Can you say “bargaining chip?”
Courtesy of WaPo:
An American citizen has been arrested in Moscow on suspicion of espionage, Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB, said on Monday.
The agency identified the man as Paul Whelan. A criminal case has been opened against him.
The U.S. State Department said it has been notified by the Russian Foreign Ministry of an American citizen’s detention but could not confirm the name or provide more details, citing privacy considerations.
The United States has asked for consular access. “We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it,” a State Department spokesman said.
By Russian law, foreigners found guilty of spying on Russia face between 10 and 20 years in prison.
“On December 28, staff members of the Russian Federal Security Service detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow while on a spy mission,” the FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB service, said in a statement on its website. No other details were given.
The arrest of the U.S. citizen comes as tensions between Washington and Moscow continue to escalate over a range of issues from election meddling to the crises in Syria and Ukraine.
I think this is 100% about giving the Russians something to work with in order to get Maria Butina back.
In 2010 the Obama Administration traded ten Russian spies, including the infamous Anna Chapman, for four Americans being held in Russia.
This seems a little like deja vu, especially since Russian typically deports suspected spies rather than throwing them in jail.
Personally, I am not sure why Russia is even bothering to go through the motions.
I’m sure that Trump would just hand Butina over if Putin were to order him to do so.