Day 1693 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - August 17, 2023 - Secretary Blinken Call to Paul

Paul has been a hostage of the Kremlin for 1,693 days today.  There's been a lot of interest in Secretary of State Blinken's call yesterday with Paul [8/16].  I don't have any details to share.  As Paul conveyed it to our parents yesterday, he said it was a "good" call and it sounds like there was a frank discussion about the current status of his detention.  This was confirmed to our family yesterday by someone from the State Department.

I was caught off guard at the level of interest in what appeared to me to be a routine phone call, excluding the fact it was by a Cabinet member.  We would not normally have mentioned the call, just as we didn't mention an earlier one involving the Secretary.  There's the uncertainty of the prison allowing Paul to have a phone call, for one thing.  Like so many events in these hostage cases, I think you can see it from multiple perspectives.

The call's occurrence does not suggest the U.S. government is taking any definitive action to secure Paul's release.  The "substantial proposal" from 2022 has, as you've all noticed I'm sure, dropped from State Department messaging.  The U.S. government either can't, or is unwilling to, make a concession that the Kremlin will accept for its extortion.  I think it's not for want of trying, although I wonder if there are difficult decisions that remain unmade.  One can't fault the U.S. for the criminal behavior of the Kremlin.  Unfortunately, it leaves Paul in a Mordovia labor colony for who knows how much longer.  Hopefully the U.S. government's ongoing efforts to find that concession will bear fruit. The call sends a message.  To Paul, and to our family, it is yet another extraordinary show of the U.S. government's ongoing commitment to secure Paul's release.  He has spoken with the Secretary of State and been visited in Mordovia by Ambassadors.  I hope that is meaningful to Paul and buoys his morale.  It seems to also send a message to the Kremlin.  Based on Ambassador Antonov's bloviating on Telegram yesterday (it's like the world's worst FAQ), it seems as though at least some bells were rung.

I was able to visit with our folks recently in Michigan and we talked about this ongoing impasse.  My recommendation to them was to focus on surviving until 2034 when we hope Paul will be released after completing his sentence.  Whatever the resolution of Paul's case is, it is unlikely to be in the short term.