Originally, the deal first offered to Russia was that in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, the U.S. would trade Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer with a nickname “the Merchant of Death.”
Griner is a WNBA player and Whelan is a U.S. Marine.
According to the Associated Press, Russia wanted Bout home, but when striking the deal, all the U.S. could get was a one for one swap. While the public appears angry with the U.S., it’s been shared that Russia would not give up Whelan, but they were willing to give up Griner.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained that the choice wasn’t up to the U.S. on which American they could bring home. It was Griner or neither.
Whelan regularly visited Russia and was arrested in 2018 while visiting the country for a friend’s wedding. He was sentenced to 16 years in Russian prison on espionage charges that both he and the U.S. say are baseless.
Biden said that while this exchange was not successful, they will not be giving up on trying to bring Whelan home.
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