2014 Sochi Olympics: Russia in Terrorists' Crosshairs

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US Officials Want Better Russian Cooperation on Olympic Counter-Terror

Looking ahead, it would seem a win-win for Russia to work together with the international community to keep the Games and the periphery safe, both for Russians and for athletes and visitors the world over. We have been told by U.S. officials that cooperation could be better. Umarov has set down the gauntlet, and millions have been spent on counter-terrorism efforts in Russia and the United States alone. Following the Boston Marathon incident, both countries would do well to redouble their efforts on information sharing.

Will Russia overplay its hand? Or, will it bring partners into the fold?

Certainly the 2012 London Summer Games set a high standard, if not a gold standard, for protection and international security cooperation. The question is whether this is a model that the Russians will emulate in preparation for, and at, the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. The question is far from academic as it bears significant implications for public safety and security, not only for Russians, but for all international participants in and visitors to the Games. There is little cause for optimism however, as anti-Americanism is promoted from above in Russia; and as Russian counter-terrorism operations with the United States and its allies have fallen victim to the counterproductive climate that has prevailed in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Accordingly, the United States should go into the Games with eyes wide open, in order to best protect American athletes, their families and American journalists and tourists. As yet, it is unclear how many international visitors there will be to Sochi. It is worth noting, though, that there are an estimated 5.5 million Russian-speaking people in the United States, with New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Detroit leading this demographic concentration. Should any decide to travel to the games, will they be at risk and are there any sympathetic Chechen Americans in the bunch?

Putin's position is not to be envied. But he would be ill-advised to make a challenging situation even tougher, without cause.

Let's make the 2014 Winter Games a safe event for all. Over to you, President Putin.

Frank Cilluffo is the Director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. Michael Downing is the Deputy Chief and Commanding Officer for the Los Angeles Police Department's Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau. HSPI's Sharon Cardash contributed to this article.

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