By Jeremy Herb
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that “appropriate arrangements” had been made if U.S. citizens had to be evacuated from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next month.
“If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do that,” Hagel said at a Pentagon press conference Friday.
The officials said on a conference call with reporters that no specific plans for Sochi had been drafted by the military.
“There’s no Sochi Olympics evacuation plan on the shelf that we’re ready to just pull off,” one official said. “Our combatant commanders have on the shelf American citizen evacuation plans and general guidelines just as a rule. ... There’s no request to have a specific plan to evacuate now, and if we’re called on to do that in coordination with State Department, we’ll be prepared to do it.”
The administration officials emphasized that an evacuation of Americans might not require military assets, pointing to commercial or charter aircraft that could be available if needed.
Hagel said that the Pentagon was sending two ships to the Black Sea during the Olympic Games in order to be prepared for any contingencies in the event of a terrorist attack.
The White House has said there’s been an “uptick” in threat reporting ahead of the Olympics, and that the U.S. has offered its “full support” to Russia with security preparations.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey met with his Russian counterpart in Brussels this week, and said the U.S. military was offering counter-IED technology to the Russians.
Hagel said Friday that so far the Russians have not yet requested any assistance from the U.S.
“We want them to know that if they need our help, we want to help,” Hagel said.
The U.S. will have diplomatic security and FBI personnel on the ground in Sochi, which administration officials said were there to provide assistance if needed.
The officials said that Russian officials had primary responsibility for security during the Olympics.
“We will have components on site — diplomatic security, the FBI and others — who do bring good capabilities should the Russians ever ask for them,” one official said. “I’m not sure they will ... Russian capabilities are quite good as well.”
The administration official said that U.S. officials were frustrated that “we don’t know everything” when it came to terror threats, but that they were not frustrated with the Russian government.
Another administration official, however, said that U.S. officials learned of the new “black widow” threats to the Olympics through the media, and not in advance from the Russians.