One World Power Deals
Time and again the United States agrees to the exchange of prisoners. However, agreements are often made to the public behind closed doors.
Steven Spielberg’s landmark film “Bridge of Spies – The Negotiator” in theaters in 2015 brought it back into the collective memory of Americans: the exchange of prisoners is one of the standard foreign policy practices in their country – undoubtedly always from a moral point of view. Don’t look completely innocent. Especially since such deals were part of the Cold War between Washington and Moscow.
Some of you will surely remember when Secretary of State Antony Blinken put forward the possibility of a new “prisoner swap”, as the prisoner exchange in the United States is called: the infamous Release of Russian prisoner who was sentenced to long imprisonment Arms dealer Victor but against world-class basketball player Brittany Griner, which is being held in Russia and American businessman Paul Whelan.
During the Cold War, there were always such mutual deals between the Americans and the Russians. Three of these deals took place in the public eye of the world, always with a view of the Glienicker Bridge over the Havel in Berlin. The first – and most spectacular – prisoner exchange served as a model for Spielberg’s film.
there were always small deals
In February 1962, top Russian spy Rudolf Abel and American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers crossed the bridge – each in opposite directions. Abel had headed a Soviet spy ring in the United States, and Powers was shot down in his spy plane over the Soviet Union nearly two years earlier. Twenty years later, 23 Western agents were exchanged for four Russian spies on the bridge. In 1986, Russian dissident (and later Israeli commerce minister) Nathan Sharansky was freed along with three other men, having been exchanged for five prisoners from the West.
In other ways too, governments in Washington have repeatedly made dirty little deals. In 2019, for example, the United States, under then-President Donald Trump, exchanged an Iranian stem cell researcher for an American student. US officials accused the scientist of attempting to smuggle the genetically modified protein into his country despite sanctions. Iranian court convicted American of alleged espionage.
Usually You Don’t Hear “A Lot About It”
In 2016, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, freed four US citizens in Iran for $400 million. Money had accumulated in America since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Two years ago, Obama approved the exchange of five detained Afghans for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who had been in Afghanistan for years. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, called it a “sacred duty” to bring Americans home from captivity.
“You don’t usually hear much about it,” says American military historian Paul Springer, who researches the history of American prisoner exchanges. “Unless it’s a famous person or relative making a lot of noise in public.” Both are likely to apply to the current Griner case.
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