In a sharp reversal of previous policy, Blinken also said he expects to speak with his Kremlin counterpart for the first time since before Russia invaded Ukraine to discuss the deal and other matters.
Blinken’s comments marked the first time the U.S. government has publicly revealed any concrete action it has taken to secure the release of Griner, who was arrested on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport in February and testified Wednesday at her trial.
He did not offer details on the proposed deal outlined to the Russians, though a person familiar with the matter said the U.S. government has offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Whelan and Griner.
The person insisted on anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Bout, who is referred to as the “Merchant of Death” according to The Daily Wire, was convicted on terrorism charges in 2011 for attempting to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia to attack U.S. Military helicopters.
Making the potential deal public signals a growing acceptance by the White House of prisoner swaps as resolutions for cases of Americans jailed overseas.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal, and I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and, I hope, to move us toward a resolution,” Blinken said.
President Joe Biden, who authorized the Reed prisoner swap after meeting with his parents, signed off on the deal the U.S. offered in this case, officials said.
“The president and his team are willing to take extraordinary steps to bring them home,” John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, told reporters.