January 30, 2023

WASHINGTON — Immediately after a Moscow judge sentenced Britney Greiner to nine years in prison Thursday, calls rose for President Biden to find a way to bring her home, even as critics angered that offering a prisoner swap with Moscow was tantamount to taking Russian hostages. .

The result is a painful predicament for the Biden administration as it tries to maintain a hard line against Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

“There is nothing good here,” said Andrea Schneider, an expert in international conflict resolution at Cardoso College of Law. “No matter what Biden does, he will be criticized – either we are giving too much or we are not working hard enough.”

Kremlin officials said talks on the exchange could not continue before her trial is complete, but that even with a formal verdict and punishment, a deal may not be reached any time soon.

I think the fact that Putin didn’t say yes right away means that he looked at the American offer and said, ‘Well, this is their first offer. “I can get more than that,” said Jared Jenser, a human rights attorney who represents Americans who are held by foreign governments.

The Biden administration has proposed trading Ms Greiner and Paul N. Whelan, a former Marine convicted in Moscow of espionage in 2020, for notorious Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, who is midway through a 25-year federal prison sentence for offering to sell. Weapons for a Colombian rebel group designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Mr. Biden finds himself squeezed on both sides.

On one side are the supporters of Mrs. Grenier. His wife, Sheryl Greiner, has made public pleas to Biden to make a deal with Mr. Putin as soon as possible. These appeals have been echoed by Reverend Al Sharpton, Democratic activist groups, television critics, professional athletes and celebrities on social media.

But there have also been criticism from Biden’s other wing – and accusations that Biden has been bending to blackmail Mr. Putin, the man he has described as a war criminal.

“This is why dictatorships – like Venezuela, Iran, China and Russia – take Americans hostage, because they know they will get something in return,” Republican Representative Mike Waltz told Newsmax last week. They know in the end that some administrations will pay the price. And that puts a goal on the back of every American out there.”

Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, reiterated the criticism in an interview with Fox News last week, saying Mr. Bot’s release “is likely to lead to more arrests” of Americans abroad.

Former President Donald J. Trump, who is likely to run again in 2024, criticized the proposed deal in crude terms. He said Mr. Bot was “certainly one of the worst in the world, and he’s going to get his freedom because a spoiled potential guy goes to Russia laden with drugs.” (The Russian officials who detained Ms. Greiner at an airport in the Moscow region in mid-February found less than one gram of cannabis oil in her bags.)

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