Russia has made a counteroffer in the hostage negotiations involving WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan. In addition to the “Merchant of Death,” arms dealer Viktor Bout, the Russians are also demanding the release from a German prison of Vadim Krasikov, a Russian military colonel convicted of murdering a Chechen fighter in 2019. Krasikov was sentenced to life in prison.
Some analysts see the inclusion of Krasikov in the prisoner swap as an attempt by Russia to find a middle course. Rather than seriously asking for Bout and/or Krasikov, Moscow may actually be willing to settle for the release of a hacker named Roman Seleznev, who’s the son of a member of the Russian parliament and is serving a long sentence for bank fraud.
Or, Krasikov may be a poison pill thrown in to make it impossible for Biden to agree to the swap.
Jamil Jaffer, founder of the National Security Institute, told NewsNation that Russia has Biden over a barrel — and both sides know it.
Jaffer said any swap likely won’t be an “even swap” given the Russians “recognize” the pressure facing the Biden administration to strike a deal.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday in the highest-level known contact between the two sides since Russia invaded Ukraine, with Blinken urging Russia to accept a deal.
Jaffer believes Russia will accept a deal at some point.
“I think getting Viktor Bout out for Griner and Whelan is ultimately a coup for the Russians,” Jaffer said. “The Biden administration is in a tough position. I have sympathy for them on this because there is a need to get Griner and Whelan back.”
Biden will literally do anything — including releasing a man who sold arms to al-Qaeda and a Russian assassin — to get the Americans back.
Was Trump right? The former president said it “didn’t seem like a very good trade.” Under those circumstances, he’s probably right.
In truth, Germany has indicated that releasing Krasikov under any circumstances is impossible. And the rest of the American government has shot down the idea.
Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told CNN after this story was published that “holding two wrongfully detained Americans hostage for the release of a Russian assassin in a third country’s custody is not a serious counter-offer. It is a bad faith attempt to avoid the deal on the table that Russia should take.”
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby echoed Watson on Friday, calling Russia’s request a “bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer” during an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “Erin Burnett OutFront.” He added: “We urge Russia to take that offer seriously.”
The offer involving Krasikov came through FSB backchannels, which means it was genuine — probably originating in Putin’s office — but not an official Russian offer.
The Russians will let Biden dangle for a while before letting him off the hook and sending the two Americans home. And that will be the end of it — until a couple of more Americans are seized on trumped-up charges and the bullies in the Kremlin ask for even more from our weak-sister president, Joe Biden.