This premium article is exclusive to SOFREP+ Subscribers - Thank you for your support.
Fifty-two year old ex Marine Paul Whelan remains a prisoner of the Russians. Screenshot from YouTube and MSNBC.
No Man Left Behind
As US military personnel, it has been indoctrinated into us since day one that if worst comes to worst, we won’t be left behind to rot in some godforsaken country. We were convinced that our brothers would do everything humanly possible to ensure that we would be repatriated if we were taken as a prisoner by the enemy or killed in action.
“I will not fail those with whom I serve…I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
It is a sacred oath, not to be taken lightly. Men died, and some were permanently disabled in the attempt to bring deserter and traitor Bowe Bergdahl home. In the end, he was traded for members of the Taliban. And now we leave one of our own, Paul Whelan, a Marine who had done multiple tours of duty in Iraq, to stay in a Russian jail cell. It’s hurtful and embarrassing.
Who is Paul Whelan?
Most Americans know that he is a former US Marine being held prisoner in Russia. Beyond that, they’d be hard-pressed to say. But, of course, there is more to his story.
Whelan is a citizen of four countries: the US, Canada (born there), Britain, and Ireland. OK, that’s a bit unusual. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1994 and worked in administrative roles with Marine Air Control Group 38, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. His full-time civilian job was with Kelly Services as an IT manager. He left that job in 2003 to go on active duty and was deployed to Iraq for several months between 2004 and 2006.
His service, however, was not without its problems. In 2008, Whelan was convicted by a special court-martial for “attempted larceny, making a false official statement, ten specifications of uttering checks without having sufficient funds in his account for payment, wrongfully using another’s social security number and three specifications of dereliction of duty.” As a result, he was sentenced to 60 days restriction, and the military reduced his pay grade to E-4. He ultimately received a bad conduct discharge.
Once back in civilian life, he began working in the corporate security field. At the time of his arrest in Russia, Whelan was the corporate security director for BorgWarner, one of the 25 largest automotive suppliers in the world.
Next Stop, Moscow
According to Radio Free Europe, that’s the last phrase Whelan entered on his mobile phone on the Russian social media VK before his trail went dark and his family began to worry. It was the 28th of December. Later that night, he was arrested in a Moscow hotel. He has been to Russia numerous times before and, his brother states, knew just enough Russian to get around. This time, he was in the country for the wedding of a fellow Marine who has marrying a local Russian woman.
On New Year’s Eve, he surfaced again, now in the custody of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). He was being held on charges of espionage and was looking at 20 years in prison if convicted. To make a long story short, he was sentenced by a Russian court to 16 years of hard labor.
His attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, explained Whelan’s case to The Washington Post. He told them that his client, unbeknownst to him, was the recipient of a flash drive containing what he referred to as “state secrets.” What was on there? Russian nuclear missile launch codes or the recipe for a killer borscht? We don’t know. What we do know is that the former Marine did indeed receive a flash drive from an acquaintance, but he said he was under the impression that it contained holiday photos. During his trial, Whelan insisted that he was innocent and that he was framed. In August 2020, Mr. Whelan was sent to prison camp IK-17, a couple of hundred miles east of Moscow. Whelan told reporters from ABC News that the place was very, very old and quite dilapidated. He described his fellow inmates, however, as being “quite welcoming.”
How Does He Feel About Being Passed Over?
Well, I imagine he wouldn’t be pleased about that. During a recent interview with CNN, he told the new outlet, “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
An unnamed senior US administration official was quick to answer Whelan’s question.
“This was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home. It was a choice between bringing home one particular American – Brittney Griner – or bringing home none,”
And that says it all. The Russians told us exactly what we were going to do. We saluted, said, “Yes, sir” (or whatever it is they say in Russia), did an about-face, and set the wheels in motion to bring Brittney Griner home. I’m glad she’s back, but the administration should have insisted that Paul was coming home too.
Experience news and stories of our veteran journalists with a SOFREP.com subscription! Sign up now and get exclusive access to unique and honest perspectives.
Barrett is the world leader in long-range, large-caliber, precision rifle design and manufacturing. Barrett products are used by civilians, sport shooters, law enforcement agencies, the United States military, and more than 75 State Department-approved countries around the world.
There are on this article.
You must become a subscriber or login to view or post comments on this article.