If something goes horribly wrong at the upcoming winter Olympics in Sochi, the U.S. military is prepared, Pentagon officials said today.
The contingency plans are not for providing sea-based security for the Olympics but for any potential evacuation of American citizens from the Russian winter resort town located on the Black Sea where the Olympics are set to begin on Feb. 7, officials said.
“The United States has offered its full support to the Russian government as it conducts security preparations for the Winter Olympics,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
“To that end, U.S. commanders in the region are conducting prudent planning and preparations should that support be required” Kirby said. “Air and naval assets, to include two Navy ships in the Black Sea, will be available if requested for all manner of contingencies in support of — and in consultation with — the Russian government. There is no such requirement at this time.”
Russian officials have said they plan to have as many as 40,000 security officers on hand to provide security for the Olympics. Recent terror bombings in the southern Russian city of Volgograd have raised security concerns about the Olympics, which Russian Islamic extremists have threatened to disrupt.
Should the need arise for an evacuation of American citizens, the State Department will lead the effort, officials said, since it would require coordination with the Russian government.
Several U.S. officials confirmed that U.S. European Command has undertaken contingency planning in case U.S. military assets are needed. But they stress that no orders have been issued yet.
The officials said the two U.S. Navy ships being moved into the Black Sea will not be there for the purpose of providing security for the winter Olympics.
“The Russians have been informed that we want to move a couple of ships into the Black Sea around the time frame of the Olympics, though they’re not there for the Olympics,” one official told ABC News, noting that such a transit into the Black Sea could happen in “the near future” and would involve a destroyer and a small amphibious ship.
“This has been planned for a while and their mission is not centered around the Olympics,” the official added. “They’re available if needed, but they’re not there for security.”
There are no plans to move air assets but European Command has taken stock of its air assets to see what could become available if needed, officials said.
Another U.S. official described the contingency measures as “prudent planning.”