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The United States must try to complete the exchange of detainees Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan through a difficult and long process, even at the cost of exchanging a dangerous arms dealer to secure their release, according to experts.
“It’s torture,” former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joel Rubin told Fox News Digital. “So just get to the point where it’s about to be done – you don’t play around with it too much. If you think you can get there and get people out, you take it.”
Griner, who pleaded guilty to drug charges on July 7, has been detained in Russia since February after Russian authorities said they found vaping cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage.
The guilty plea doesn’t end the case, but some have suggested it could speed things up with Griner’s release from prison. She could make herself eligible for a prisoner swap between Moscow and Washington, DC, and last week the Biden administration offered a “substantial proposal” to “facilitate” the release of Griner and Whelan.
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One of the names mentioned is Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the ‘Dealer of Death’, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of conspiracy to kill American citizens and aiding a terrorist organization.
Experts have warned against a deal including Bout over the potential consequences for American travelers, but an expert on detainee negotiations dismissed those arguments.
“There is no historical evidence to support the claim that a no-concessions policy reduces kidnappings,” Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, told Fox News Digital. “Arguments to the contrary are intellectually lazy and morally bankrupt: Intellectually lazy, because the data show no correlation between how well these cases are solved and the number of cases that follow; morally bankrupt, because government efforts to deterring and deterring the kidnapping of Americans cannot be done on the backs of those who are already imprisoned.”
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“The ‘agreements’ neither create nor destroy deterrence,” he added. “The data shows that deterrence stems from the actions taken by governments after the return of imprisoned people.”
Rubin, who served in the Bush and Obama administrations, described how the United States can continue to track and monitor Bout after his release, finding ways to “mitigate future damage” if he returns to Russia.
“If a judgment is given…we can follow this guy and make sure he never goes back to his wrongful ways – which means he will continue to be punished,” Rubin explained, arguing that Bout would be “agitated” . [to] going back to work. »
“He’s not coming out,” he continued. “There may be ways to mitigate any future damage.”
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Rubin called Griner’s imprisonment and trial a “horrific situation” which Russia has repeatedly exploited for propaganda purposes. He acknowledged that Griner had traveled to Russia despite US warnings to the contrary – something the State Department is doing “to avoid what we find ourselves in right now.”
“Basically, it’s our number one duty to take care of Americans, so here we are,” Rubin said. “Viktor Bout has served a long sentence, but he is a criminal – an arms dealer – and he has blood on his hands… and [he’s] great value for the Russians,” adding that Russia might call it a “symbolic coup” to gain his freedom.
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“At the same time, Russia is taking advantage of Brittney Griner, [her] celebrity in particular, to try to use it as a propaganda tool and to embarrass the United States,” he explained. “But at the end of the day, it’s about taking care of our people.”