Did Biden Make a ‘Bad Deal’? Turning basketball player Brittney Griner into an arms dealer is debatable

Battered by questions during his daily briefing to find out whether the US president made a “bad deal” as the Republican opposition claims, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre was unmoved. The 80-year-old Democrat did not take his decision “lightly,” he vowed, and remains “vigilant” after the release of the man nicknamed the “Merchant of Death.”

Acknowledging that the prisoner exchange “can immediately feel unfair or arbitrary,” he explained: “The president (Biden) felt he had a moral obligation. (…) It wasn’t Britney or anybody. We won. I apologize for that.”

“I honestly think that Victor Bott has spent enough time in prison for the crimes he committed,” Judge Shira Sheindlin, who handed down his sentence, told AFP. Arrested in Thailand in 2008, he was sentenced to 25 years in the United States, half of which he would have served.


“He is not a terrorist. He is an arms dealer. There are arms dealers everywhere, including the US and France,” he added.

That’s not the view of many long-term members of the Republican Party, starting with former President Donald Trump, who denounced his truth on social media as a “one-way market,” “stupid” and “embarrassing.” People like Republican congressman Nicole Malliotakis, above all, insist that the deal will not resolve the fate of another American detained in Russia for four years, ex-soldier Paul Whelan: “An American + Marine + has been left behind in another bad deal made by Biden,” she said.

The head of US diplomacy, Anthony Blinken, insisted to Paul Whelan that Russia wanted to handle the two cases differently because of the “false accusations of intelligence” that Moscow had leveled against him. After all, according to Judge Shira Scheindl, who called for his release: “I don’t know if he did what (the Russians) say, but if he really was a spy, you’d have a spy against you. An arms dealer, it seems a little more relevant,” she said.

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“Strength Level”

For Will Pomeranz, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, the case of the former US soldier sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 will be difficult to solve: Russia’s “best chance” to get out “should be part of the exchange with Brittney Griner”, whose case has provoked a strong mobilization, especially in the world of women’s basketball.

The athlete was arrested in Moscow in February with a vaporizer and liquid containing cannabis, a substance banned in Russia. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Will Pomeranz reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “in a strong position” in the face of Joe Biden’s highly personal and media-driven push for Britney Kreiner’s release.

The United States, like other democracies, has sometimes seen prisoner exchanges as disproportionate, but its governments feel they meet the strong expectations of public opinion.

In 2011, Israel released more than 1,000 prisoners in exchange for a soldier named Gilad Shalit.

As for Britney Greiner, the strongest criticism has been concentrated in the conservative camp, at least in the first hour of the announcement.

Is it a reference to public opinion? Micah Parsons, an American football player, apologized on Twitter for a message in which he was outraged that the US had “abandoned a fleet”.

Facing an onslaught of criticism, the 32-year-old double Olympic champion retracted her comments saying she was “very happy” with the release.

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