Basketball player Brittany Griner is home.
We can all be grateful that another American, leveraged as a political pawn is able to return. Although she was nearly a year in Russian custody, the period has been relatively short compared to former Marine Paul Whelan and the many Americans held in prison cells globally.
All of them praying, America will remember them and bring them home.
In high stakes diplomacy like this, outcomes certainly matter, but how you achieve them is perhaps what is most important.
You can place a sure bet, team Kremlin is very pleased with how all of this played out.
From their perspective, they've achieved an important aim, putting a renewed spotlight on America’s waning strength and the Biden administration’s impotent foreign policy.
Appeasement wins for an adversary again, which means Russian victory — again.
Reading the intense pressure that the Biden administration was under from its extreme left political base and high-net-worth donors, they took Whelan’s release off the table and pursued the return of Russian arms supplier to terrorists, Viktor Bout.
It must be a tough pill to swallow for our brave Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents who apprehended Bout, who remains a clear, present and future danger to American citizens.
So, what have Russia and other countries learned?
In evaluating the Biden national security team through the process to free Griner, the learning moment is that taking high profile Americans like a sports star or high-net-worth individual can create leverage on other issues where there was none.
We can most assuredly prepare for other nations to copy this winning formula.
To bring this point closer to home, to ourselves, and our families: be sure not to get a parking ticket during that next overseas vacation.
The James Foley Foundation keeps a laser focus on this even if the State Department won’t. Their analysis reveals that over the last decade, wrongful incarcerations of Americans overseas is up 580%.
It’s insulting to hear the U.S. State Department's mouthpiece, Ned Price, say this issue is a priority.
And what of the low-profile Americans held without riches, celebrity, or a big friend at the Democratic National Committee (DNC)?
You're out of luck — to the U.S. State Department you're invisible.
But . . . We the People can.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabian diplomats are proudly proclaiming that they played key mediation roles in this prisoner exchange. The Foley Foundation reports that both of these nations are wrongfully holding U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents.
Did any U.S. diplomat bring these issues up as the Emirates and Saudis worked the Russians and Americans to common ground that left out Paul Whelan?
This is Paul Whelan’s second "dis" from our leaders this year.
In April, Marine Trevor Reed returned home from Russia following three years in jail on a conviction that was quite questionable.
Whelan and his family kept the faith that this crushing setback would be rectified soon upon the completion of the Griner negotiations.
Why wouldn’t it be a Paul Whelan negotiation that held potential to get Griner back as well? Quick answer: if you have political value here at home, you matter.
Is this a prelude to something bigger?
The timing of the Griner release is most compelling.
For the first time since March, we're starting to see signs that the White House and the Kremlin are open to discussing how to end the war in Ukraine.
Perhaps the White House signaled that the celebrity hostage crisis needed cleaning up before pathways to conflict resolution could be explored.
It would make a great deal of sense that diplomatic ends are now preferred by the main players. After all, the collective West has expended massive amounts of capital and weapons while wreaking havoc on their own economies to sanction Russia.
Putin’s campaign on the ground has yielded failure after failure with little to show after nine months in a country that was supposed to be subjugated in 10 days.
Unless you count the war crimes and now revealed truth, that the Russian armed forces are an undisciplined disaster.
Has Vladimir Putin likely had enough?
While the EU, NATO, and Russia may want out of this war as the rhetoric of the day intones, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians may not have interest at all if they believe their valiant defense comes down to handing over vast amounts of Ukraine in some sort of a peace deal.
We must ask ourselves this, does the U.S. look stronger as it shifts its outlook from "whatever it takes" back to maybe just a "minor incursion?"
Of course, the distance in these schizophrenic positions is hundreds-of-thousands dead, over $100 billion spent, wrecked western economies, and trillions in infrastructure destroyed.
All on a war that could have been deterred because we had warnings dating to 2014.
If a solution is imposed on the Ukrainians, how different will they feel from the Afghans who learned in August 2021 that "Enduring Freedom" meant "Or in 20 Years," whichever is less?
Welcome home Brittney Griner.
Please join us in praying for Paul Whelan’s and all captive American’s return.
While you’re at it, sing the National Anthem every now and then.
Brig. Gen. Blaine Holt (retired) is a co-founder of Restore Liberty, a former deputy representative to NATO, a lifetime member on the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Newsmax contributor. The views presented are those of the author and do not represent the views of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, or its components. Read Holt's reports — More Here.
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