Warships part of US contingency plan for Sochi Olympics

Daily News Article   —   Posted on January 23, 2014

The USS Mount Whitney supports maritime security operations with the Georgian coast guard in the Black Sea, which is within the U.S. 6th Fleet’s area of responsibility, Nov. 13, 2013. (Photo: Collin Turner)

(from ABC15 ) – On Monday, a U.S. official said the U.S. military will have up to two warships and several transport aircraft on standby under a contingency plan to help evacuate American officials and athletes from the Winter Olympics, if ordered.

The State Department would take the lead in organizing and evacuating Americans, if necessary, the official with direct knowledge of the plan told CNN.

Moscow would have to ask for such assistance before the United States would act, the official said.

But planes and ships are clearly there “if something happens like a major terrorist attack and we need to get Americans out,” the official said.

An online video surfaced on a jihadi forum on Sunday threatening the 17-day Winter Games beginning February 7 at the Black Sea resort town.

This followed deadly bombings in the southern city of Volgograd recently that raised concerns over Olympic security. Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, is a major transit hub for travel to Sochi.

Moreover, there has been recent violence in the southern republic of Dagestan — the latest unrest linked to a long-running Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus region.

Putin has acknowledged that the Games, like any high-profile event, would be a target for terrorists, but has pledged that visitors to Sochi for the Winter Olympics will be kept safe. He said that Russia has a “perfect understanding” of the threat and how to stop it.  

Russia has plenty of experience in keeping international events secure, Putin said, pointing to the G8 and G20 summits as examples.

U.S. contingency planning calls for warships to launch helicopters to Sochi from the Black Sea. C-17 transport aircraft would be on standby in Germany and could be on the scene in about two hours.

Other aircraft contracted to the State Department would also play a role in any emergency.

Two key U.S. lawmakers on security matters expressed concern on Sunday about the security situation in Sochi.

Sen. Angus King of Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wouldn’t go to the games himself, “and I don’t think I would send my family.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also called on the Russian government to be more cooperative with the United States on intelligence sharing ahead of the games.

“Their level of concern is great, but we don’t seem to be getting all of the information we need to protect our athletes in the Games. I think this needs to change, and it should change soon,” Rogers said.

When asked whether he thought Americans would be safe at the Games, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said he trusts Russia’s ability to provide security. “I think Americans will be quite safe,” he said.

Access to Sochi is under heavy restriction ahead of the games, and Putin said Sunday in an interview with half a dozen Russian and international broadcasters that about 40,000 members of Russia’s police and security forces would be guarding events.

Security analysts have warned that terrorists targeting the games may try to strike elsewhere in Russia during the Olympics.

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from ABC News. Visit the website at abc15 .com


More from the ABC News report:

  • Police in Sochi, Russia, have handed out fliers to hotels warning of a woman they believe could be a terrorist and who may currently be in the city, which is set to host the Winter Olympic Games.
  • One flier asks workers to be on the lookout for Ruzanna Ibragimova, described as the widow of a member of a militant group from the Caucuses.
  • CNN obtained a copy of the flier from security staff at a hotel in Sochi.
  • The woman, according to the flier, may be involved in organizing "a terrorist act within the 2014 Olympic region."
  • Reports about the woman come amid growing concerns over the security situation in Sochi a day after a video threatening the Games surfaced.

and from an ESPN news report from the AP:

  • Russia's counterterrorism agency is studying a video posted by an Islamic militant group that asserted responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 34 people last month and is threatening to strike during the Games.
  • The video was posted online Sunday by a militant group in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia's volatile North Caucasus. The Olympic host city of Sochi lies 300 miles west of Dagestan.
  • Russia has responded to the Islamic threat by introducing some of the most sweeping security measures ever seen at an international sports event. Some 100,000 police, army and other security forces have been deployed, according to analysts, and tight restrictions have been placed on access to the Sochi area.
  • Anyone attending the Winter Olympics has to buy a ticket online from the organizers and obtain a spectator pass that requires providing passport details.
  • Authorities have already barred access to all cars registered outside of Sochi, and Russian police have gone house-to-house methodically screening all city residents.

Russia Calls On U.S. Military Tech to Counter Roadside Bombs at Olympics (from another ABC News report):

  • The U.S. is considering a Russian request to help with the security at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi by providing equipment that can counter remote-controlled roadside bombs, a technology first developed by the U.S. military for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • It is the first time that Russia has publicly expressed interest in a standing U.S. offer to help with security at the games that get underway on Feb. 7.
  • The request was made Tuesday during a long-scheduled meeting in Brussels between Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov. A spokesman for Dempsey confirmed...that the Russians briefly broached the subject of the U.S. providing what is known as counter-IED technology. ...
  • The U.S. military has spent billions over the past decade in developing  technologies to detect and counter the simple but deadly bombs, including developing radio jammers capable of blocking radio or cellphone signals used to trigger a roadside bomb by remote-control.
  • The official said the Russian request is for a variety of IED detection and countering hardware, including radio jammers.
  • The spokesman said the U.S. was looking to see if the American technologies were compatible with Russian gear.   The request could open up the possibility that U.S. troops might be called on to operate the gear for the Russians, although the official cautioned that the first step was to see if the request was even feasible.
  • ...Dempsey was quoted as saying after the meeting that the U.S. was willing to help Russia with security for the Olympics if asked.  “I reiterated the fact that we would favorably consider requests from them,” Dempsey said. 
  • He also said that providing security against international terrorists would be a problem anywhere, but he acknowledged that the nearby restive states of Chechnya and Dagestan brought their own unique threats.
  • Gerasimov told Dempsey that Russia had the right hand-picked security force in place, as well as the intelligence, to deal with threats at the Sochi games, including  air defense,  maritime defense, chemical and biological defense, backup medical support for civilian authorities, management of the electronic spectrum and electronic warfare.