Do you get the feeling that U.S. intelligence and national security authorities are expecting something bad to happen at the Olympics in Sochi?
Defense Secretary Hagel: In the event Americans need to be extracted from Sochi, U.S. will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) January 24, 2014
The Wall Street Journal reports that the State Department is “telling American athletes competing in the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics to avoid wearing team gear outside the games’ venues amid growing concerns over terrorist threats in the Russian resort town.”
According to the Washington Post, the FBI thinks the Russians aren’t listening to their suggestions or accepting their help: “David Rubincam, who served as the FBI’s top representative in Moscow from May 2011 to October 2012, said the Russians have been reluctant to accept American aid in securing Sochi and are suspicious of the offers of assistance.”
The Post’s Sally Jenkins is pointing out the obvious: holding the winter Olympics in Russia, not far from the Chechnyan region, was a colossally bad decision on the part of the International Olympic Committee:
It’s too late to take the dangerous, despoiling Winter Games away from the thugocracy that is Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime, so the only option is to count on the man’s bulging biceps and hope it’s an adequate “ring of steel” that can keep people safe in Sochi. It’s a cold hard fact that these Olympics have become an agent of death.
Sochi already is a catastrophe, and if it becomes a tragedy too, it will be because the International Olympic Committee has become the tool of “colossal authoritarian branding,” to borrow a phrase from Russia scholar Leon Aron.
Maybe everyone’s overreacting, but . . .