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US basketball player Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage before the court's verdict in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia.

REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Griner freed, but in exchange for Merchant of Death — who won?

Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday in a direct prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Big win for US President Joe Biden, but also for President Vladimir Putin. Who got the shorter end of the stick? On the one hand, the Biden administration could hardly afford the bad optics of allowing a prominent Black female athlete to be locked up in a Russian penal colony for nine years. Still, the US president can say he kept his promise to Griner's family to do everything in his power to get her out of Russia. On the other hand, Putin traded someone who got busted for just carrying a CBD vial in her luggage for someone who deserved to be called the "Merchant of Death." What's more, the Kremlin got Bout without having to give up Paul Whelan, a former US marine who's been behind bars in Russia since 2018 for alleged spying. Also, there are plenty of Americans locked up under awful conditions in other countries around the world.

What do you think? Let us know here.
Placeholder | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden and Putin hold virtual meeting as US-Russia tensions increase

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Biden and Putin's talk, the US boycott of the Beijing Olympics, and the omicron variant.

As Presidents Biden and Putin meet, how are US-Russia relations at the moment?

They're pretty bad. I mean, I would say compared to China where we have lots of mutual interdependence, in the case of Russia, that is not the case at all. The United States does not need Russia economically. The Russians feel like the present geopolitical order, especially in their backyard really doesn't suit them. And Putin also feels like he has more ability to press the Americans harder because Merkel is leaving; energy prices are high. And also because the Europeans coming into winter need Russian gas much more. So for all those reasons, this is going to be a much stroppier, chippier meeting, if you don't mind me using those terms, than we would've seen last time they met in Geneva back in June.

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Placeholder | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Biden and Putin to talk tough on Ukraine

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

I want to talk about Russia. And you will, of course, be hearing all of the stories about Russia gearing up for a war with Ukraine, taking more territory. The Americans saying don't do it, but not setting up any clear red lines. What's actually going on here? Well, it's worth going back to the last that Biden and Putin met with each other. That was in Geneva back in mid-June. And you'll remember that Biden snapped at the end of the meeting and the press conference. He was asked by someone, "How come you trust Russia, you trust Putin?" And he said, "I don't trust Putin. We'll see what happens over the coming months." Now at that point, Ukraine was not the big topic that was being discussed.

This was on the back of the attacks, the cyberattacks against Colonial Pipeline in the United States, clearly coming from criminal gangs in Russia, operating with the full knowledge of the Kremlin. And the big takeaway from the meeting, from the summit, from Biden was telling Putin, "look, you need to put a stop to this because if you don't, they're going to be direct consequences." A stop to what? A stop specifically to cyberattacks emanating from Russia, even if not directly from the Kremlin against critical infrastructure in the United States. Not espionage, which the United States does as well, of course. Not attacks, malware attacks against noncritical infrastructure, which is an annoyance, which the American would like to put an end to. But which Biden was not saying was a red line, but specifically critical infrastructure. And indeed, it's been several months now, almost six months and there has been movement. There has been some progress.

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US-Russia: An All-or-Nothing Approach Leaves US With Nothing | The Red Pen | GZERO Media

US-Russia: An all-or-nothing approach leaves US with nothing

An open letter in Politico by a group of foreign policy experts says the US should take a much tougher approach on Russia. In this edition of The Red Pen, Ian Bremmer is joined by Eurasia Group analysts Alex Brideau and Zach Witlin to point out some reasons why diplomacy and realism are critical in the US approach to Russia.

And today, we're taking our Red Pen to an open letter titled "No, Now Is Not the Time for Another Russia Reset." It was published in Politico and signed by 33 foreign policy experts, including diplomats Bill Taylor and Kurt Volker, who both testified at the impeachment hearings, as well as a bunch of military intelligence and diplomatic figures. And as it turned out, actually, we were Red Penned here, because it's a response to this piece, also in Politico recently, that I cosigned with a different group of Russia experts, including Fiona Hill and Jon Huntsman.

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