Olympic Terror Threats Has US Worried Over How to Rescue Athletes

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 02:08 PM

By Courtney Coren

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The United States is faced with the challenge of how it would get American athletes out of Russia safely in the event of a terrorist attack at the Sochi Olympic Games that begin Feb. 7.

While the U.S. military will have warships stationed in the Black Sea and airplanes ready to be deployed in Europe, the United States must depend on approval from Russian President Vladimir Putin before it can act, which experts say could prove difficult, NBC News is reporting.

"As far as being able to do things without Russian cooperation, it's basically a nonstarter," said Andrew Weiss, Russian expert who worked in the Clinton Administration and now works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"This is their territory, their country,"he said. "They get to decide what kind of outside help they need."

U.S. officials confirm that the greatest obstacle will be the Russian government, which has not historically allowed outside military forces in the country. 

While the U.S. Olympic Committee would not discuss any details regarding the security of the athletes or how the athletes would be evacuated, if necessary, USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement that "the safety and security of Team USA is our top priority."

"As is always the case we are working with the U.S. Department of State, the local organizers and the relevant law enforcement agencies in an effort to ensure that our delegation and other Americans traveling to Sochi are safe," Sandusky said.

The FBI announced in early January that it would be sending agents to Sochi to assist in security at the games.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has enlisted help from private security company, Global Rescue, which says it will use "rally points" that athletes may use to take shelter. It also has its own aircraft that will be available "for rapid response."

Global Rescue provided services to customers during the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti and tsunami in Japan. Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards said that the various governments have never denied the company "overflight or landing permission."

"The likelihood is that we'll all work together, the Russians, our government, other friendly government and other private companies," Richards said.

There were attacks in two Russian cities in December, which has caused heightened concerned about security at the games as well as threats that have been leveled by militants that would like to create an Islamist state in the area saying that the games are a target.

Putin beefed up security throughout the country following the attacks and said in an interview Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos that Russia will do "whatever it takes" to keep the Olympic athletes and spectators safe. The Russian president has his political and personal reputation riding on the success of the games.

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