Following the news that WNBA star Brittney Griner has been transferred to a Russian penal colony, President Joe Biden is still optimistic that talks for a prisoner exchange can happen. During a post-midterms press conference, the president expressed his hope that the two countries could still reach a deal to bring the basketball star home.
“We’ve been engaging on a regular basis. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with her wife about what’s going on with her,” Biden said. “My hope is that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange. My intention is to get her home. And we’ve had a number of discussions so far. I’m hopeful that, now that our election is over, there is a willingness to negotiate more specifically with us.”
On Wednesday, the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s lawyers revealed that Griner’s transfer to a Russian penal colony had already begun without their knowledge. The process started on Friday, a day after the Phoenix Mercury center met with U.S. Embassy officials and neither her lawyers nor the U.S. government have any idea where she is or where she’s headed.
I appreciate that the president is keeping his promise to do everything he can to bring Brittney home. Unfortunately, there’s nothing he can do without Russian cooperation and Russian President Putin has made it clear he’s not interested in negotiating. In a previous appearance on a Russian state news program, Putin aide Yury Ushakov said, “He keeps emphasizing the need to bring [Griner] back home…However, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about.”
Griner’s sudden transfer is clearly a political move for Russia. It’s the country’s way of showing the United States that it still holds all the power and sadly, no matter how positive President Biden remains, they’re right. The U.S. can make all the offers it wants, but until Russia decides it’s ready to bargain, Brittney Griner and her family are trapped in this tragic situation.