The story of Paul Whelan, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage, it looks strange even in Russia, where espionage and subversive scandals have become commonplace, says Konstantin Eggert.
50-year-old bachelor, a citizen of four States, the former staff Sergeant of the marine corps of the United States, Whelan was arrested by the FSB in 2018 in Moscow hotel “Metropol”. It happened after he allegedly received from a Russian citizen a flash drive with a list of employees of some Russian special services.
“Responsa ” biography of Paul Whelan
The defendant himself has a very strange biography, in which periodically there are unconfirmed jobs and non-existent academic credentials. From the marine corps he was dismissed with “the wolf ticket” for attempted misappropriation of public funds and attempted fraud by the social insurance.
A retired American intelligence officials who labored commentators in the media, as one likes: a man with a biography and personal qualities no one close and wouldn’t admit to working for the CIA or military intelligence of the United States. Judging by the profiles in social networks, including the Russian “In contact”, the ex-marine was a supporter of Donald trump, ‘ve been in Russia several times, but spoke in Russian is bad, communicated mostly through Google Translate.
As agent of this character really looks weird. It is theoretically possible, of course, assume that it is because of such biographies of him and cost to recruit – to confuse the collective “Lubyanka.” However, it would be extremely unorthodox approach to the recruitment of a private citizen. And security services today is a giant bureaucracy with their views about what risks are acceptable and which may be responsible for a particular operation employees loss of seats and ranks.
The trial of Paul Whelan was held behind closed doors, as usually happens in such cases in Russia. The defendant pleaded not guilty. He claims in court he didn’t even have a translator, so he didn’t really understand how the process goes. Lawyer Yevgeny Zherebenkov said that the evidence of the guilt of his client, the prosecution has a very flimsy.
Instead of Butynol – Bout or Yaroshenko
Whelan says to think on the drive that gave him a mysterious “Russian citizen” – photos of him and his friends during the tour to the monastery. He claims he was part of a group of Americans who came to Russia for the wedding of another former marine. It’s a very strange idea. It is clear that the FSB will “hunt” for former U.S. troops on its territory. That citizen gave the flash drive – no one knows. On the preparation of the trial for two years also do not know anything. Although, the idea is that a person has committed treason and must stand trial.
We can assume that Whelan “framed”, that is simply took a hostage to then swap to Mary Butina, a Russian citizen, convicted in America for “work as a foreign agent without registering”. But it was released early and deported to Russia in October 2019. However, Whelan was invited 16 years. U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said she was “disappointed and angry” by the verdict. Rage is not the emotion that I love to show diplomats. This, in my opinion, testifies: the US government believes in the innocence of Paul Whelan.
Without going into the debate, former Sergeant guilty or not, I suppose: the Kremlin acted quite consciously. I think what was decided: if Butina already free, in the United States there are other “prisoners”, long of interest to Moscow. Is accused of drug smuggling pilot Viktor Yaroshenko who is serving a 25-year sentence on charges of illegal arms trade, Victor Bout. Official Moscow has long called for their release. Why not offer Washington to exchange them for Whelan? Donald trump will be able to sell this as a victory – “see, I have always said that I will be able to negotiate with Putin!” Joe Biden, if he becomes President, will potentially be able to use the exchange to demonstrate its readiness to reduce tensions with Moscow – a rather natural step at the beginning of the presidential term.
Putin is not afraid of sanctions?
However, perhaps there is another – psychological – cause of a severe sentence Whelan. The Congress prepared a bill to impose new, extremely tough sanctions against the Kremlin, including a complete ban of operations with the Russian public debt and new restrictions on Russian state banks. Judging from past experience, in such cases, the Russian leadership is trying to demonstrate that it is not intimidating. 16 years in prison an American citizen where as a clear signal loud and clear. Moreover, on Capitol hill in any case are serious and hardly mitigate future sanctions, so that from the demonstration of courage, from the point of view governing Russia’s secret services and, worse still will not.
Furthermore, it is impossible to know what really run it up the flagpole organizers of arrest and conviction Paul Whelan. After all, the Kremlin will believe any story about the machinations, as it was fashionable to say a few years ago, the “Washington regional Committee” against the newly acquired national pride of Russia Vladimir Putin. Somehow it seems to me that the “thing Whelan” will very soon receive a new development.