US cautious on Russian security

AFP, Washington

The White House stopped short of expressing full confidence in Russia’s Olympics security operation on Wednesday following a call between presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.
The leaders discussed how to ensure next month’s Winter Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi are “safe and secure,” as well as US offers of security assistance, in a call on Tuesday.
At a White House briefing, spokesman Jay Carney said that there was “concern” in Washington about an uptick in reporting of threats by Islamic extremists relating to the Sochi Games.
He said the United States would send diplomatic security and FBI agents who would liaise with Russian security officials to protect American athletes and spectators.
But he did not take several opportunities offered by journalists to express full confidence in Russia’s preparations, amid growing concern in Washington-and claims by some lawmakers-that Moscow is not taking advantage of US offers of assistance.
Asked to take stock of Russia’s security posture ahead of the Games, Carney said : “I wouldn’t be qualified or wouldn’t want to venture to assess overall.”
“These kinds of major events around the world obviously present security challenges,” he said, without saying whether Russia had accepted US offers of help.
“The president spoke with President Putin about this. We have offered any assistance that they might want to avail themselves of.”
At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf deflected a query as to whether Washington had full confidence in the Russian effort, but added that Washington knew Moscow was “committed to doing everything they can in terms of security.”
The careful public tone adopted by the administration could signal a desire to avoid offending or antagonizing Russia in the run-up to the Games while concerns are expressed privately with top Russian officials.
The call between Putin and Obama came amid signs of subtle but rising pressure on Russia over securing the Games from Washington.
On Monday, the Pentagon said it was ready to deploy air and naval assets-including two ships-to help secure the Olympics, which begin on February 7.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had already offered American support during a January 4 phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
Islamist insurgents based in North Caucasus republics such as Dagestan who are seeking their own independent state have vowed to disrupt the Sochi Games in an effort to undermine Putin.
In a video threat posted on a prominent North Caucasus Islamist website, two men sitting in front of a jihadist flag warn of planned attacks at the event.

Your email address will not be published.