The Biden administration believes the Russian government will continue to engage with detainee issues, including the release of American Paul Whelan following the release of WNBA star Brittney Greener, because “they have things they want in this world,” a senior official said. administration to CNN.
Moscow knows that eventually the two sides will reach a “mutually acceptable agreement if they continue to talk to us,” the official continued.
“We have shown an openness to talk about what is actually available to us, and we have only received in response to a request something that is not available to us,” the official said, reiterating that the Russians had refused what had been offered. to secure Whelan’s release.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said new prisoner exchanges with the United States were possible. Putin said Griner’s swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout “was the result of negotiations and the search for compromises.”
“In this case, compromises were found. We do not refuse to continue this work in the future,” he said.
CNN previously reported that convicted Russian killer Vadim Krasikov, who is in German custody, was one of Moscow’s demands, and the official did not rule out his release as an ongoing demand.
Demands related to the war in Ukraine did not come up in the negotiations to secure Greiner’s release and the attempt to secure Whelan, the official said, adding that the U.S. would not make concessions on that front.
“Obviously we’ve thought about why that might be” that the Russians didn’t release him, the official said, “and I think we attribute it to the fact that we’ve been so crystal clear, so consistent, that it’s not our job to negotiate how this horrific situation will be resolved.
The official added: “If it goes up, of course it’s not up for grabs. The future of another country is not negotiable and the defense of democracy against autocracy is not negotiable.”
Although US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the Russians had been made “every possible offer” to secure Whelan’s release, the Biden administration has ideas for “new forms of offers” it will try with the Russians in an attempt to secured Whelan’s release, the senior administration official said.
Whelan told CNN on Thursday that “the president and his team are going to have to look at what they have that is valuable that these people want and hopefully give it to them, or I’m going to be here for a long time.”
However, his brother expressed doubt about being able to identify something the Russians wanted.
“It is clear that the US government does not have the concessions that the Russian government will make for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes,” David Whelan said in a statement on Thursday.
Paul Whalen’s sister, Elizabeth Whalen, told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” on Friday that the public discussion surrounding a potential trade was “very hard for my family to hear,” adding that she believed her brother was “discussed like this , as if his only value was what we had to give up for him.
Asked about her family’s discussions with the US government about her brother’s imprisonment, Elizabeth Whalen said: “I think we’ve made it pretty clear – that at least as far as I’m concerned – my brother is worth more, has more value than every Russian criminal.
Russia views Paul Whelan as a spy, the senior administration an employee explained, which means he’s being treated in a different category. The official did not consider the US offer of a Russian spy in US custody as a potential offer to Russia.
“There is a willingness to pay even a very high price on the part of this president,” the official said. “We made it clear to the Russians that we are at least open to talking about what is at our disposal, what we can actually provide. It will be someone who is in our custody.