Just in case you need any further proof that everything is off the rails in 2022, former NBA star Dennis Rodman announced he is planning on traveling to Russia this week to help secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner. Rodman says he has received permission to go and give it a try. The question is who gave him permission?
NBC News first reported the news. “I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News at a restaurant in D.C. “I’m trying to go this week.” Rodman fancies himself a kind of diplomat with North Korea and Russia. In 2014 after a trip to Moscow, he called Russian President Vladimir Putin “cool”. He has received publicity for cultivating a friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Rodman has made many trips to North Korea to visit him. In 2018, he showed up in Singapore during Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un. Rodman also credits himself with helping secure the release of an American, Kenneth Bae, from North Korea.
Will Rodman’s informal diplomacy work with Putin? Perhaps he can appeal to Putin’s ego. He apparently met him in 2014 and publicly called him cool so maybe he can expand on that. The problem, though, is that Putin invaded Ukraine and the United States is on the side of Ukraine. Does Putin want to give Biden a victory by releasing Griner now? The Biden administration has been very public in its remarks lately about the possibility of a prisoner swap for Griner’s release. The administration is considering releasing a Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner and also for fellow American Paul Whelan. If the administration truly is pursuing a prisoner swap, wouldn’t Rodman’s trip throw a wrench into the situation? The Biden administration does not sound impressed.
He is more likely to hurt than help, said a senior Biden administration official.
“It’s public information that the administration has made a significant offer to the Russians and anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder release efforts,” said the official.
Brittney Griner’s nine year sentence for drug smuggling is being appealed by her lawyers. It does seem harsh for vape canisters of medical marijuana but that’s Russian law and foreigners have to abide by local laws. Sleepy Joe refers to her imprisonment as wrongful detention, which isn’t technically true. She broke Russian law by having drugs in her possession, intentionally or not. Biden called for her immediate release but no one listens to Joe. World leaders laugh at Biden.
“Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden wrote in the statement. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
The State Department is aware of Rodman’s intention to travel to Russia. However, its Level 4 travel advisory to Americans remains in place.
“Do not travel to Russia due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the singling out of U.S. citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19-related restrictions, and terrorism,” the warning reads. “U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart Russia immediately. Exercise increased caution due to wrongful detentions.”
This story continues to grow. What about Paul Whelan, though? Is his release a part of Rodman’s plan or is he just concerned about getting Griner released? What about Marc Fogel? This intervention by Rodman has the potential to blow up. But, this is 2020 so all bets are off. Stranger things have happened. Rodman wouldn’t have the authority to set the perimeters of a prisoner swap, though, and I can’t imagine that Putin will just release a prisoner without someone in return.