Alexandra Filipenko, Americanist, Candidate of Historical Sciences
The transfer of Brittney Griner to a colony in Russia increased pressure on the Joe Biden administration. Many feared that Greiner could become an irritant in Russia, especially after the law banning "LGBT propaganda." It must be said that Griner has become a kind of symbol for that liberal part of America, where both gay marriages and the substances that caused her to suffer are allowed. And in recent months there has been a public relations campaign that she is such a typical American girl, her father served in Vietnam and she comes from a simple family. The pressure on the Biden administration was intensifying, and therefore it was important for Democrats to show themselves as defenders of the interests of their citizens and defenders of the LGBT community. Brittney's wife, Cheryl Greiner, thanked both the vice president and the secretary of state and administration staff. And this was not just an exchange between the FSB and the FBI, which is carried out by authorized departments - almost all high-ranking representatives of the American state took part in this.
Republicans have begun to criticize the Biden administration for not including Paul Whelan, who is also imprisoned in Russia, in the exchange. But, apparently, Moscow insisted that it was impossible to include Whelan. To preserve the possibility of subsequent negotiations, this is a thread of communication between Moscow and Washington. It is clear that in a situation of war there can be no contact on any topic. But, nevertheless, when there is an exchange of prisoners, various issues can always be discussed additionally. It is difficult to step aside when we are talking about the fate of people, but the presence of a topic for further negotiations is an opportunity to maintain contacts between Moscow and Washington, in which Moscow is primarily interested.
Political scientist, author of the One Big Union Telegram channel Yan Veselov
First of all, this is a story about PR. The Americans, not in words, but in deeds, show that they do not abandon their own people and were able to exchange it. Politico writes in their article that the Biden administration wanted this exchange to happen before Christmas so Griner could meet him at home. Her wife Cheryl was at the White House with Biden and Kamala Harris. This is a story after a successful midterm election for the Democrats, that is, Biden can present something to the public before the end of the year. It would be a sin for the presidential administration not to use such a story to demonstrate it as some kind of success in the field of foreign policy.
The moment remains with Whelan, who is incarcerated in a Russian prison on charges of espionage. The Biden administration tried for a very long time to arrange a deal so that both Griner and Whelan would be returned to them, and they would give Bout, but it did not work out, because Russia insisted on a one-for-one exchange.