In a poignant Christmas Eve interview, Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine imprisoned in Russia, delivered a forthright message to President Joe Biden, urging him to take decisive action for his return to the United States. Whelan’s case has become a focal point in the complex U.S.-Russia relations.
Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges, which he vehemently denies, expressed his disappointment in President Biden’s handling of his situation. “He’s the guy that made the decision to leave me behind twice,” Whelan stated to WTOP News.
Despite the bleakness of his situation, Whelan remains hopeful that President Biden can rectify the situation. “He’s the man that can bring me home,” he said. “You know, I’ve been told that everyone is doing all they can, that my release is a top priority. Promises have been made, and I need everyone who has made those promises to now man up!”
“The concern that I have is that diplomatic efforts have failed and not enough is being done to secure my release from the very top,” he continued.
In response to Whelan’s statements, a spokesperson for the National Security Council reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to bringing home Americans wrongfully detained abroad. However, the specifics of any ongoing negotiations or strategies remain confidential.
Whelan is a former United States Marine who has been in the news due to his arrest and subsequent detention in Russia. He was detained in Moscow in December of 2018 and was accused by Russian authorities of espionage. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in a trial that was widely criticized by international observers and U.S. officials for its lack of transparency and allegations of being politically motivated.
Prior to his arrest, Whelan held a position as the director of global security for an American company. He also served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and was discharged for bad conduct. His detention has been a point of contention in U.S.-Russian relations, with U.S. officials repeatedly calling for his release and questioning the legitimacy of the charges against him.
Whelan holds citizenship in four countries: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which has added an international dimension to his case. Efforts by these governments to secure his release have been ongoing, and his case is often mentioned in discussions about U.S.-Russia relations and the treatment of foreign nationals in Russian custody.
“The House and Senate have been quite supportive. The four consulates (U.S., Canada, Ireland and Britain) are quite supportive. The ambassadors come here to the middle of nowhere to visit me, and I know that Jake Sullivan and Antony Blinken care, and are engaged,” said Whelan.
Critics of the Biden administration have seized on Whelan’s case as emblematic of a broader foreign policy approach that they perceive as lackluster and reactive, rather than proactive and assertive. They argue that the administration’s efforts in securing the release of wrongfully detained Americans, like Whelan, need to be more aggressive.
As Whelan awaits his fate, his call for Joe Biden to “man up” echoes a sentiment for a more forceful American stance on the global stage.