GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – The most high-profile American jailed abroad, the WNBA’s Brittney Griner, was released Thursday in a prisoner swap that sent Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout back to his home country.
Armin Krishnan, East Carolina University Security Studies Director said it looks good domestically for the Biden administration that they got the deal done.
“But in respect of international relationships, it has no impact,” Krishnan said.
After spending 294 days, nearly 9 and a half months, in a Russian jail, Griner is safe and on her way back to the United States.
But to many, it comes at a price. Bout is also known as the “Merchant of Death,” and many crime experts argue it’s an unfair trade.
“It doesn’t look like a symmetrical exchange. So clearly, Viktor Bout is a serious criminal. Viktor Bout is a particularly dangerous man, and it’s wrong to allow him to go free,” Krishnan said.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, on the other hand, was arrested in a Russian airport last February for bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil in vape cartridges into Russia while playing professional basketball.
Despite the concerns, there is still hope from one political scientist that this can open a door for better communication between the U.S. and Russia.
“There’s some positive ramifications here and positive facts, in that at least they’re speaking to one another, Russia and the United States and that hopefully and eventually, they’ll be negotiating a peace in Ukraine,” Hanna Kassab, a political science assistant professor said.
As Griner is on her way home, the Biden administration says they have not forgotten about Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive jailed in Russia since December 2018, and are determined to get him home as well.