U.S. studying possible rescue plans in case of crisis at Sochi Olympics

Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:59pm EST
 
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By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the face of concerns about possible attacks by militants during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, U.S. military and intelligence officials have been studying contingency plans for evacuating Americans from the games in case of a crisis.

But U.S. officials have concluded there would be major obstacles to mounting a large-scale effort by the military or other U.S. government resources to evacuate Americans from Sochi, said a source familiar with Obama administration debates.

The most formidable roadblock U.S. officials have discussed regarding contingency plans for Sochi is that Russian authorities have historically been reluctant to allow foreign military forces, especially those of the United States, on Russian territory.

U.S. officials say Russia unquestionably has primary responsibility for protecting everyone, including Americans, attending the Sochi Games that start on February 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 be seeking to rescue their own citizens, the source said.

U.S. contingency planners have also apparently 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, and militants trying to carve out an Islamist state in the region have threatened to attack the Olympic Games.

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