Russian President Vladimir Putin must tread carefully in responding to domestic terrorist attacks with the 2014 Sochi Olympics on the horizon, former CIA officer Peter Brookes told Fox News' "Happening Now."
"[Putin's] not saying much right now. I think there is reason for that. He wants to be very cautious. He doesn't want to turn visitors or heads of state . . . or even athletes from coming to Sochi in the coming days," Brookes, also a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Monday.
"This is a major event for Russia. It's not only a domestic audience for Putin. He wants to look as the leader of the country. But, it's also an international event," he said.
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Two separate bombings in a 24-hour period rocked Volgograd, in southern Russia. The first killed 17 people in a railway station Sunday, and the second blast targeted a trolley bus Monday, killing 14. Similarities in the bombings indicated they could be related, but no group claimed responsibility.
Brookes suggested Islamic militants from Chechnya were behind the attacks. He said they had sought an independent Islamist state and had recently "decided to target civilians, as well as the Olympics."
The Olympics are to begin Feb. 7 in Sochi in southern Russia. Brookes said the back-to-back attacks had already succeeded in casting an apparent pall over the Olympics. He said the Chechnyans had the advantage "because of the possibilities for a public-relations victory for them."
"Russia looks insecure. Putin looks bad. And, it's going to be very difficult for them to react in a way that will not make the situation worse, while at the same time providing security for the people of Russia and all those people coming to Sochi," he said.
Brookes called terrorism a "psychological game." During the Olympics, he suggested, terrorists do not have to target the Olympic site at Sochi "to make an international splash."
"While the Olympics are going on, they could attack Volgograd again. They could attack Moscow. They could attack St. Petersburg," Brookes said.
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