Do prisoner swaps encourage hostage-taking? Brittney Griner’s release resurfaces debate

The prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia to safe the release of girls’s basketball star Brittney Griner has pushed the debate over whether or not such concessions encourage hostage-taking again into the highlight. 

Griner, who had been detained in Russia since February on drug expenses, was launched Thursday in a prisoner swap for worldwide arms seller Viktor Bout, who was imprisoned within the U.S. for greater than a decade on terrorism expenses ensuing from a sting operation. 

“In the case of Viktor Bout, these are hard decisions,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken instructed CBS News’ Margaret Brennan. “And ultimately those of us working for the president make recommendations, give advice. He’s the one who has to make the hard calls. And he made a hard call. Viktor Bout’s been off the playing field since 2008, which is a very good thing, and he served about half of his sentence. At some point, in the years to come, he was going to get out. And I’m glad at least that we were able to get Brittney Griner home.”

While Griner’s release was extensively praised, the swap was swiftly criticized by those that thought the U.S. was making an unequal commerce, particularly provided that the U.S. had declared Griner wrongfully detained. 

Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with unlawful possession of hashish, stands inside a defendants’ cage earlier than a court docket listening to in Khimki outdoors Moscow, on Aug. 4.


“This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey mentioned in a press release. “We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention.” 

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons from Delaware instructed reporters that the extra the U.S. engages “in such exchanges, the more Americans are at risk of being scooped up and held as leverage to try and secure the release” of individuals the U.S. would favor to not release. 

The U.S. authorities has lengthy had a coverage of refusing to make concessions to terrorists who kidnap Americans, with the argument being that refusing to pay ransoms or give in to different calls for would take away the motivation of taking American hostages within the first place. 

But prisoner exchanges with governments involving Americans the U.S. deems to be wrongfully detained have blurred the coverage. 

The RAND Corporation, which launched a examine in 2018, mentioned it was “unable to find persuasive evidence supporting the assertion that a no-concessions policy provided an effective deterrent.” 

“While the U.S. no-concessions policy has not deterred kidnappings, there is some evidence that political concessions and ransom payments appear to encourage further kidnappings and escalating demands,” the study said

The longstanding coverage of not negotiating with terrorist teams annoyed households of hostages who wished the U.S. authorities to do extra to carry their family members residence. President Obama announced a new policy in 2015 that sought to create higher coordination throughout the federal government to safe the release of hostages and higher communication with the households. He additionally reaffirmed the U.S. position of not making concessions to terrorist teams. 

A report by the think-tank New America in 2017 discovered that the refusal to make concessions to terrorist teams typically had extra hostile results on hostages from these international locations than from international locations who made concessions. Another study discovered “strong evidence that terrorist negotiation success results in more hostages being abducted because of terrorists’ anticipated future payoffs.” 

A senior administration official instructed reporters Thursday it might be “mistaken” to assume prisoner swaps in hostage conditions “has become the norm.” 

“I don’t think governments around the world would be wise to draw that inference,” the official mentioned. “But in the rare case when there is an imperative to bring Americans home, which is a real priority for this president, there sometimes are no alternatives left and a heavy price has to be paid.” 

While Griner is free, Marine veteran Paul Whelan stays imprisoned in Russia on espionage expenses that the U.S. says are false. Whelan’s brother, David, referred to as on the U.S. to be “more prepared” for when extra Americans are imprisoned overseas. 

“It’s clear the US government needs to be more assertive,” he mentioned. “In Russia’s case, this may mean taking more law-breaking, Kremlin-connected Russians into custody.” 

On Thursday, President Joe Biden warned Americans in opposition to touring to international locations the place they might be wrongfully detained, saying it isn’t a assure the U.S. authorities will have the ability to safe their release. 

“I strongly urge all Americans to take precautions, including reviewing the State Department’s travel advisories before they travel overseas, which now includes warnings about the risk of being wrongfully detained by a foreign government,” Mr. Biden mentioned. 

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