Day 1553 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - March 30, 2023 - Potential Hostage, No Path to Freedom

Our family is sorry to hear that another American family will have to experience the same trauma that we have had to endure for the past 1,553 days.  While Paul did not have the benefit of the State Department's travel advisory warning that Russia takes American hostages, it sounds as though the frame up of Mr. Gershkovich was the same as it was in Paul's case.  And in Nicholas Daniloff's and Edmund Pope's.  Unlike other American citizens detained recently by the Kremlin, this one fits a decades-old pattern.

Unfortunately, the White House does not seem to have found a way to resolve cases like Paul's, where an American is falsely charged with espionage by the Kremlin.  It has been two years since President Biden signed his Executive Order to enable the US to "redouble its efforts at home and with partners abroad to deter these practices."  The State Department has said these cases are a "vital priority" and justice for American citizens "is the highest priority."  President Biden has said he "won't give up" to secure Paul's release.

We don't have much to show for those good intentions.  Paul has spent over 51 months trying to survive until those intentions become actions.  I have started to wonder whether Paul's case really is a priority.  Paul has been left behind twice and, while it meant other Americans were freed, it also meant that the U.S. government used resources that it can no longer use in future cases.  

If Paul's case remains a priority, it begs the question whether enough resources have been brought to bear - leveraging the Executive Order, among other things - to encourage the Kremlin to redress the injustice they have inflicted on Paul.  And if they haven't, then perhaps the well-meant words about being a priority are just that: words.  Like "substantial offer" and "our efforts will not cease."  This may mean that Executive agencies who have not cooperated in the past do so now for the sake of these American hostages.  It may mean that, as difficult as the decisions that a President has to make, more difficult ones should be contemplated.

I am grateful for the good intentions and, frankly, for the hard work that I know State and other agency staff have put to try to find a resolution to Paul's case.  It is clear that some people have the will if not the means to bring Paul home.  And I recognize that the U.S. government doesn't have the only say when a hostile government detains American citizens.   In particular, no one has to school me on the current state of US-Russia relations.  But whatever is being done is clearly not enough.  You cannot be partially successful when it comes to the freedom of an American citizen:  they are either free or they are not.  The Kremlin remains undeterred and American citizens and their families become collateral damage.

Whatever it takes, I hope the U.S. government moves quickly and decisively so that Paul and Mr. Gershkovich are able to return to their families and loved ones soon.  If these cases truly are the highest priority for the U.S. government, I'm confident that will happen.

Thank you for continuing to follow Paul's case.  I hope more Americans will take to heart that, when about a million Russians have left their own homeland because of the Kremlin, its not safe for Americans either.