Day 840 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - April 16, 2021 - Sanctions and Summits

President Biden issued an executive order yesterday [4/15/2021] sanctioning Russians and Russian entities.  The sanctions and expulsion of Russian diplomats are for actions the US government perceives the Russian Federation to have taken.  The Russian Federation has responded that they will take reciprocal measures.
These are not the first sanctions the US has aimed at the Russian Federation while Paul has been a Russian hostage.  The longer his wrongful detention continues, it's possible they won't be the last.  The diplomatic visa war and years of other tit-for-tat responses - a dacha here, a diplomatic property there, the expulsion of 60% of US Embassy staff - will probably also continue.
The Biden Administration's actions and the anticipated reciprocal Russian response raise two concerns for our family.  I'm sure they are the same for any family of someone wrongfully detained by a foreign nation.  First, the sanctions continue to make it difficult for the two nations to create the relationship and dialogue necessary to create conditions that might lead to Paul's release.  Second, the winnowing of US Embassy staff in Russia will make the difficult work of consular support even harder.
Fortunately, both before and after the sanctions announcement, President Biden has made it clear that he would like for the US and the Russian Federation to have a stable relationship.  Paul has been a Russian hostage for 840 days.  The US - Russia relationship during that time has resembled a catboat in a hurricane.  A summit and some rapprochement would be a welcome change.  I hope President Putin will accept the summit invitation.
Ms. Zakharova stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs perspective is that the US is "trying to destroy bilateral relations" ("Нет, они просто пытаются разрушить двусторонние отношения").  The MFA also summoned Ambassador Sullivan to a meeting with Deputy Minister Ryabkov.  So it is unclear whether the Russian Federation is confident that a change is possible.  Hopefully Senator Dzhabarov's perspective that this might be an attempt at softened US rhetoric ("попытался своим выступлением смягчить риторику") will win out.
We appreciate journalists like you taking the opportunity to ask about American hostages in Russia.  And we are glad to see that, as Ms. Psaki reiterated yesterday, "issues of the detainment of American citizens" are continually raised in diplomatic conversations. We realize the freedom of individuals can get lost amid discussions of nuclear arms, terrorism, and national security.
President Biden said yesterday that the US and Russia are "two great powers with significant responsibility for global stability" and that "our two countries have been able to find ways to manage tensions and to keep them from escalating out of control."  There are huge issues needing attention.  We hope that both the US and Russian Federation governments take the opportunity to talk about them.  And, at the same time, use those opportunities to solve the smaller problems as well, like wrongfully detained citizens.  Like freedom for Paul.
[ Senior Administration officials on background regarding the sanctions (4/15/2021): Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on Russia | The White House ]
[ US Consul General Statement, 4/1/2021, about closed consulate at Vladivostok: Statement from the Consul General on the Suspension of Operations at U.S. Consulate General, Vladivostok ]  
[President Biden's remarks (4/15/2021): Remarks by President Biden on Russia | The White House ]