’s why dictatorships – like Venezuela, Iran, China, Russia – take Americans hostage because they know they’ll get something for it,” the congressman said. This was reported to Newsmax last week by Republican Mike Waltz, a Republican from Florida. “They know that eventually some administration will pay. And it just puts a target on the back of every American.”

Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state, echoed that criticism in an interview with Fox News last week, saying that getting Mr. Booth free would “probably result in more” Americans being arrested abroad. And former President Donald J. Trump, who prided himself in office on releasing detained Americans overseas, has lashed out at the proposed deal.

mr. Bout, he said, was “absolutely one of the worst in the world and will be given his freedom because a potentially corrupted man is going to Russia loaded with drugs.” (Russian officials who detained Ms Griner at an airport near Moscow in mid-February found less than one gram of cannabis vaping oil in her bags.)

mr. Genser, a lawyer for other detained Americans, noted that Mr. Biden has an option other than raising his offer. He might look for new ways to make Mr. Putin suffer.

“You need to drastically increase the cost of keeping them in custody for Vladimir Putin,” he said. Genser said. “It’s not just about giving Putin what he wants. It’s about exacerbating his pain at the same time.”

However, this is not an easy task. Biden administration officials have spent months trying to figure out how to inflict enough pain on Mr. Trump. Putin to force him to stop invading Ukraine. Like the freedom of Mr. Greener and Mr. Whelan, this goal also remains elusive.