Joe Biden has left U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan in Russian custody, choosing instead to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday. Whelan has been in Russian custody since 2018, held on espionage charges, while Griner has been detained since February after authorities discovered cannabis oil in her luggage. Biden had sought the release of both Americans in an exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout. But now it is clear that Biden was prepared to leave Whelan behind, prioritizing the exchange for Griner alone.
Courageously, Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, congratulated Griner on her release in a Thursday statement:
“There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home. The Biden Administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen,”
“She will be reunited with her family. Brittney is free. And Paul is still a hostage. But how many more times do I need to write that?” he continued. “Despite the possibility that there might be an exchange without Paul, our family is still devastated. I can’t even fathom how Paul will feel when he learns. Paul has worked so hard to survive nearly 4 years of this injustice.”
This is the second time the Biden administration has left Whelan behind in a prisoner exchange. His brother David also reminded Biden of these failures:
“How do you continue to survive, day after day, when you know that your government has failed twice to free you from a foreign prison?”
“As the use of wrongful detentions and hostage diplomacy continues around the globe, it’s clear the US government needs to be more assertive. If bad actors like Russia are going to grab innocent Americans, the US needs a swifter, more direct response and to be prepared in advance,”
“In Russia’s case, this may mean taking more law-breaking, Kremlin-connected Russians into custody. It’s not like there aren’t plenty around the world.”
Meanwhile, Biden says Griner will be back in the United States on Friday.