‘It’s a day that’s above politics’: Central Texas political expert, history professor reacts to Griner’s release

The WNBA star and former Baylor student spent nearly 10 months in Russian detainment
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 5:21 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - After nearly 10 months of Russian detainment, Brittney Griner is finally headed home, and for a political expert in Central Texas, that means a nonpartisan win for all Americans.

“It’s uniting in a way, when the President of the United States and the State Department goes all out to get a fellow American rescued from a horrible situation,” Ashley Cruseturner, a history professor at McLennan Community College, said.

It’s a horrible situation that Cruseturner speculates may have been an elaborate scheme by the Russians to get Viktor Bout, the arms dealer Griner was swapped for, back into their custody.

Regardless of the Russians’ motives, Cruseturner says he doesn’t think the timing of the swap was political.

“We just finished a midterm election, and I don’t think the Brittney Griner issue was an issue on November 8th,” Cruseturner told KWTX. “I certainly don’t think it’ll be an issue two years from now.”

When it comes to what today’s release means for future prisoner swaps, one American comes to mind: Paul Whelan.

According to the State Department, the marine veteran has been wrongfully detained in Russia since 2018.

“Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s,” President Joe Biden said in a press conference earlier today. “And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up.”

In order to get him home, Cruseturner says the U.S. will need to play Russia’s game and initiate another one-to-one prisoner exchange.

“The state department was really trying to get Paul Whelan home, and that probably explains some of the timeline,” Cruseturner continued. “The Russians were just playing hardball, and they’re just gonna go on a one-to-one exchange, getting what they want.”

There’s been no confirmation of next steps for Whelan’s release.

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