As the Winter Olympics draw near, tensions are rising in regard to security measures in Sochi, Russia. This has developed as terror threats have become more rampant. Included in these threats are reports of “black widows,” terrorists whose close relatives have been killed in conflicts with the Russian government. Much of this has occurred in Sochi, as well as Muslim extremists associated with Docku Umarov, Russia’s most-wanted terrorist, who have also promised to attack the Winter Games. Just last month, suicide bombers killed at least 30 people in Volograd, an industrial city about 430 miles away from Sochi.
A central concern surrounding the heightened terror threats is the tension between Russian and United States security forces. The Russian government reportedly intends to utilize over 40,000 members of the police and military to guard Sochi and the surrounding region. In addition, a surveillance network has been installed in and around the arenas, and all attendees will have to submit to background checks prior to entrance.
The U.S. proposed sending 100 members of the military and FBI to Russia. However, the Russians declined the offer and eventually agreed to allow “a few dozen agents” to be sent, most of whom will be stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Additionally, the Pentagon has confirmed that two war ships will be placed in the Black Sea directly off the coast of Sochi in case Americans need to be evacuated.
In spite of Russia’s security measurements, the U.S. government is largely displeased with the lack of collaboration on Russia’s part. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) has expressed his dismay toward the lack of information coming from the Russian government regarding the likelihood of terrorist presence at the Olympic Games, according to The Washington Post.
“They’re not giving us the full story,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Jan. 19. “Who do we need to worry about, are those [terrorist] groups…still plotting?”
Representative Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) shared similar sentiments, stating that Russia “loathes to share information.”
Meanwhile, executives from NBC, the television station that will broadcast over 1,500 hours of Olympic coverage, have stated that they are confident with the security that will be put in place by Russia. “We have never seen the type of security that we are seeing in Russia,” Gary Zenkel, the NBC Olympics President, told reporters. “We are overwhelmed and comfortable with the amount of security being deployed.” Currently, 900 NBC employees are already in Russia preparing to cover the games, while nearly 1,400 more employees will be sent to Russia next week.
The United States Department of Defense issued a travel alert last week cautioning Americans traveling to Sochi—estimated between 10,000 and 15,000—to remain “aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices.” This is despite the fact that there “is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Despite immense security precautions in Russia, security in the face of multiple threats remains a central concern, both in the home country of the Olympic Games as well as the U.S.
Editor’s Note: Information from NBC, The Washington Post and Bloomberg Businessweek was used in this article.