July 27, 2022
We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release.Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly describing for the first time an attempt to negotiate the release of two “wrongfully detained” Americans in Russia — Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
- The secretary of state did not go into the details of the proposal; he did confirm the U.S. and Russia have been engaged in negotiations but did not characterize the substance or the frequency of the talks.
- Reports suggest a prisoner swap could take place involving Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. for attempting to sell weapons to kill Americans. This was not confirmed by the State Dept.
- When asked why he is publicly talking about these previously private negotiations, Blinken said he believes in the "utility" of "clear, direct messages to the Russians on key priorities" — including Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, *as well as* grain exports.
- Why It Matters: This is a public declaration of what was previously taking place behind closed doors. The timing of this admission comes after a series of provocative stories involving Russia (see our recent card stack) and what Blinken describes as an upcoming meeting with his Russian counterpart — the first, he says, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
by Jenna Lee,