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Published: Sunday, 1/19/2014

CONTINGENCY PLANNING

U.S. military weighing Olympic rescue options

BLADE NEWS SERVICES
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his personal and political prestige on the security of the Sochi Games, said Russia will do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep participants and guests safe. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his personal and political prestige on the security of the Sochi Games, said Russia will do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep participants and guests safe.
RIA NOVOSTI KREMLIN Enlarge

WASHINGTON — In the face of concerns about possible attacks by militants during the Winter Olympics in Russia next month, U.S. military and intelligence officials have studied contingency plans to evacuate Americans from the games in case of a crisis.

But U.S. officials have concluded the military or other government resources would face major obstacles in conducting a large-scale effort to evacuate Americans from Sochi.

The most formidable roadblock is that Russian authorities have been reluctant to allow foreign forces on Russian territory.

U.S. officials said Russia unquestionably has primary responsibility for protecting everyone attending at the games that start Feb. 7.

“No matter what happens,” the Russians “are not going to welcome with open arms” any intervention by outsiders, even in a situation where outsiders might only seek to rescue their own citizens, one source said.

U.S. contingency planners apparently have determined that there are few ways to prepare and potentially position supplies or forces for a possible Olympics rescue because of Sochi’s location, the source said.

Sochi lies on the western edge of the Caucasus mountains on the Black Sea in southern Russia. Militants trying to carve out an Islamist state in the region have threatened to attack the Olympic Games.

In a video that emerged over the weekend, two men purporting to be Islamist militants threatened the Sochi Games.

“We’ll have a surprise package for you,” one of the men said in the video posted on a Chechen extremist Web site, ABC News reported.

“And those tourists that will come to you, for them, too, we have a surprise. If it happens [the Olympics], we’ll have a surprise for you,” the men were quoted as saying. “This is for all the Muslim blood that is shed every day around the world, be it in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, all around the world. This will be our revenge.”

In a statement posted with the video on its Web site, the militant group Vilayat Dagestan claimed responsibility for bombings last month in the southern Russian city of Volgograd that killed 34 people.

No one previously claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Russia has introduced sweeping security measures for the Sochi Games.

The U.S. State Department has warned Americans planning to attend to be vigilant about their security because of potential terrorist threats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his political and personal prestige on the Olympics’ success, has ordered safety measures beefed up nationwide. About 37,000 Russian personnel are providing security in the Sochi area.

Mr. Putin, in an interview with foreign journalists, said Russia would do “whatever it takes” to ensure the security of Olympic participants and guests.

But some U.S. lawmakers complained Sunday that the Russians were not telling U.S. intelligence enough about threats from militant groups operating in the region.

“We don’t seem to be getting all of the information we need to protect our athletes in the games,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley.

“They’re not giving us the full story about what are the threat streams, who do we need to worry about, are those groups — the terrorist groups who have had some success — are they still plotting?” he said.



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