Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that further prisoner exchanges with the United States could be possible if the right compromise is struck.
Putin told reporters that “compromise [had] been found” which allowed Thursday to trade WNBA player Brittney Griner for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“We do not refuse to continue this work in the future,” Putin added in his first comments on the high-profile trade this week.
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The Biden administration faced a quick pushback from GOP lawmakers who argued the trade was lopsided and left another American sitting in a Russian prison: former Marine Paul Whelan.
Griner’s celebrity profile as an athlete has also prompted many to question whether that played a role in the administration’s determination to bring home Griner, who was arrested in February on marijuana charges.
President Biden countered that suggestion Thursday and told reporters, “This was not a choice of which American to take home.”
“We took Trevor Reed home when we had the chance earlier this year. Unfortunately, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney,” he added, vowing to continue to work to bring Whelan home as well.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed the president’s stance and said, “Unfortunately, the choice became whether to take Britteny home or nobody.”
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She also added that Griner “is more than an athlete, more than an Olympian. She is a major role model and inspiration for millions of Americans, especially LGBTQI+ Americans and women of color.”
Putin said the Bout-Griner negotiations did not address other geopolitical concerns.
“Whether this can prepare the ground for a dialogue with the United States is a separate question,” he said. “We haven’t set the task of moving from those talks to something else, but they create a certain atmosphere.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed the sentiment and said, “It has no impact on the general state of bilateral ties.”
However, Rebekah Koffler, a Russia expert and former DIA intelligence officer for Russian doctrine and strategy, has warned that the trade is likely to have greater geopolitical repercussions.
“Putin wants to capitalize on what he, his regime and the Russian people have [see] as a great ‘victory,'” he said, explaining that Bout, a former GRU intelligence officer, has ties to Putin during his former KGB operational days.
“Bout is no ordinary rogue actor. He is related to Putin himself through Igor Sechin, a former KGB agent, current CEO of Rosneft and one of the most influential people in Putin’s circle,” Koffler explained. “Bout will probably now play a major role in the Russia-Ukraine war.”
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Koffler said the Kremlin could look to Bout’s previous experience as an international arms dealer to help Russia with its dwindling stockpiles in the war against Ukraine.
“He’s a huge fish, a very valuable asset to Putin, compared to Griner,” he added, telling Fox News Digital that Putin “also wants to show the United States that he can be transacted on a transactional basis, as long as he gets a deal on his terms.” conditions”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.